Jott Voice-to-Text Revisited

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Back in April, I raved at length about Jott, which was then a free beta service. I found the voice-to-text service to be so useful, I couldn't imagine why any mobile professional would not use it.

For instance, Jott lets you dictate a memo to yourself on your cell phone. Within a minute or two, the memo is transcribed accurately into text and sent to you via e-mail and/or text message. The beta version of Jott I tested was a magnificent tool for anyone who's had a brainstorm while driving, jogging, or otherwise away from a computer keyboard or note pad. And that's just one of the ways you can use Jott; there are many others.

Since that review, there have been some significant changes. The good news: There's still a basic service for free. The not-so-good: Most of Jott's usefulness now comes with a price tag. You can get an overview of the different subscription plans on Jott's site. In a nutshell, the three Jott services are Jott Basic (free); Jott ($4/month) and Jott Pro ($13/month). Pay-as-you-go plans are also available.

The folks behind Jott have made other changes, too, such as developing a Jott add-on to Microsoft Outlook and a Jott Express utility. Here's a look at the new services--which are hugely useful for mobile professionals.

What You Get for Free

Not surprisingly, the free Jott Basic service doesn't have the same features that the beta version had. The free beta used to let you record a message of up to 30 seconds in length. Jott Basic--which unlike its predecessor is ad-supported--cuts you off after 15 seconds. The least expensive Jott plan isn't ad-supported, but it also has a 15-second limit; you have to upgrade to Jott Pro to get 30 seconds of recording time. In my experience, 15 seconds isn't always enough time to capture a memo.

Also, the free service now sends you one daily e-mail of your transcribed notes and to-do list items. The Jott and Jott Pro services send each note or to-do item as a separate e-mail throughout the day. There are other limitations to Jott Basic as well. Example: You can't use it to dictate and send text messages or e-mail to your Jott contacts, as you can with the paid plans.

Jott Express lets you organize Jott memos and reminders on a Windows or Mac computer by creating categories, such as Work Projects, Home Remodeling, and Shopping Lists. Everything you do in Jott Express is automatically synced with your Jott account online, as well as with Jott for iPhone (a free application available from Apple's App Store).

Features You'll Pay For

Jott Pro, the premium service, and Jott offer many of the same features. However, Jott Pro offers a few things Jott doesn't: One is the ability to record for 30 seconds, as previously mentioned. The other is access to a Jott utility for dictating and sending e-mail directly a RIM BlackBerry (I didn't test this feature).

Both paid services let you download, install, and use Jott for Outlook. It's a useful Microsoft Outlook add-on that lets you create e-mail messages, calendar items, and tasks by dictating them to Jott.

For example, you can dictate an e-mail by calling Jott's toll-free number. When Jott answers, you say "Outlook Drafts" and start talking. Then, when you're back at your computer, the e-mail you dictated appears in your Outlook Drafts folder.

Because Jott's transcriptions are usually accurate, you may not need to do much clean-up on the Outlook e-mail draft. However, you'll probably want to change the e-mail's subject heading. Jott uses the first 30 or so characters of your message as the message subject. And I suspect you'll want to delete the promotional signature Jott adds to the bottom of your message.

You can send e-mail directly using Jott or Jott Pro without going through Outlook. However, you must first add the recipient's address to your list of contacts stored on Jott's Web site.

Worth It?

The free Jott Basic plan is too basic for me, so I signed up for a year of the $4/month plan Jott. (Currently, you can get two months free when signing up for one year of either Jott or Jott Pro). I don't mind paying that amount, because Jott is a fantastic service for people on the go. It helps you easily create reminders, e-mails, calendar entries, and memos hands-free, using the one tool you usually have with you: a cell phone.

If Jott Pro were only $8 a month instead of $13, I'd have opted for that plan. I'd love the ability to record for up to 30 seconds, as only Jott Pro allows. But somehow, $13 per month seems too high to me. Jott Pro might be worth the extra money to BlackBerry users, however, because it includes the utility for dictating and sending e-mail directly on a BlackBerry.

At a minimum, I recommend trying Jott Basic for a few weeks. But I warn you: You might get hooked, decide that Jott Basic is too basic, and end up subscribing to a paid plan.

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Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog. Sign up to have the Mobile Computing Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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