Techniques: Off the Shelf: Software

A touch-tone phone and access to the Internet are all you need to dictate correspondence on the fly

I love gadgets--especially the gizmos that let me do more with less. MobileWord, an on-line office-support provider, integrates the tools of everyday business--the telephone, the computer, and the Internet--into a "talk-processing" service called TalkText.

Consider this: Leaving a hectic meeting in Chicago, I grab a taxi for the trip to O'Hare International Airport, where I'll catch my flight to Philadelphia. I pull out my cell phone, dial a toll-free number, and dictate--a memo summarizing the highlights of my meeting, a brief to-do list, and follow-up letters that I'll fax to several vendors. Hours later, flying 33,000 feet above the Appalachian Mountains, I remember a detail I should have included in one of those letters. Using the airphone, I call MobileWord and dictate the missing sentence as a new file. The next day in my hotel room, when I fire up my laptop, hop onto the Internet, and go to MobileWord's Web site to download the finished dictation, I just cut and paste. It's all typed up and ready to go. Incredible!

MobileWord's on-line office support provides word processing on demand at per-page rates. You need Internet access, but there's nothing to install or format. I use a standard touch-tone phone to call its toll-free number from any location in the United States at any time of the day or night. It's worked perfectly, except for the one time I used the speakerphone in my car and ended up with no text. There may have been a problem with the cell-phone connection, but more likely the failure was due to pilot error.

When I subscribed, MobileWord E-mailed me my confidential user name, computer password, and telephone-access code and sent me a plastic reference card. The step-by-step directions couldn't be easier to follow: call the toll-free number, enter "1" at the prompt, enter your four-digit access code, press "#," begin speaking after the tone, hang up or press "0" when finished, speak clearly, and spell proper names. At the end of my dictation, I press "0" to save it, and I can either quit or record more. The digital recordings are automatic, but a real person transcribes the text and sends it to a file at, where, at my convenience, I'll retrieve it less than 24 hours later by clicking on "Get Files." My letters and memos--WordPerfect 5.10 files--download in seconds.

My dictation generally includes international names and events, but MobileWord's work has been remarkably error-free. At $3.60 per page, the service is cost-effective and convenient for any out-of-nest workers.

One caveat: although MobileWord provides three levels of access security, I still hesitate to send confidential documents over the Internet. Nevertheless, in many ways this service is better than a stereotypical secretary. You talk, it types, and it's always available. Now, if only MobileWord would serve me coffee in the morning.

The Product
TalkText, from MobileWord, New York City (888-286-6245; per user: $29.95 sign-up fee, which includes 10 free pages; thereafter, $3.60 per page)

Lou Bucelli, president/CEO, CME Information Services Inc., a medical-education and -information company in Mt. Laurel, N.J.

Touch-tone phone; Internet access; Windows 95 or Windows 3.1; the latest version of Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer