We’ve covered how to make your Mac speak, but did you know you can also make your Mac listen? No longer do you need to type out large slabs of text, you can use dictation instead.

Your own personal secretary

Making your Mac listen to you is as easy as tapping on the key combination that you have set up to trigger the dictation function. I have changed mine to Control-Option-S to match the related action for making your Mac speak to you. Once you’ve finished dictating to your Mac use the same keyboard shortcut to stop the Mac listening.
S = start & stop dictation.

Make your Mac listen with Control-Option-S

Make your Mac take dictation from you with Control-Option-S

Changing the key combination to suit you

By default, the keyboard shortcut to trigger Dictation is to press the fn (Function) key twice. As with the lesson on how to get the Mac read to you, you can change the default keys used to turn on Dictation to your own key choice by going to System Preferences / Dictation & Speech. Click on the Shortcut: field, then choose Customize and enter your own key combination.

System Preferences Dictation and Speech

Just like Siri, now with offline mode

The dictation feature utelises the same voice recognition technology as Siri on iOS and works system-wide so it can be used with any app once you’ve enabled it. Like Siri, this dictation feature uses Apple’s servers. With Mavericks, the latest Operating System for the Mac, however, came the ability to use the dictation feature while offline. Just tick the Use Enhanced Dictation box under the Dictation settings and the processing will be done on your Mac instead. Without Enhanced Diction turned on the Mac will only listen for up to 30 seconds at a time before it has to stop and send that chunk to Apple’s Servers.

Understanding different accents and languages

Dictation also supports other languages such as English, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Korean and Italian, and even different accents. As you can see I have mine set on the Australian form of English so that it can understand my accent and words that only us Aussies use. It even learns the unique features of your voice and adapts with continued use to better understand your accent.

Use punctuation commands, like “full stop”, “new line”, “open bracket”, “caps on”, “smiley face”, “dollar sign”, etc. A full list of these commands can be found on the Apple website.

Using an external microphone for better results

You’ll notice in the System Preferences pane for Dictation & Speech there is the option to set the microphone you’d prefer to use. The default setting is to use the internal microphone but you can change that to any external microphone you like. A headset, for example, would be ideal for dictation as your voice will be clearer with less noise interference. Using an external microphone will enable you to get up close to the mic so that your voice will be more clearly heard.

Talking is the new Typing!

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