How to Enable & Use Dictation in OS X Mountain Lion
Dictation has come to the Mac with OS X Mountain Lion, but despite being one of the major features of OS X 10.8 it’s not enabled by default on most Macs that upgrade (some clean installs and new Macs apparently do have it turned on). It’s easy to enable though and even easier to use, let’s get started.
Turn On Dictation in OS X
- Open System Preferences from the Apple menu and click the “Dictation & Speech” panel
- From the “Dictation” tab, click the ON radiobox next to “Dictation” to enable the feature
- At the confirmation dialog, choose “Enable Dictation”
The confirmation dialog tells you that anything you say is sent to Apple in order to be converted to text, that’s because the speech-to-text conversion is done remotely through Apple’s cloud servers and then transmitted back to your Mac. In order to be accurate with peoples names and addresses, the Contacts list is also transferred to Apple. If you’re at all worried about security you can avoid the Dictation feature, or click on the little privacy button in the pref panel and read about Apple’s policies. Personally I think unless you’re in the NSA or some other highly secretive organization, there’s nothing to worry about with Dictation, Apple is interested in selling you software and hardware not listening in on your conversations.
Using Dictation in Mountain Lion
The default Dictation button is the “fn” (function) key, that can be changed within the Dictation options but it’s a good default choice so there isn’t much reason to switch it.
- Open any writing app or go to a text input field and double-tap the “fn” key to bring up Dictation
- As soon as the little microphone popup appears, start talking and when finished either hit the “fn” key again or click the “Done” button
- Wait a second or two and your speech should be written out exactly in text
Dictation works very well, though some unusual words and phrases it seems to have a hard time with but annunciation can help in much the same way that typing things how they sound rather than are spelled can help with text-to-speech. Background noise can easily mess up the conversions too, so it’s best to use in an otherwise quiet environment.
Overall it’s a great feature, and if you haven’t enabled it yet or had a chance to type with it on the iPad or iPhone 4S, do yourself a favor and try it out on the Mac within Mountain Lion.