Improve Dictation with Live Speech-To-Text & Offline Mode in OS X Mavericks

Nov 2, 2013 - 11 Comments

Dictation in Mac OS X converts speech to text Dictation is the new speech-to-text engine that lets your Mac type out what you are saying as you talk, and it’s one of the many excellent features included with modern versions of OS X. Now from Mavericks onward, you can improve Dictation considerably by enabling an option called “Enhanced Dictation”, this will provide two significant advancements; continuous dictation with live feedback as you talk, and full offline support – meaning you won’t need a Mac to be connected to the internet in order to use the feature. If you use Dictation with any regularity this is a highly recommended option to enable.

Enabling Enhanced Dictation on the Mac

  • Go to the  Apple menu and head to “System Preferences”
  • Choose the “Dictation & Speech” control panel, followed by the “Dictation” tab
  • Be sure that Dictation is set to “On”, then check the box for “Use Enhanced Dictation”

Turn on Enhanced Dictation for Offline Support

If enabling Enhanced Dictation for the first time it will require a 785MB download from Apple’s servers, meaning you would want to enable this feature while you have an internet connection before you could use the full offline dictation feature.

Enabling Enhanced Dictation requires downloading some files to the Mac

Once enabled, all standard speech-to-text features work, including all the dictation commands, with or without internet access.

Using Dictation for Speech-to-Text in Mac OS X

For the unfamiliar, using Dictation is begun by double-tapping the “fn” (function) key from any text input window or box. This summons a little microphone icon to signify it’s ready to receive voice input. Now just start talking as usual, and your words and sentences will automatically appear on screen.

Using Offline Dictation in OS X

Dictation is smart enough to recognize pauses and prolonged pauses as simple punctuation, adding commas and periods, then capitalizing new sentences. Going beyond the standard talk to text abilities, you can even specify commands like punctuation, caps lock, upper and lower case, paragraphs, line breaks, spaces, returns, special characters, and much more as you will find here. Users can also customize the Dictation trigger to be a single key press or a keystroke if desired.

Some users will find that Enhanced Dictation is enabled by default, though the download of the offline support will trigger manually upon the first usage of Dictation. Depending on what the settings were prior to upgrading to the latest version of OS X, you may need to turn the feature on while in the settings panel. If Dictation was previously turned off, it would remain so and the Enhanced ability will not be turned on until you enable Dictation again.

Dictation support first appeared in OS X Mountain Lion, and Enhanced Dictation requires OS X Mavericks or newer.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

11 Comments

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  1. Erin says:

    Dictation is great for notes, my doctor uses it on iPad and I think many others do too.

  2. Mario says:

    You should also mention that once you do install enhanced dictation, you will have dictation daemon running all the time that consumes 1 GB of RAM whether you use it or not.

    You should also mention that a way to turn it off is to first turn dictation off completely, then turn it back on and uncheck “Use Enhanced Dictation” in the preferences. From this point on, online Apple servers will be used again.

    • OSXDaily says:

      We have not seen the Dictation daemon taking up much RAM or CPU unless it is actively in use, having been activated with the FN double-tap (com.apple.preference.speech.remoteservice)

      Do you have any additional details about the process which you are seeing?

      • SierraSunset says:

        I am seeing the same behavior – after activating enhanced dictation with the double Fn tap, a process called com.apple.SpeechRecognitionCore.speechrecognitiond appears in the Active Processes list in Activity Monitor, taking up almost exactly 1 GB of RAM. After dictation has not been used for a few minutes, the process goes “inactive”, but still consumes the same amount of RAM, and never completely goes away.

      • Josh says:

        I have seen that happening, disabled it and the process kept running so force stopped the process.

        And even with the Australian pack (even tho I’m a kiwi) it was horribly inaccurate.

        Needless to say it’s a feature in not sold over.

  3. SierraSunset says:

    I have two Macs running Mavericks. After enabling (and downloading) Enhanced Dictation on one of them, is there a way to copy the downloaded files to the other machine, so I can enable it there without another download?

  4. Graham3693 says:

    The main minus as far as I can see is that the application does not learn? The Nuance product is still far Nd away better for professional users with specific vocabularies. At least for me as a medical person

  5. MJ says:

    A good Mic is essential too. Have tried three so far and a fourth coming tomorrow. The built-in MBP system and Display Mics are useless and I tried a Plantronics .Audio400 too but really no satisfaction so far. I really can’t see a future for this unless a ‘learning facility’ is provided, too.

  6. MJ says:

    Further to last reply: Apple Dictation web page says Dictation can be trained — so we’ll see.

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