How to Start Dictation by Voice Command in Mac OS X
The Dictation feature of OS X has let Mac users speak to their computers and have the speech converted accurately into text for quite some time, and now with the newest versions of OS X you can improve Dictation even further by starting the speech to text conversion with a voice command.
You can think of this as a Mac specific speech to text version of “Hey Siri” on the iPhone, except that you issue a voice command to start the Dictation speech translations rather than making requests through a virtual assistant. It works quite well, we’ll show you how to enable the feature, and how to activate it by voice.
You’ll need OS X 10.11 or later to have this option on the Mac.
Enabling Voice Activated Dictation on Mac OS X
- Open System Preferences from the Apple menu and go to “Dictation & Speech”
- Choose to enable Dictation by turning the feature on, then check the box or “Use Enhanced Dictation” then return to the system preference panel screen
- Now go to “Accessibility” and scroll through the left menu to “Dictation”
- Click on “Dictation Commands” button, then check to “Enable advanced commands” in the options
- Back at the Dictation accessibility panel, check the box next to “Enable the dictation keyword phrase” and enter a phrase to have the Mac listen for and identify to start dictation, using something obvious but unique to the experience like “Hey Mac” or “Initiate Dictation” is probably a good idea
- Optional but recommended, enable “Play sound when command is recognized” to give an auditory signal that dictation is ready, and also “Mute audio output while dictating” to avoid any on computer sound or audio from interfering
Now that both Dictation and voice activated Dictation are enabled, you can test it out just about anywhere that allows for text input, including any text editor, word processor, text input form, Spotlight, web inputs in Safari and Chrome, and more.
Initiating Dictation by Voice Command on the Mac
- Place the Mac cursor in a text input region on screen, then use the voice command you set in the prior step, for example “Hey Mac”
- Start using Dictation as usual after you hear the chime recognition sound. Stop speaking to finish
Very easy, and once Dictation is activated, all dictation commands work, including punctuation and line breaks.
Whether or not this is preferable or any easier than issuing a key sequence to start Dictation as you typically would in OS X depends on a variety of things, but for many users it’s great to be able to just start talking and, assuming the Mac has a text editor open, have it start recording what they’re saying, without having to interact much with the keyboard or mouse. I
By the way, as you may have noticed when enabling Enhanced Dictation, the feature also allows for offline usage which is quite handy, since the speech to text translation is handled entirely on the Mac without sending the requests to Apple servers for translation.
This is one of those features which is useful enough that you hope it spreads to the iOS platform as well, since surely many iPhone and iPad users would appreciate the same ability to start dictation with a simple voice command sequence.