Go tell it on the Mountain Lion

Go tell it on the Mountain Lion
Mac Tip #557, 24 October 2012

If your Mac is running Mountain Lion, and connected to the Internet, then you can dictate short bursts of speech for your Mac to transcribe into text — no extra apps required. This built-in dictation feature can be very handy, especially for poor typists like me. Here’s how it works.

Quick Start

  1. Check System PreferencesDictation & Speech to make sure Dictation is set to On. Also check the Shortcut, Language and microphone settings.
  2. Click in a suitable document to set the Insertion Point.
  3. Press the Shortcut key.
  4. Dictate a couple of sentences.
  5. Stop the Dictation (for example by pressing the Done button).
  6. Wait a few moments until the transcribed text appears.

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Check System Preferences — Dictation & Speech

Go to System Preferences and click on the Dictation & Speech Pref Pane.

If necessary select the On radio button to allow your Mac to use Dictation.

Your Mac also shows you which microphone it will use. If you have more than one microphone available select the one you prefer to use.

The default shortcut key (on a laptop) is to press the Fn key twice. To change the default select an alternative from the pop-up menu.

From the Language pop-up menu select the language that most closely represents how you speak.

Dictation and Speech settings in System Preferences.

Dictation and Speech settings in System Preferences.

Read detailed information about Dictation and Privacy by clicking the button at the bottom of the window. It says in part that information is sent to Apple:

When you use the keyboard dictation feature on your computer, the things you dictate will be recorded and sent to Apple to convert what you say into text. Your computer will also send Apple other information, such as your first name and nickname; and the names, nicknames, and relationship with you (for example, “my dad”) of your address book contacts. All of this data is used to help the dictation feature understand you better and recognize what you say. Your User Data is not linked to other data that Apple may have from your use of other Apple services.

Set the Insertion Point in a document

You may want to dictate into a wordprocessing or text app, or perhaps even in a search field in an app like Safari. Experiment with dictation in the apps you use.

The most important thing though is to click in the spot where text should be inserted.

I have clicked in the Safari URL Bar and pressed the Dictation shortcut key.

I’ve clicked in the Safari URL Bar and pressed the Dictation shortcut key. Now I just need to dictate my search words.

Trigger dictation and speak clearly

After you’ve clicked in a text field to dictate into trigger the Dictation. The easiest way is to press the keyboard shortcut you set in the earlier part of this Tip. Another way is to go to the Edit menu and choose Start Dictation.

After dictating a sentence or two press the Shortcut key again to stop, or press the Return key on the keyboard, or choose Stop Dictation from the Edit menu or click the Done button on the Dictation input meter window.

Apple say: You may speak continuously for up to 30 seconds at a time.

Speak clearly and perhaps a little more deliberately than you might normally speak. Say the punctuation that you want to use. For example, you might say:

For example comma you might say colon

See Apple’s Mac 101: Dictation for a detailed list of Dictation commands.

Here are a few highlights extracted from Apple’s full list:

question mark ?
exclamation point [or mark] !
comma ,
colon :
percent sign %
dollar sign $
at sign @
cap (for example, "this is a cap Test") Capitalize next word
all caps (for example, "this is a all caps TEST") Type in all caps
new line Insert new text line
new paragraph Begin new paragraph
space bar (for example, "this restaurant is first space bar class") Type a space
numeral (for example, "he starts from position numeral 5") Type the numeral, such as 5 instead of "five"

Speaking Tips

Purple input meter.

Purple input meter.

For best results, speak clearly.

Speak loudly enough that the purple on the input meter goes right up to the top of the microphone icon rather than staying near the bottom.

Avoid distracting background noises.

Think about what you want to say before you start dictating.


Dictation is a handy feature

I’ve been using Mountain Lion’s Dictation feature for quite a while now and find it really handy. It’s not perfect though — unfortunately we’re not yet living in the world of Star Trek, even if we do have iPads and iPhones. So check what you’ve dictated before sending off that important email or MacTip. 😉

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