How To Start Voice Dictation On Mac

The voice dictation of a text is a very useful function for those who have special needs or simply have to have their hands free while writing a note, a letter, or any other type of document. 

Over the years, Apple has particularly refined this feature, which now also allows you to add punctuation, set formatting, and even special symbols by speaking appropriate commands. So let’s find out how to activate voice dictation on the Mac in 2022, from the keyboard, in the various programs and how to change the language.

Index

  • What is voice dictation on Mac
  • How to dictate to the Mac
  • How to start voice dictation on the Mac from the keyboard
  • How to enable voice dictation on Mac in an app
  • How to change language to dictate on the Mac

What is voice dictation on Mac

Voice dictation, which Apple simply calls Dictation, allows you to dictate text on the Mac wherever you can type it and is different from Voice Control, which instead allows you to control your Mac without the using mouse or keyboard.

Dictation is a speech-to-text tool that then converts the language into text immediately, and is activated by simply pressing a keyboard command or a function of the program in use. When activated, a window will appear next to the program in use, as well as a yellow icon in the Control Center will warn that the microphone is being used by the keyboard. 

Dictate message
Dictate message

Converted text can be of any length, without interruption, and dictation can be turned off manually or automatically when no voice input is detected for 30 seconds.

On Macs equipped with the Apple Silicon chip, general text dictation requests such as typing messages and notes are processed on the device and do not require an Internet connection, while search dictation is server-based. On Intel-based Macs, all sentences are sent to Apple’s servers.

As for languages, Dictation has several options but they are not exactly exhaustive, so it may not be available in all languages ​​or countries.

How to dictate to the Mac

Before using dictation, you need to enable it. Let’s see how to do it.

How to activate voice dictation

  1. Click on the Apple menu (the icon in the shape of a bitten apple that you find at the top left of the screen)
  2. Select System Settings ( System Preferences in macOS versions before Ventura)
  3. From the left panel, select Keyboard 
  4. From the right panel, scroll down and activate the button next to Dictation
  5. Click on Enable
  6. You may be asked if you want to improve Siri and Dictation. Select
    • Share audio recordings to allow Apple to store the audio of your interactions with Siri and Dictation from your Mac. You can delete audio interactions (associated with a random identifier and less than six months old) at any time by accessing Siri settings and clicking on Delete Siri and Dictation history
    • Not now, not to share your audio with Apple
  7. At this point you have a number of options available:
    • Language is to choose the language in which to dictate. Clicking on it will bring up a list of available countries and languages
    • Microphone source, to choose the audio source of your dictation. It can be the microphone of the Mac or another device, even the internal audio or a combined one. By default, it is set to Automatic, which will choose the source it deems best for you. 
    • Abbreviation, which allows you to choose the keyboard command to activate dictation. By default, it is a double press of the Control key
    • Automatic punctuation, allows you to set automatic punctuation, a function available only in English (US)
  8. If you click on About Dictation and Privacy, you will have a variety of information about how Apple uses your data and allows you to decide what to share.
How to activate voice dictation
How to activate voice dictation

How to use voice dictation

Now that we have enabled voice dictation, we can use it.

  1. Launch an app that allows you to type text (such as Notes, or even a browser in the search field)
  2. Place the cursor where you want the dictated text to be inserted
  3. Use the keyboard shortcut set above or press the microphone key in the function key row (if available). In this case, you only have to press it once, because if you hold it down you will activate Siri
  4. If you have not enabled dictation from Settings, a window will appear asking you if you want to activate it, followed by a confirmation window
  5. feedback window will appear next to your app showing a microphone icon with a floating volume indicator. When you hear a sound, it means the Mac is ready for dictation
  6. Start dictating. The text will appear underlined practically in real time
  7. To insert a punctuation mark, say the name of the punctuation mark, for example, ” exclamation point “
  8. To perform simple formatting tasks, such as carriage return, say “newline” (as if you pressed the Return key once ), or ” new paragraph ” (as if you pressed the Return key twice). After saying “newline”, the dictated text appears once the dictation is finished.

How to start voice dictation on the Mac from the keyboard

As we have seen, voice dictation is activated with a Microphone key in the function key row (if available) or via keyboard command. By default, the command is to press the Control key twice, but you can create your own keyboard shortcut of your choice to activate dictation. Let’s see how to do it.

  1. Click on the Apple menu (the icon in the shape of a bitten apple that you find at the top left of the screen)
  2. Select System Settings ( System Preferences in macOS versions prior to Ventura)
  3. From the left panel, select Keyboard 
  4. From the right panel, scroll down and activate the button next to Dictation
  5. Click on the pop-up menu next to the Abbreviation
  6. You can choose an abbreviation to start dictation from those available (they may change depending on the Mac model) or create your own by clicking on Customize. In the latter case, press the keys you want to use to start dictation, for example, Option + Z.

How to enable voice dictation on Mac in an app

As we said the dictation of the keyboard commands (Microphone and abbreviation) enables it at the system level, whatever the app you are using (which obviously must allow the insertion of text), but it is not the only way.

Microsoft Word

Some apps, like Word, also have a special function within the app. For some years now, Word has in fact had its own internal dictation tool (it does not use that of the Mac). If for some reason you prefer to use this instead of the native macOS one, you need to have a stable internet connection, an active Office 365 subscription, and an active microphone.

  1. To activate dictation, click on Home and then select Dictation
  2. Click on the Dictate button and wait for a red dot to appear.
  3. Start speaking and check that the spoken text appears on the screen. If you see an error, move the slider to fix it and move it back to continue dictating. It is not necessary to disable the Dictation button when making corrections.
  4. When you are done, click the Dictate button again.
To activate dictation, click on Home and then select Dictation
To activate dictation, click on Home and then select Dictation

Pages

Pages obviously use the macOS dictation tool but allow you to activate it with its internal command.

  1. Launch Pages (by launching from LaunchPad or selecting the app in the Applications folder)
  2. Create a new document
  3. Click on the Edit menu and select Start Dictation. You can also use the shortcut “Globe” + D.
  4. If you have not enabled dictation from Settings, a window will appear asking you if you want to activate it, followed by a confirmation window
  5. The feedback window will appear with the microphone and the volume level fluctuating, after which when you hear a warning sound you can start talking
  6. The text will appear underlined, and if you pause for 30 seconds, dictation will be disabled and the text will be confirmed by removing the underline. To finish manually, click on the Finish button.

At this point, you can see the limitations of dictation.

Assuming that you have chosen to dictate in Italian, foreign words are not always recognized correctly (obviously leaving out words not present in the dictionary). In the example below, you see that the function confuses “World” with “Word”. Now it may very well be due to my pronunciation, but as we will see in the next paragraph, if I set the language to English the problem does not occur.

How to change language to dictate on the Mac

As we saw in the first paragraph, there are several languages ​​you can use to dictate. To change language:

  • Click on the Apple menu (the icon in the shape of a bitten apple that you find at the top left of the screen)
  • Select System Settings ( System Preferences in macOS versions prior to Ventura)
  • From the left panel, select Keyboard 
  • From the right panel, scroll down and activate the button next to Dictation
  • Click on the pop-up menu next to Language.
  • If there is only one language and you want to add one, click on Ad hoc
  • A pop-up window will open. Check the box corresponding to the language and the relevant country (if available)
  • To remove a language, simply deselect the corresponding language
Dictation Language and Shortcut on Mac
Dictation Language and Shortcuts on Mac

At this point, you can start using dictation, for example in Pages.

In the case below, you can see that using English the program correctly recognizes the word World.

If you have more than one language, you will notice that by activating the dictation there will be another voice under the microphone, corresponding to the active language. By clicking on it you can change the language on the fly, for example, if there are words in English that you will be able to recognize without problems. 

Also, read about How To Download MacOS: Download Guide (Also From Windows)

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Abram left his e-business studies to devote himself to his entrepreneurial projects. In 2017, he created the company Inbound Media and wrote articles about high-tech products for his Chromebookeur site. In 2019, Chromebookeur was renamed Macbound and became a general purchasing advice site. Today, Abram manages the development and growth of Macbound, surrounded by a young and talented team.

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