How do you talk out your text instead of type? With Dictation on your Mac!

If you have mobility or motor impairments, repetitive stress injuries, or you find typing on a keyboard difficult in any way, there's an alternative. Dictation lets you talk instead of type, and voice-to-text transcribes what you say into words on the screen. It's among the [accessibility](/accessibility] features on Mac. All you have to do is set it up and get going.

Here's how!

How to enable and use Dictation

Basic dictation is essentially always enabled by default — you just need to activate it.

  1. Click into a text area like a Word document or the address bar of your web browser.
  2. Double-press the Fn key. A microphone will appear on your screen and if it's receiving audio, you'll see activity inside of it.
  3. Speak the text you want to type. You can speak various punctuation and symbols, including brackets, percent signs, and more. You can also say phrases like "caps on" to turn on capital letters.
  4. Click Done under the microphone icon or press the Fn key once when you're finished dictating.

The more you use Dictation the more it learns the way you speak, like your accent and cadence. It may seem finicky at first, but as you use it more, it'll get better and better.

How to enable and use Enhanced Dictation

Available for OS X Mavericks and later, including macOS Sierra, Enhanced Dictation enables you to dictate without an internet connection, dictate continuously, and your words might convert to text more quickly, since they're not being sent to Apple for interpretation first.

  1. Click the Apple menu button () on the top left of your screen.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. Click Accessibility.

    Click System Preferences, click Accessibility

  4. Click Dictation in the menu on the left. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.
  5. Click Open Dictation Preferences…

    Click Dictation in the menu on the left, click Open Dictation Preferences

  6. Click the checkbox next to Use Enhanced Dictation. Enhanced Dictation will take several minutes to download if you haven't done so already.

    Click the checkbox next to Use Enhanced Dictation

Once enabled, you can use Enhanced Dictation the same way you would regular dictation. Press the Fn key twice when your cursor is in a text field. If the microphone shows up, speak what you want typed and click Done or press the Fn key once.

How to change the Dictation keyboard shortcut

There are two ways to change the Dictation keyboard shortcut, and which one you use depends on whether or not you have Enhanced Dictation enabled.

With Enhanced Dictation disabled

  1. Click the Apple menu button () on the top left of your screen.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. Click Accessibility.

    Click System Preferences, click Accessibility

  4. Click Dictation in the menu on the left. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.
  5. Click Open Dictation Preferences…

    Click Dictation in the menu on the left, click Open Dictation Preferences

  6. Click the dropdown menu next to Shortcut.
  7. Click an option in the list or click Customize to create your own (seems like only the arrow keys work).

    Click the dropdown next to Shortcut, click an option

With Enhanced Dictation enabled

  1. Click the Apple menu button () on the top left of your screen.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. Click Accessibility.

    Click System Preferences, click Accessibility

  4. Click Keyboard in the menu on the left. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.
  5. Click Open Keyboard Preferences.

    Click Keyboard in the menu on the left, click Open Keyboard Preferences

  6. Click the Dictation tab if it's not there already.
  7. Click the dropdown menu next to Shortcut.
  8. Click an option in the list or click Customize to create your own (seems like only the arrow keys work).

    Click the dropdown next to Shortcut, click an option

How to enable/disable Dictation Commands

Dictation Commands allow you to do things with your text just by speaking. For example, you can select a whole paragraph, go back to the beginning, or replace a phrase with another phrase.

You can only use Dictation Commands with Enhanced Dictation enabled.

  1. Click the Apple menu button () on the top left of your screen.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. Click Accessibility.

    Click System Preferences, click Accessibility

  4. Click Dictation in the menu on the left. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.
  5. Click Dictation Commands…

    Click Dictation in the menu on the left, click Dictation Commands

  6. Click the checkbox next to each dictation command you'd like to disable. They're all enabled by default.
  7. Click Done in the bottom right corner of the window.

    Click the checkbox next to each dictation command you want to enable or disable, click Done

Reading through the Dictation Commands list is a great way to learn all the things you can do with text just by speaking to your Mac. You can also click the checkbox next to Enable advanced commands, which will enable system commands.

How to enable the dictation keyword phrase

Want to feel like you're in a sci-fi movie? Enable the dictation keyword phrase and you'll be able to use dictation commands even when you're not dictating. So you can be all "computer, replace 'boots' with 'cats'," and the phrase will be replaced in your text. It's a bit finicky, but when it works, it's so cool!

You have to have Enhanced Dictation enabled for this to work.

  1. Click the Apple menu button () on the top left of your screen.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. Click Accessibility.

    Click System Preferences, click Accessibility

  4. Click Dictation in the menu on the left. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.
  5. Click the checkbox next to Enable the dictation keyword phrase.
  6. Enter a keyword phrase if you want to change it from "Computer". (But if you leave it as "Computer", you sound like the captain of a spaceship!)

    Click Dictation in the menu on the left, click the checkbox next to Enable the dictation keyword phrase, enter a keyword phrase if you want to change it

Now when your cursor is in a text field, you can just say the keyword phrase and your dictation command and it'll do it.

How to enable a sound when a command is recognized

You have to have Enhanced Dictation enabled for this to work.

  1. Click the Apple menu button () on the top left of your screen.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. Click Accessibility.

    Click System Preferences, click Accessibility

  4. Click Dictation in the menu on the left. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.
  5. Click the checkbox next to Play sound when command is recognized.

    Click Dictation in the menu on the left, click the checkbox

How to enable/disable output mute during dictation

If you accidentally open a website with an autoplay video or you're listening to music but want to dictate something quickly, you can mute audio output during dictation so that you don't have to manually fiddle around with volume.

You must have Enhanced Dictation enabled to use this feature.

  1. Click the Apple menu button () on the top left of your screen.
  2. Click System Preferences.
  3. Click Accessibility.

    Click System Preferences, click Accessibility

  4. Click Dictation in the menu on the left. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.
  5. Click the checkbox next to Mute audio output while dictating.

    Click Dictation in the menu on the left, click the checkbox next to Mute audio output while dictating

Questions?

Dictation questions? Let us know in the comments below!