Save time and effort by dictating instead of typing

How fast can you type? How fast can you speak? There is no contest and speech wins every time. In fact, most people will find that even speaking slowly is much faster than they can type. It is really hard for even an expert typist to keep up with someone dictating, so why type when you can talk? OS X has dictation built in and it is asy to use.

Almost everywhere you can type in text, you also have the ability to dictate it by talking into the Apple Mac’s built in microphone too. If you have not tried this feature, you should, it could completely change the way that you work with your computer.

It is not set up by default, so go to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences. Click Dictation and Speech and select the Dictation tab. There is a simple on/off control and after setting it to On, you can enable dictation at any time and in any app by tapping the Fn (function) key twice.

Dictation and speech recognition in OS X

If you don’t like this particular hotkey, clicking the button displays a menu listing several variations and a Customize option that enables your choose your own key combo. Of course, you would need to take care not to accidentally choose one that is already used for some other function (check in System preferences, keyboard, Shortcuts).

Speech and dictation in OS X

Try dictation by opening TextEdit and double tapping the Fn key. Say something and your speech is magically converted into text and is automatically entered for you. You can see that speech is enabled by the microphone icon that appears next to the app and there is a Done button to turn off speech recognition when you have finished, need to talk on the phone, or to someone nearby.

Online vs offline dictation

When you dictate into an app, your speech is recorded and sent to Apple. The company uses speech recognition to turn it into text, which it then sends back to you. There are two issues to be aware of here and one is that you need an internet connection. If you travel with a MacBook, you will not always have a good reliable internet connection and without it, dictation will not work.

The second issue is one of privacy. Apple converts everything that is said into text and so it will have access to audio files and transcripts of everything. Does this bother you? Obviously, Apple is not going to share anything with anyone, but as we have seen many times before, servers online are sometimes hacked and hackers have access to the contents, which they may post online. This is very unlikely, but not impossible.

Enhanced dictation

The solution is to use Enhanced Dictation and there is a tick box in the window to enable this. It is requires a 422MB download on the Mac in the screenshots, but it could be more on your Mac and some people report as much as 1.2 GB. See what it says on your Mac.

You might not want enhanced dictation if your are seriously short of disk space, but for most people there are performance and privacy benefits. The additional privacy comes from the fact that nothing needs to be sent to Apple and the voice recognition is performed offline on the Mac. What’s on the Mac stays on the Mac.

Some people take to dictation like a duck to water, but others struggle with it. You should try it and not just once, but a whole week say, and see how you get on at the end.

Voice recognition systems usually get better over time as they learn, so after a week you could find that you are better at dictation and the Mac is better at recognising your voice. You may never need to type in anything again!



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