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Use Voice Recognition for Mac

This page explains step-by-step how to set up and use Speakable Items, the built-in voice-recognition function in Mac OS X. This provides voice recognition for hands-free control of a computer. However, it is not for speech dictation and lacks the advanced functionality and integration that commercial software can offer.


Step 1: Open the "Speech" window

Make sure you are in "Finder." If necessary, press Apple+Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to "Finder."

Click on the "Apple" icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl+F2.

Click on "System Preferences," as shown in fig. 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.

fig. 1

System Preferences

In the "System Preferences" window (shown in fig. 2), click on the "Accessibility" icon.

fig. 2

System Preferences: Accessibility

Step 2: Turn on and use Dictation

In the "Dictation" window, click the blue "Dictation Commands" button shown in fig. 3.

fig. 3

Accessibility: Dictation Commands

Step 3: Edit and Enable Dictation Commands

Use the checkboxes to turn commands on or off. Click a command to see which phrases work with that command. For example, "Undo that" works with several phrases, including "Undo this" and "Scratch that."

fig. 4

Accessibility: Enable Dictation Commands

Use Dictation Commands

To use any of the commands that you turned on, first make your Mac listen for dictation command.

Step 1: Enable Dictaction Keyword Phrase

Press Fn+Fn (Function Key twice) or turn on the option "Enable the dictaction keyword phrase" under to the blue "Dictation Commands" button shown in Figure 3.

Step 2: Speak Enabled Phrases

Speak any of the phrases that work with a dication command. You can say "Show commands" to open a window showing all of the dictation commands available to you.

fig. 5

Accessibility: Dictation Keyword Phrases

Create Your Own Commands

After you select "Enable advanced commands," an Add + button appears beneath the list of commands.

Step 1: Click the Add + button to add "undefined command" to the list of commands.

Step 2: Click the undefined command to select it, then configure these options:

  • When I say: Enter the word or phrase that you want to speak to perform the action.
  • While using: Choose whether your Mac performs the action only when you're using a particular app.
  • Perform: Choose the action to perform. You can open a Finder item, open a URL, paste text, paste data from the clipboard, press a keyboard shortcut, select a menu item, or run an Automator workflow. 

fig. 6

Enter Your Own Dictation Commands

To learn more about dictation, choose Help from the "Finder" menu bar, then search for "dictation."