This is an update of a previous blog post about setting up free dictation on your Mac. It’s slightly different in macOS Sierra than in previous versions of macOS, so please enjoy this delightful little ditty I like to call:

How to become a Mac Dictator (Sierra edition)

Have you always wanted to become a dictator? Not that kind! I meant the kind who dictates text to their Mac rather than typing. If you don’t like to type, or you can’t type due to repetitive strain injury (RSI) or other ailment, dictation may be just the ticket. And even if you love to type, dictation is a nice change of pace.

Dictation may also be faster than typing, especially if you speak clearly and quickly or you type slowly and poorly. We’ll look at an advanced third-party speech recognition program called Dragon for Mac in Chapter 3. But since Dragon costs up to $300 and there’s no free trial available, here’s how to dictate to your Mac without spending a dime.

How to become a Mac Dictator—step-by-step instructions for macOS Sierra users

  1. Launch System Preferences.
  2. Click the Keyboard icon.
  3. Click the Dictation tab.
  4. Click the On button.
  5. Click the Use Enhanced Dictation checkbox if you want to use dictation when you don’t have an Internet connection. It may take up to an hour for everything to download, so only check the box when you’ve got fast, reliable Internet access.
  6. (Optional) Choose a keyboard shortcut to toggle dictation on and off without revisiting System Preferences again. I use Control + Option + Command + D (D for Dictation).
  7. Choose a microphone by clicking the little inverted caret below the microphone icon and selecting the mic you want to use. The mic icon becomes your audio level meter; make a loud noise like a clap or a whoop and watch it bounce up and down.

Now, to dictate to your Mac, launch your favorite word processor and then turn on dictation using your keyboard shortcut. Start talking and watch the words appear on your screen like magic.

But wait! There’s more! You can enable advanced dictation commands and then edit text and control actions on your Mac by voice!

  1. Launch System Preferences.
  2. Click the Accessibility icon.
  3. Click Dictation in the list on the left.
  4. Click the Dictation Commands button.
  5. Click the Enable Advanced Commands checkbox to speak advanced commands such as select the next or previous word, sentence or paragraph; go to the beginning or end of a word, sentence, paragraph; Undo; Redo; Cut, Copy or Paste; switch to or launch an application.

Finally, if you’re using macOS Sierra, you can also talk to Siri. (Enable Siri in System Preferences–>Siri). Then try launching an app by name: Hey Siri—Launch Microsoft Word.

While macOS built-in dictation support is not as powerful and lacks many of the features of the commercial (around $200) Dragon For Mac, it works well enough for light use and you can’t beat the price—it’s free.

One more thing: Since speech-to-text works decently with your Mac’s built-in mic, why not give it a try? Then, if you like it, consider buying yourself a decent headset mic and/or a copy of Dragon for Mac.

P. S. There is one last thing… If you liked what you just read, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d mention it to your Facebook and Twitter friends…

Thanks again for your support. 🤓

Please follow and like us:

About the Author

Bob Levitus

Bob LeVitus, often referred to as “Dr. Mac,” is a well-known authority on all things Macintosh, OS X, and Apple devices including the iPad and iPhone. One of the Apple community’s most trusted advisors for almost thirty years, he’s known for his trademark humorous style and unerring ability to translate “techie” jargon into usable and fun advice for regular folks. He's written more than 80 books including macOS Sierra For Dummies, iPhone For Dummies, and iPad For Dummies. And, for the past 20 years, he's written the Dr. Mac column for the Houston Chronicle (which he still does). He's also been writing for The Mac Observer for almost as long (he still does that, too). Bob has been published in more than a dozen computer magazines over the past thirty years including: a three-year stint as Editor-in-Chief of the irreverent and unpredictable MACazine and four different columns in MacUser magazine: Beating the System, Personal Best, Game Room, and the Help Folder (with Andy Ihnatko, and later, Chris Breen). Though best known for writing, he’s also dabbled in broadcasting with a radio show (Inside Mac Radio, CNET Radio, 2001-2002) and hosted a popular television series (Mac Today, Syndicated, 1992–1993). Another of Bob’s loves is teaching, which he's been doing at University of Texas Informal Classes for over a decade, with well-loved courses including, iPhone for Smart People, Making Music with GarageBand, and soon, Working Smarter for Mac Users. Always in-demand as a speaker, Bob has presented more than 200 seminars, workshops, conferences, and training sessions in the U.S. and abroad, and given Macworld Expo keynotes in three countries, He's also done presentations at countless Apple Stores, and at least three world-famous Geek Cruises. Last but not least, Bob won the Macworld Expo MacJeopardy World Championship three times before retiring his crown. He did not, however, return the Rocket J. Squirrel Memorial Cup, which is still displayed prominently in his office. Prior to giving in to his obsessions with Apple technology and productivity, Bob worked in advertising, producing television commercials, radio spots, and print ads for Kresser & Robbins and SelecTV, in Los Angeles. Bob holds a B.S. in Marketing from California State University and lives in beautiful (and over-crowded) Austin, Texas with his beautiful wife, Lisa, and Zeke the Wonder Vizsla, with occasional visits from now-adult children Allison and Jacob.