Controlling Your Mac With Dictation

You can do more with Mac dictation than just typing text. You can use commands to control your Mac. You can select menu items, interface buttons and move between fields in the interface. In this example, I'll start, address, compose and send an email message without even touching the keyboard or mouse.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Controlling Your Mac With Dictation.

I've talked a lot in the past about using Dictation on your Mac to make it easier to type things. But you can also use Dictation to control your Mac. In combination with typing things you can have a pretty hands free experience.

So, for instance, let's go into System Preferences and make sure Dictation is turned on. It's under Keyboard, then Dictation. Then you want to have it turned on and you also want to turn on Use Enhanced Dictation. This makes Dictation local on your Mac instead of sending it into Apple Servers and back like Siri does. Besides that check to see what your shortcut is. I have it set to the default of using the fn key twice. But you could set it to something else if you like. Otherwise you don't really need to turn on anything special. There are some more settings inside of Accessibility but just using these default settings you can control your Mac as well as type dictation.

So as an example let's send an email without using the keyboard. So I'm here in the Mail app and I'm going to trigger dictation using the fn key. Then I'm going to compose a new message and send it without touching either the mouse or the keyboard. But before I begin let's take a look at the list of Commands because this is going to be very useful for learning all this stuff. Eventually you may not need it but at the beginning you definitely are going to need it to be able to refer to to get the hang of things.

The easiest way to bring up the list of Commands is to use the Dictation feature itself with the term Show Commands. So I'm going to hit the fn key twice and then say Show Commands. Show Commands. As you can see this brings up this list of Dictation commands and the list is specific to what application I have running. So it has a bunch of things. Anything it accepts right now. So if I look under Application I can see all the things I can do now including choosing Menus. So I should be able to say a phrase, starting with the word Click here and using the different menu commands and start a new message and go from there. I'm going to refer to this list very carefully as I go so I can make sure I'm doing the right thing. Eventually you'll get the hang of it and you won't need this anymore.

So let's start by creating a new message and then filling out the fields and then sending the message. Click file menu. Choose one. Joe, next field, next field, next field, This is a test message, next field, Hello Joe period This is a test message period Click send.

There you go. I've sent a message using only my voice. Notice how I looked up commands here to see what was available. So when it was time for me to send the message I noticed that I could say the word Click and it allowed me to choose from a list here of buttons that it found in the interface and one of them was the Send button which was available now because I'm not in the compose window. But I was able to quickly send that.

The easiest way I found for moving between the To field and, you know, down to the subject field and down to the body, was using Next Field command which I found here as well. For typing the email address the only real good way I found to do it was to use something in my address book and use the name and it kind of looked it up. So I could have spelled out more of the name. You noticed there were two options there. But it was the first option that I was using in the test.

So there's a lot of different things there. It was very specific to what I was doing for sending an email message. For doing a task you may need to do without touching the keyboard and the mouse you're going to have to look through these different commands here and see how they change as you go to different stages of what you're trying to do.

Try different things. For instance it took me a lot of trial and error to go to find this Go To Next Field section here, you know, and use that to find that was the best way to move on through the different little fields there to get to the different parts of sending a message. But there may be other ways. Selecting menu items, using the Click command here like this, to do what you need to do in whatever app it is that you are working in.

But I urge you to play around with this and experiment. Try different things. See what's possible. Not everything is going to be possible. It may be that the easiest way to do somethings is to actually type a key or click something with your mouse every once in awhile. It's about finding a balance between which is easiest to use and how often you're willing to actually touch your mouse or keyboard while doing these tasks.

Comments: 11 Responses to “Controlling Your Mac With Dictation”

    11 months ago

    i tried show commands microphone reacted but nothing else happened

    11 months ago

    tim: Do you have enhanced dictation turned on? Which version of macOS?

    11 months ago

    yes i did get it to work but i didn’t have the same commands like i didn’t have applications and when i clicked a command the commands dissappeared and i had to close everything and open mail backup to get it to appear again. i have macos high sierra.

    Peter Dhondt
    11 months ago

    Same here, latest os update , all commands after “system” don’t appear in the commands list. Same issue on Sierra. Have you something forgotten to tell us ?
    Tried an English and a dutch configuration, same result. Also speech only works with a new document open, not a received one.

    11 months ago

    Peter & Tim: Keep in mind that the commands you see depend on the app that is currently frontmost (shows next to the Apple menu in the menu bar). Also, note that there is a reveal triangle to the left of each category, maybe Application and Document simply are “collapsed” and need to be “expanded.” Or, do Application and Document not even appear for you?

    11 months ago

    yes application and document don’t appear so i went to my imac and i couldn’t get anything when i hit fn key twice i didn’t even hear a noise like i did on my macbook.

    Michael Alexander
    11 months ago

    Even after having to download (1.2GB) enhance dictation it did not work. I do not get a list of commands after hitting the “fn” key twice.
    I have HighSierra v 10.13.4; it did not work as I followed your video, including making sure my system preferences were correct.

    11 months ago

    Michael: Did you speak “Show Commands?”

    George Kovach
    11 months ago

    I have the same configuration and same problem as Michael. This application should help me as I have fading eyesight.

    Donna Brooks
    9 months ago

    Same issue for me. I turned on Dictation + Enhanced Dictation, and set the trigger to be tapping the right Command key twice. The mic shows my voice is registering, but nothing happens when I say, “Show commands.” I tried a half dozen times with the Finder as the frontmost app. High Sierra 10.13.6

    9 months ago

    Solved the problem. Still wonder why you did not mention this in the video or didn’t you now it yourself ? Anyway, open accessibility in system preferences , click dictation , click dictation commands and tick “enable advanced commands”. Now all the commands appear, even application and document.

Comments Closed.