Using Dictation Commands As an Alternative To Keyboard Shortcuts

You can use Dictation Commands to trigger a keyboard shortcut, menu item, or to even insert some text. You can do this while typing, or while dictating. You can set the spoken phrase to precede a dictation command to make sure the command only executes when you want it to.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Using Dictation Commands As an Alternative To Keyboard Shortcuts.

You can use the dictation commands feature of your Mac to actually speak keyboard shortcuts rather than type them. So to enable this you want to go into System Preferences and under Accessibility look for Dictation on the left. Now in order to enable dictation commands, without having to actually use the keyboard to activate these commands, you can click this box here. Now it's going to use this term here to actually activate the listening for commands. So you could say the word here and whatever the command is.

Now you click on Dictation Commands and you see all the commands you can use. There's a bunch already there. There's more if you click Enable Advanced Commands. So you can do a lot that has to do with typing text. You can do a bunch of stuff with editing. So shortcuts for things like Copy and Paste, there are already shortcuts for that like Copy That and Paste That. There's even things for formatting. You can even Start Dictation and Stop Dictation using commands as well. So you've got lots of things here. Save Document, Open Document. These are all things that you might use keyboard shortcuts for and there are already ways to do it with Dictation Commands.

But you can add any keyboard shortcut. So as a simple example let's just make Text Bold. So I'm going to hit Plus and this, instead of making the selected text bold like the default command in there, it will actually use the Command B keyboard shortcut. So everything you type after that is bold and you can toggle it Off with the same command. So I'll just use the word Bold. Any application though it's always best to restrict it to a specific app if you can. Then I can choose from lots of things here including the ability to Paste Text. Meaning I could say have a paragraph that maybe something I respond to people in email with a lot. I could actually put that in there and then use a Dictation Command to paste that in there instead of the text replacement function that has me using the keyboard.

Let's do Press Keyboard Shortcut here and I'll just say Command B. That's the shortcut I want to use. So now with that Done all I need to do is speak this command and say the word. Now it's important that you give a pause because if you're dictating, or talking like I am here, it's not going to differentiate that command there. So if I just say computer in this sentence it's not going to take that as an initiation of dictation commands. But if I pause and say it, it will. Computer (pause) Bold. Computer, Bold.

You can even use it with dictation though it can be a bit frustrating sometimes to get the command to be recognized. You have to pause enough so it just doesn't think it's part of the text. So let's try to do this without even touching the keyboard. Computer, start dictation. This is a test. Bold. This is a test of bold text. Bold. And now it is off. Stop dictation. So there you go. I was able to do that entire thing without touching the keyboard.

Now I was just using a simple bolding of text. But you can use just about anything. So I could have done Command S for save even though I already have that command there. But if there are other things that you need to do you can add them in and then use them while you're dictating. Or, use them while typing but you don't have to remember what the keyboard shortcut is. You can just say it.

There are a lot of good commands already in here that you could use. In addition to that you can also choose, instead of a keyboard shortcut, to select a Menu. You can enter the Menu item title. So if there's no keyboard shortcut assigned to it you don't have to add a keyboard shortcut and then use this. You can just go right to the menu item. Now in practice this didn't seem to work for a lot of menu items. But one that did was centering. So let's try that as an example. When I say Center, Any Application it's going to select the menu, Center, Done. So I can now go here and if I say, Computer, Center. You can see it works.

So I was able to get that to work. I wasn't able to get ones like Outline, or Underline, or anything like to work. So your mileage may vary for those. Also, note that there are a lot of other ways to get to Menu Commands. For instance, there is already a builtin way to just choose a Menu. You can say, Click Menu, and that is listed under Application, Click and then the menu name menu. Then you use Numbers. For instance, if I wanted to underline this without using the keyboard shortcut I could say, Computer Click Format Menu. Computer, 1. Computer, 4. So you can see what it did there was it used those numbers that were listed and I was able to simply use those numbers to get to what I wanted.

Now you should be able to actually say just the number and not have to say Computer 1, Computer 4. But that's also something that didn't seem to work all the time for me. But it did seem to work all the time if I prefaced it with Computer. So there's some things for you to play around with if you want an alternative to using keyboard shortcuts and actually have spoken shortcuts.

Comments: 13 Responses to “Using Dictation Commands As an Alternative To Keyboard Shortcuts”

    Jeff Lambert
    3 months ago

    Hi, great video! Do you know if there is a way to toggle the language for dictation with applescript or with dictation? I use both French Canadian and English and it would be fantastic to be able to toggle those more easily. I know I can toggle it on the little dictation button but was wondering if I could do it with a keyboard shortcut. Thanks!

    3 months ago

    Jeff: They way you are doing it now is probably the easiest.

    Colin McKinney
    3 months ago

    I used Dictation a couple of years ago, and now I started practising it again. This time, however, the ‘show numbers’ command refuses to work. Maybe this a bug in recent updates? I’ve tried restarting the mac and other ‘fixes’ I found online.

    3 months ago

    Colin: Check all of your settings that would be involved. Definitely works for me.

    Robert Werthman
    3 months ago

    Thanks for explaining this neat feature. My Dictation Commands screen in System Preferences is grayed out so I cannot check or uncheck any of the boxes. If anyone has an answer I would appreciate it. (macOS 10.14)

    3 months ago

    Robert: Things to check: Are you using an admin account? If not parental controls can restrict this. Do you have Enhanced Dictation turned on in System Preferences, Keyboard, Dictation? Is your microphone working?

    Fred Andersen
    3 months ago

    I tried setting up Dictation as demonstrated – I uploaded Advanced Dictation, so the little microphone in the topmost ribbon on my screen appears activated – but when I try to use Dictation, nothing happens. I watched the video twice to be sure I hadn’t missed anything. Is there something else I need to do? “Voice recognition” or something? Thanks. (iMac OS 10.14.1)

    3 months ago

    Fred: Just check and recheck everything. Maybe do a restart.

    Robert Werthman
    3 months ago

    Thanks for your response Gary. I am using an Admin account, enhanced dictation is turned off and the mike works because normal dictation works.

    3 months ago

    Robert: Try it with Enhanced Dictation turned on. And try a restart after you turn it on to be sure it takes effect.

    Robert Werthman
    3 months ago

    Gary you’re a genius, it works. Couldn’t find a solution anywhere else. Thank you.

    Jerry Raphael
    1 month ago

    Is there a way to “mark as unread” in the mail ap? It would be nice if there was a shortcut.

    1 month ago

    Jerry: Yes, just look in the menus. Message, Mark As Unread. There is a keyboard shortcut there too.

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