How to Make the Most of Dictation in Mountain Lion

OS X Mountain Lion supports Dictation. So wherever you can type, you can use your voice instead. We’re not talking Siri yet. Dictation is is available in Apple products which do not have Siri yet and Mac happens to be just one of them. Dictation is a perfect companion for those, who do not have the mobility or typing skills required to compose long emails or documents.

Dictation works seamlessly with almost every application and if you pay attention to a few capabilities of Dictation, you can make the most of Dictation in Mountain Lion.

First you’ll need to enable Dictation as it doesn’t come enabled by default. Go to System Preferences -> Dictation & Speech -> Dictation. Select the “On” radio button.

You can also select the Shortcut key that you wish to use to activate Dictation. By default, Dictation can be activated by pressing the “Fn (Function)” key twice. While in the Dictation preference pane, you can also select the language that you will be speaking. Dictation supports English (U.S., UK, and Australia), French, German, and Japanese.

When you use the keyboard dictation feature on your computer, the things you dictate will be recorded and sent to Apple to convert what you say into text. Your computer will also send Apple other information, such as your first name and nickname; and the names, nicknames, and relationship with you (for example, “my dad”) of your address book contacts.  All of this data is used to help the dictation feature understand you better and recognize what you say. Your User Data is not linked to other data that Apple may have from your use of other Apple services.

Information collected by Apple will be treated in accordance with Apple’s Privacy Policy, which can be found at

When you turn off Dictation, Apple will delete your User Data, as well as your recent voice input data. Older voice input data that has been disassociated from you may be retained for a period of time to generally improve Dictation and other Apple products and services. This voice input data may include audio files and transcripts of what you said and related diagnostic data, such as hardware and operating system specifications and performance statistics.

You can restrict access to the Dictation feature on your computer in the Parental Controls pane of System Preferences.


Using Dictation to Type

To use Dictation, open any application that has a text input area like TextEdit or Pages or Microsoft word and position your cursor in that text area. Press the Shortcut key twice (by default, it’s the Function key or fn key). A small microphone icon will appear below the cursor.

Begin talking. When you have finished talking – click the “Done” button below the microphone. Alternatively you can press the function key twice again when you’re done speaking. After a few seconds, your voice will be transcribed into text.


Dictate with Contacts

Just say your friend’s name, and Dictation knows who you mean. It works with information in the Contacts app to recognize and spell names accurately, even if they have unusual spellings.


Dictate Commands

Dictation understands basic text-related commands such as “all caps,” “new paragraph,” and “new line.” When you say “period,” “comma,” “question mark,” or “exclamation point,” Dictation punctuates for you. Dictation includes many voice “shortcuts” that allows you to manipulate the text and insert symbols while you are speaking. Here’s a list of those shortcuts that you can use:

  • “new line” is like pressing Return on your keyboard
  • “new paragraph” creates a new paragraph
  • “cap” capitalizes the next spoken word
  • “caps on/off” capitalizes the spoken section of text
  • “all caps” makes the next spoken word all caps
  • “all caps on/off” makes the spoken section of text all caps
  • “no caps” makes the next spoken word lower case
  • “no caps on/off” makes the spoken section of text lower case
  • “space bar” prevents a hyphen from appearing in a normally hyphenated word
  • “no space” prevents a space between words
  • “no space on/off” to prevent a section of text from having spaces between words
  • “period” or “full stop” places a period at the end of a sentence
  • “dot” places a period anywhere, including between words
  • “point” places a point between numbers, not between words
  • “ellipsis” or “dot dot dot” places an ellipsis in your writing
  • “comma” places a comma
  • “double comma” places a double comma (,,)
  • “quote” or “quotation mark” places a quote mark (“)
  • “quote … end quote” places quotation marks around the text spoken between
  • “apostrophe” places an apostrophe (‘)
  • “exclamation point” places an exclamation point (!)
  • “inverted exclamation point” places an inverted exclamation point (¡)
  • “question mark” places a question mark (?)
  • “inverted question mark” places an inverted question mark (¿)
  • “ampersand” places an ampersand sign (&)
  • “asterisk” places an asterisk (*)
  • “open parenthesis” opens a set of parenthesis “(“
  • “close parenthesis” closes a set of parenthesis “)”
  • “open bracket” opens a set of brackets “[“
  • “close bracket” closes a set of brackets “]”
  • “open brace” opens a set of braces “{“
  • “close brace” closes a set of braces “}”
  • “dash” places a dash (-) with spaces before and after
  • “hyphen” places a hyphen between words without a space
  • “em dash” places an em dash (–)
  • “underscore” places an underscore (_)
  • “percent sign” places a percent sign (%)
  • “copyright sign” places a copyright symbol
  • “registered sign” places a registered trademark symbol
  • “section sign” places a section sign
  • “dollar sign” places a dollar sign ($)
  • “cent sign” place a cent sign (¢)
  • “degree sign” places a degree symbol (º)
  • “caret” places a caret (^)
  • “at sign” places an at symbol (@)
  • “pound sign” places a pound symbol (#)
  • “greater than sign” places a greater than symbol (>)
  • “less than sign” places a less than symbol (<)
  • “forward slash” places a forward slash (/)
  • “back slash” places a back slash ()
  • “vertical bar” places a pipe (|)
  • “smiley” or “smile face” places a “:-)”
  • “frowny” or “frown face” places a “:-(“
  • “winky” or “wink face” places a “;-)”
  • “e g” places a “e.g.”
  • “i e” places a “i.e.”


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