Why You Should Ditch Your Keyboard and Pick Up a Mic


“I wish I could just speak what I want to write instead of typing it. This is taking sooo long!”

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t had this experience at some point or another.  So when I show my clients how they can dictate on their Mac for free, it’s always a big WOW! This works really well and has saved me lots of time, especially when I’m converting my hand written notes to digital.

How to:
If you have a Mac with the operating system Mountain Lion or Mavericks, open up your favorite word processor or the Notes app and double tap the fn key on the bottom left hand corner of your keyboard. If you have never done this before a message will pop up that looks like this.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 12.26.55 PMThe key difference between Mountain Lion and Mavericks’ dictation is the option for Enhanced Dictation. Enabling Enhanced Dictation will allow you to dictate without an internet connection and also allows you to talk much longer and it’s more accurate. If you don’t see the option for Enhanced, you’re probably running Mountain Lion. If nothing happens when you double tap the fn key, you’ll need to upgrade your operating system from the App Store. If you need some help please reach out to me through my contact page, or leave a comment below.

Once you hit OK and it has finished downloading any necessary components, you’ll see this microphone appear where you were about to type.Screen-Shot-2014-04-14-at-12.27.35-PM

Now all you have to do is start speaking! When you’re finished, tap the fn key once or click the Done button.

There is one big name when it comes to dictation that you may have heard of, Dragon Dictation. You may have downloaded it for your iPhone before Siri came out. They make a really great app for your Mac that has a ton of great features, like converting a recording of a meeting to text. Generally, Dragon is going to be more accurate than the built in dictation on your Mac, but you’ll have to pay $199 to get Dragon.

If you’re interested in reading some comparisons between Dragon and the built in dictation, here’s a good article.

You can buy Dragon Dictation here. The reviews on Amazon say it’s a little buggy. I think it’s worth looking at either way.

Try this out and let me know what you think!

Question: Have you used dictation software before? What do you think about it?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Micah

    Thanks for this info, Shawn!
    This is very helpful. I didn’t know about this great feature and it’s wonderful that it is free.
    I got one question: Is it bilingual? I write in English to some people and in German to others. How can I switch?
    Keep up the good work and have a great day!

    • Hey Micah! It does work for German and a number of other languages. Here’s a photo of the languages currently supported.
      To change the language, go to System Preferences, Dictation & Speech. Once there you’ll see a popup menu with the language it’s currently using. You can click on it and add whichever you would like to use!
      Thanks for your comment!

      • Micah

        Hi Shwan, Thanks for the advice!
        That worked well. The English version seems to be better than the German one. Just used it for writing this comment. Have a great day.

  • Pingback: Learn Differently | Tools to Help Students with Writing Difficulties()

  • Joe Sheehan

    Do you find that you have to use a microphone? I’ve tried this w/ my Mac Mini and Mac Cinema Display and I’m struggling to get it to recognize the audio. Thanks!

    • The Cinema Display is the worst of the built in mics for this if you’re not right on top of the mic.
      I bet you would get better performance from an external mic.

      My fav mic is the Apogee Mic. It’s pretty expensive to just use it for dictation. A Blue Snowflake might be a better choice economically.

      Let me know what you end up doing!

      • Joe Sheehan

        Cool. Thanks for the tips. Glad to know I wasn’t going crazy. Not sure how many uses of dictation I’ll find in my practical (home-only) use of my Mac but will let you know.