XDA Basics: How to Set Up & Use Mac Voice Dictation

XDA Basics: How to Set Up & Use Mac Voice Dictation

If you want to whizz through your emails and reports and impress your boss in the process, then Mac Voice Dictation is the way to go. The feature is built into your Mac and can be activated simply by going to the Preferences and switching it on. But surprisingly, many people I have encountered do not realize voice dictation is even there.

Many of us are so used to talking to Siri that it isn’t a stretch to also dictate email replies and memos using Mac voice dictation. But how do you activate it and set it up? That’s what we’ll be looking at today.

Activate Mac Voice Dictation

As with everything on a Mac, it all starts in the preferences. So go to the Apple menu in the top left-hand corner and choose System Preferences. The System Preferences box will now come up. Choose Keyboard.


mac system preferences

When the Keyboard section appears, go to the Dictation tab.

mac voice dictation

The first step is obviously to switch on dictation. So toggle the button to On. This immediately prompts a privacy warning from Apple, that all information you speak into your Mac will be sent to Apple to be converted into text. So think carefully about what you’re dictating. Routine emails and run-of-the-mill memos would be OK, but you may want to think twice about really sensitive company information or other types of privileged content.

When you are sure you want to use dictation, click Enable Dictation.

mac voice dictation privacy warning

Choose Your Native Tongue

The next step is to choose your language. If you drop down the Language menu, you’ll see what language packs are already installed. In my case, it is only UK English. If the language you want has not yet been installed, click Add Language.

mac voice dictation language menu

The list of available language packs will now come up. As you can see, there are multiple versions of English (although no Scottish version, which I find scandalous). There are also all of the world’s major languages. Simply tick the ones you want to install (and untick any you want to uninstall), and click OK to start the process.

mac voice dictation language packs

Now check the language menu drop-down again and you’ll see that your language pack has been installed.

Choose Your Keyboard Shortcut

As the Dictation tab says, you can access the feature by going to the Edit menu and choosing Start Dictation. But everyone knows the really cool kids all use keyboard shortcuts instead. So the second to last part of the setup process involves choosing your keyboard shortcut to begin voice dictation.

If you drop down the shortcut menu, you’ll see that some shortcuts have been suggested for you. If one of them appeals, choose it. If you’d rather have another one, click Customize and enter your desired shortcut. Assuming an app has not grabbed that shortcut already, you’ll be allowed it.

mac voice dictation keyboard shortcut

Last But Not Least, Choose Your Audio Source

As you can see on the left of the box, the audio source defaults to the internal microphone. This works in most cases, but you may instead want to use an external microphone to ensure better dictation accuracy.

My personal recommendation is the wonderful Blue Yeti, which you can pick up from Amazon for a very reasonable price. Like several other Mac accessories, there are other plug-and-play options too. Once it is plugged into your laptop, just drop down the audio source menu and choose the microphone from the list.

    For heavy and regular use

    The Blue Yeti Nano is a premium USB microphone for broadcast-quality voice input.

    Voice input on a budget

    This plug-and-play microphone is one of the cheaper and reliable options around, ideal for casual and light use.

    Affordable and practical

    This microphone comes with a shock mount, tripod stand and a pop filter, with plug and play functionality.

Let’s Do Some Dictating!

So by triggering your keyboard shortcut, the dictation microphone will appear on your screen. Place your cursor on the screen where you want the text to go (such as an email draft) and start talking! Watch your words magically appear on the screen!

If you found this helpful, you should also check out how to split your screen on a Mac, and why you should do it.

About author

Mark O'Neill
Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill is a freelance writer, editor, and bestselling fiction author. Since 2004, he has written on technology subjects such as MacOS, iOS, cybersecurity, and online privacy. Originally from Scotland, he is now based in Würzburg, Germany, where he lives with his wife and dog. Please direct all email enquiries to [email protected]

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