Mountain Lion & Dictation Make A Good Team

In this column I am going to cover another of the cool new features of Mountain Lion. This time it is Dictation. Once you have activated Dictation you can choose to dictate almost any text you want to input into a document.

Initial setup

The first thing you must do is activate the ability to dictate, which you do in System Preferences. Select Apple Menu > System Preferences > Dictation & Speech > Dictation tab. Click the “on” button next to Dictation, select your language of choice, and, if you wish, select a keyboard shortcut to turn Dictation on whenever you wish to use it. Once you have the Dictation option turned on, it stays on until you disengage it.

Dictation preference pane

At the bottom of the Dictation pane is information about privacy that explains that when you use the Dictation feature, some of your information is sent to Apple to convert what you say into text. The full information follows and users should read it.

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

You can choose to turn off the Dictation feature at any time. To do so, open System Preferences, click Dictation & Speech, and then click Off in the Dictation section. If 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 Siri functionality in 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.

This is fairly standard boilerplate stuff here, and if you're comfortable giving Apple other information, I don't see anything to worry about.


Dictating is easy. If you have never done it before it may feel a little awkward at first, but if this is a tool you like, then you will quickly get the hang of it with a little practice. Here are the steps:

  • Place the insertion point where you want the dictated text to appear.
  • Select “Start Dictation” from the Edit menu of your application or use the Shortcut that you created.
  • When you see the microphone icon, speak the text.
  • Remember to speak the punctuation marks by name. If you want a new line or new paragraph, speak those directions.
  • When you are finished, click the done button and your spoken text is processed and then appears in the place you previously indicated. If you stop midstream, be sure to choose “Start Dictation” again.
  • Unclear text is underlined in blue. If the text is wrong, click it and select a suggested alternate or type or dictate the correct word(s).

Dictation in progress

Some suggestions to make your Dictation experience successful

  • If you are using an external microphone, make sure it is connected to your Mac and selected in the Dictation pane. Position yourself as you would normally use your computer, then speak in a calm voice that is of a normal volume. As you speak the microphone icon glows to show your speaking volume.
  • Spell unusual words
  • .Avoid background noise. A headset microphone is always the best option. I use the Scosche RH656m headphones and they do the job beautifully. Check out my review  if you are looking for some.
  • Speak the punctuation where necessary. Say new paragraph or new line to make those things happen.
  • When dictating oddities just think it through.  Say "question mark", or "plus sign", but you only have to say "ampersand" because there is nothing to confuse that with.

Final recommendation

Relax and enjoy it. If you aren’t happy with your results, just start over. It’s not much different from using Siri for those who have had that opportunity. And that leads me to my example of what not to do.

When Siri first came out I was happily showing it off to my adult grandchildren. I told Siri to text another family member “Meet us at Chuy’s for dinner at 7.” Siri came back and said “I don’t understand Chuy’s”. I turned to my grandson and said “Oh crud, I should have spelled out Chuy’s”. Siri said “I don’t understand “crud”.

We'll just all ignore the fact that I actually said something worse than crud in front of my grandson, shall we? He seemed to have survived the trauma and I learned to spell out unusual words.