OS X Yosemite: Using Dictation Commands

I like Yosemite’s new Dictation Commands, even though I typically feel incredibly dorky when I talk to my Mac. But with this feature, you can control all sorts of things, like quitting programs, selecting words, and moving your cursor around. It’s neat enough that it’s worth the dorkiness, I promise. Let’s check it out!

The first thing you’ll want to be sure of is that you’ve enabled Enhanced Dictation within System Preferences> Dictation & Speech> Dictation—the commands won’t work without that on. (I discussed the ramifications of that feature in an earlier tip.)

After that’s turned on, visit System Preferences> Accessibility and scroll down to click on the “Dictation” tab from the left-hand list. 

Then you should see the “Dictation Commands” option in the right-hand pane. Click on that to see what choices you’ve got.

Hey, that’s a lot of stuff to scroll through! So here’s the fun part—whenever you invoke Dictation under Yosemite (which you’ll do by pressing the shortcut for that, listed under System Preferences> Dictation & Speech> Dictation), you can speak those listed commands to do things like select text, copy and paste, undo an action, and so on. And if you tick the checkbox labeled “Enable advanced commands” at the bottom of that window, you can switch between apps, quit programs, minimize windows, and more! Pretty groovy. 

So let’s walk through using a few of the commands. Start by pressing that Dictation shortcut I mentioned; the default one is the Function (Fn) key tapped twice. The little “hey, I’m listening to you” microphone should appear.

After you hear the beep, you’ll say whatever command you want to employ (and your Mac will continue listening until you press that shortcut again or click “Done” on the microphone icon). For this example, I typed some text in Pages, and then I invoked the Dictation feature and said “Select all.”

I told my Mac “Copy that,” and I followed that command with “Move down.” When my cursor switched to the next line, I said “Paste that.”

As you can see, this has all sorts of applications, especially in helping people who have trouble with their hands. Keep in mind, too, that you can use this in conjunction with actually dictating your text, so you could say “Go to end of paragraph” and follow that up with whatever you’d like to type there. So I think it’s a great idea to walk through that list of potential commands and try ’em out—you may find one that strikes your fancy! My personal favorite is “Search Spotlight for [phrase].” I mean, how awesome is it that I can search with my voice? It’s not just that I’m easily impressed, right?