This is an update of a previous blog post about setting up free dictation on your Mac. It’s slightly different in macOS Sierra than in previous versions of macOS, so please enjoy this delightful little ditty I like to call:

How to become a Mac Dictator (Sierra edition)

Have you always wanted to become a dictator? Not that kind! I meant the kind who dictates text to their Mac rather than typing. If you don’t like to type, or you can’t type due to repetitive strain injury (RSI) or other ailment, dictation may be just the ticket. And even if you love to type, dictation is a nice change of pace.

Dictation may also be faster than typing, especially if you speak clearly and quickly or you type slowly and poorly. We’ll look at an advanced third-party speech recognition program called Dragon for Mac in Chapter 3. But since Dragon costs up to $300 and there’s no free trial available, here’s how to dictate to your Mac without spending a dime.

How to become a Mac Dictator—step-by-step instructions for macOS Sierra users

  1. Launch System Preferences.

  2. Click the Keyboard icon.

  3. Click the Dictation tab.

  4. Click the On button.

  5. Click the Use Enhanced Dictation checkbox if you want to use dictation when you don’t have an Internet connection. It may take up to an hour for everything to download, so only check the box when you’ve got fast, reliable Internet access.

  6. (Optional) Choose a keyboard shortcut to toggle dictation on and off without revisiting System Preferences again. I use Control + Option + Command + D (D for Dictation).

  7. Choose a microphone by clicking the little inverted caret below the microphone icon and selecting the mic you want to use. The mic icon becomes your audio level meter; make a loud noise like a clap or a whoop and watch it bounce up and down.

Now, to dictate to your Mac, launch your favorite word processor and then turn on dictation using your keyboard shortcut. Start talking and watch the words appear on your screen like magic.

But wait! There's more! You can enable advanced dictation commands and then edit text and control actions on your Mac by voice!

  1. Launch System Preferences.

  2. Click the Accessibility icon.

  3. Click Dictation in the list on the left.

  4. Click the Dictation Commands button.

  5. Click the Enable Advanced Commands checkbox to speak advanced commands such as select the next or previous word, sentence or paragraph; go to the beginning or end of a word, sentence, paragraph; Undo; Redo; Cut, Copy or Paste; switch to or launch an application.

Finally, if you're using macOS Sierra, you can also talk to Siri. (Enable Siri in System Preferences-->Siri). Then try launching an app by name: Hey Siri—Launch Microsoft Word.

While macOS built-in dictation support is not as powerful and lacks many of the features of the commercial (around $200) Dragon For Mac, it works well enough for light use and you can't beat the price—it’s free.

One more thing: Since speech-to-text works decently with your Mac’s built-in mic, why not give it a try? Then, if you like it, consider buying yourself a decent headset mic and/or a copy of Dragon for Mac.

P. S. There is one last thing… If you liked what you just read, I'd be eternally grateful if you'd mention it to your Facebook and Twitter friends...

Thanks again for your support. 🤓