Software

How to use Dictation in Mac OS X Mountain Lion

Turn voice to text with the nifty Dictation feature built into the new version of Mac OS X, Mountain Lion.

Since introducing the voice-activated assistant Siri to the world with the release of iOS 5 last year, Apple has gained quite a lot of experience in the world of speech to text. So it's unsurprising these features are now making their way over to Mac OS X.

In Mountain Lion, the next version of Mac OS X, a new feature called Dictation is built into the operating system. With this, you can dictate to the computer anywhere you see a text field and it will do its best to translate your jabbering into words on the screen.

Enabling Dictation

To enable Dictation, go to System Preferences and select 'Dictation and Speech'. From here, you can turn it on and off and change the hotkey that you use to access it around the system. By default, it's set to activate when the Fn key is pressed twice, but you can change this to one of the other presets or customise it to whatever you'd like it to be.

Dictation preferences

Once it's enabled, you can dictate to Mac OS X wherever you are in the system. If you're an app developer, you don't have to do anything to make the feature work with apps as it just interacts with existing text fields. Wherever you can input some data, you can dictate (as pictured below).

Dictation in action

I've been testing Dictation for a few weeks now and it works really well when there isn't any noise in the background. If you're using a MacBook, you might come across a few issues if your fan is spinning quickly as it will distort what you're saying. For the most part though, it's a solid start on what could be a really useful feature in the future.

What do you make of the Dictation feature? Does it understand your gruffly spoken, strongly accented caveman mumbling? Let me know in the comments below.