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Enable offline dictation in OS X Mavericks

Apple's speech-to-text service not only breaks ties with Apple's servers, but offers some welcome enhancements.

Apple's Dictation service offers a quick way to enter text into practically any application's text input fields simply by speaking into your computer's microphone.

This service was introduced in OS X Mountain Lion, but it required you to speak text and then stop the dictation service so the audio sample could be sent to Apple's servers and converted into corresponding text. This requirement made the useful service somewhat inconvenient, especially for entering longer paragraphs.

Enhanced Dictation in OS X Mavericks
Check this box to have the system download and install the Dictation service on your computer. When done, Dictation will be faster, offer live feedback, and work without a network connection requirement. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

In OS X Mavericks, Apple has changed this by offering Dictation as a local service that runs on your machine, instead of requiring Apple's servers. This change comes with a couple of key benefits.

  1. No network requirement
    Now instead of requiring users to wait for audio samples to be uploaded and processed by Apple, you can use this service even when there is no network connection available.
  2. Continuous and live dictation
    Instead of limiting the length of spoken phrases and then waiting for the entire audio bite to be returned as text, you can now see the live processing of your phrase as it is entered word for word into your document as you speak it.

To enable local dictation, you just need check the "User Enhanced Dictation" box in the Dictation tab in the Dictation & Speech system preferences, and after confirming, the system will download and install the service on your system. Once done, using it is the same as prior dictation, where you use the designated shortcut key (default is to press the Fn key twice) and then start speaking.

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