This hidden MacOS feature lets you use your voice to quickly type on your Mac

Unlike Siri, you can use this voice-to-text feature to write an essay in Microsoft Word or send a response on Facebook.

Use this simple trick to more easily input text on your Mac.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

I use Siri on my Mac more than I do on my iPhone or any of my other Apple devices. With just my voice, I can search through my hundreds of documents for a certain file or check for free disk space if I'm running out of storage, but the intelligent personal assistant does have its limitations. Conveniently, Mac has another voice feature that fills in some of the holes that Siri leaves behind.

The tool, known as Dictation, lets you use your voice to type pretty much anywhere on your computer -- which Siri can't do. Siri works great with native applications such as Mail and Messages, but if third-party apps don't have support, you're out of luck. Dictation works in pretty much any app or service on your Mac, meaning you could write an essay in Microsoft Word or leave a comment on YouTube in Safari -- with only your voice.

If you're always multitasking and need something to help you write up long emails or leave quick comments, use Dictation. In this guide we'll show you two different ways to enable voice dictation on your Mac: from the menu bar at the top of your screen and with a keyboard shortcut of your choice.

Use Dictation from the menu bar

The first way to use Dictation is from the menu bar at the top of your screen. 

  1. To start, open up your application of choice -- such an email or word processor -- and click anywhere where you want to input text.
  2. Next, navigate to the menu bar and click Edit > Start Dictation. As soon as you do, a small microphone icon next to your cursor will appear. As you speak, you'll see the volume control in the microphone go up and down, indicating the strength of your voice. You should also see text populating the area where your cursor is, after you speak. 
  3. Once you're finished dictating, click Done.

Choose a shortcut for Dictation in System Preferences.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Use Dictation with a keyboard shortcut

The second way to use Dictation is with a keyboard shortcut, but you must first enable it. To do this:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on Keyboard.
  3. Go into Shortcut.
  4. Choose among six options, including Press Control Key Twice (a solid choice).

The other shortcut options include Press Fn Key Twice, Press Right Command Key Twice, Press Left Command Key Twice, Press Either Command Key Twice and Customize. If you choose Customize, you can then enter any key combination to turn on Dictation.

Finally, like in the first step, navigate to whatever app has a text field, like Gmail or Pages, click anywhere in the text field and enter the keyboard command to turn on Dictation. As you speak, text should appear.

As a Mac owner, it's difficult to get a firm grasp on every single feature the computer has to offer. Not to worry. Check out 7 of the best hidden features for your Mac and 10 tips to flex your superpowers on Mac. Also, if you've recently updated to MacOS Monterey, learn more about the new features including AirPlay to Macs, FaceTime with anyone, group Safari tabs and more.