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Dictate documents in OS X Mountain Lion on the Apple Mac

Speech recognition has been around for more than a decade and for a long time it has been possible to speak to your computer and have it turn the speech into text to save you the effort of having to type it in. Why learn to touch type when your computer can simply type for you? Even Star Trek in the 1960s imagined interacting with computers using voice recognition rather than using a mouse or keyboard.

OS X Mountain Lion has improved speech recognition and if you want to, you can speak instead of typing. Is it easier? Is it better? Does it really work? For some people the answer is yes it does and it can be a fantastic time and effort saving feature. Other people simply don't get on with it. You should definitely try it and see if it works for you, because it is great when it does.

Speech recognition is a feature of Mountain Lion and not of a particular app, so it works wherever text is entered. It can be used not only in Apple apps like Notes, Reminders and TextEdit, but also in non-Apple apps such as your fvaourite word processor whatever it may be, including Bean, LibreOffice and others. It is not just for documents, but for emails too. It works anywhere you would enter text.

Enable speech recognition

Click the Apple menu, System Preferences and then Dictation & Speech. On the Dictation tab is On/Off. Set it to On. Below is the shortcut key and this is Fn by default (at least on my Mac), but you can click it and select a different hotkey if you prefer. Set the language - there are US, UK and Australian versions of English.

Now that dictation is enabled, wherever there is a flashing cursor for typing in text you can press the hotkey (Fn twice) and a microphone icon appears next to it. Speak a sentence or two and click Done. The speech is analyses and the text is entered. Tap Fn twice and speak some more to add to the text and so on.

Speech recognition

Of course, entering text is just part of writing a letter or document and it wouldn't be very good without any punctuation. There are a few special commands that you can use, such as 'period', 'new line', 'comma' and 'exclamation point'.

You will still need to style the text, selecting fonts and things for headings and so on, but it will cut down the work required to enter a document to a minimum.

Not everyone gets on with speech recognition and sometimes you just don't have the right environment. A noisy Starbucks isn't a good place to use dictation for example. Try it at home or at work if you have a quiet office.

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