How to Activate Voice Control on a MacBook Pro

By David Weedmark

If you have a MacBook Pro, consider giving your fingers a rest for a while and try out the Dictation Commands accessibility feature in OS X Yosemite. Not only can you dictate text directly into email messages and Pages, you can verbally command your Mac to open and close apps, launch menus and basically anything else you would usually use a mouse and keyboard to do. If you used Voice Control on OS X Mavericks, you'll find OS X Yosemite has changed the process a bit, but it works essentially the same, if not better.

Step 1

Click the "Apple" menu and launch "System Preferences." Click the "Dictation & Speech" icon.

Step 2

Click the "On" radio button to enable dictation. This is all you need to do if you just want to dictate instead of typing text in apps like Text Edit or Pages. Check the "Use Enhanced Dictation" check box to unlock voice control. This downloads a 1.2GB file to your computer to unlock voice control features, as well as making dictation available offline, so you won't need an Internet connection to dictate text into apps. After the file is downloaded, click the "Use Enhanced Dictation" check box again to enable the feature.

Step 3

Click the "Back" button in the Dictation Preferences window to return to the main System Preferences window. Click the "Accessibility" icon, then select "Dictation." Click the "Dictation Commands" button. Note that this button is grayed out unless Dictation and Enhanced Dictation are already turned on.

Step 4

Click the "Enable Advanced Commands" check box. By default, all of the listed commands are already activated. To deactivate any function, just click the check mark beside it. It's a good idea to scroll through the commands and familiarize yourself with what's already available, like quitting, hiding and switching applications.

Step 5

Click the "+" button to add an additional command. Enter a voice command in the text box, then select what you want your MacBook Pro to do when you use it. While there doesn't seem to be a word limit for your commands, it's best to keep them short so you can easily remember what they are.

Step 6

Press the "Fn" key twice. Once the microphone icon appears on the screen, speak a command into the MacBook Pro's built-in microphone. The shading in the microphone icon moves as you speak and then your words appear above the microphone icon as it initiates the action you commanded. To turn off the dictation app, press the "Fn" key twice, or click the "Done" button on the microphone icon.

Step 7

Dictate text into apps like TextEdit, Mail or Pages by pressing the "Fn" key twice. Once the microphone icon appears on the screen, speak into the microphone. After a few seconds, the words you speak begin to appear in the app.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the dictation utility isn't responding to your commands, make sure your microphone is turned on. Launch System Preferences, select "Sound" and then click the "Input" tab. Speaker volume doesn't affect dictation.
  • If you're still using OS X Mavericks, you can access voice control by selecting "Accessibility" in System Preferences and then selecting "Speakable Items." To see your available voice control commands, click the triangle at the bottom of the speech feedback window and click "Open Speech Commands Window."