How To Enable Offline Dictation in OS X Mavericks

Last year, when OS X Mountain Lion was introduced, a new feature, Dictation, was also introduced to the blogosphere. This Dictation service gives users a quick way to enter text into practically any application’s text input fields by simply speaking into your computer’s microphone, provided the application supports the aforementioned feature.

A bad thing about this service is that it requires an Internet connection to work. When you speak, the audio sample is sent to Apple’s servers, where it is converted into corresponding text, and return to your Mac where it is inserted into the application. This unnecessary requirement made a quite useful service somewhat inconvenient, especially if you wanted to enter longer paragraphs. It also made having an active internet connection necessary for using the Dictation feature, which made some people quite disappointed.

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In Apple’s new highly anticipated OS X Mavericks, Apple has changed this by offering offline Dictation, a local service that runs on your machine instead of requiring to connect to Apple’s servers.

This much-needed change comes with a couple of key benefits as outlined below:

1. No Active Internet Connection Required – 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 recorded 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.

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If you want to enable this offline Dictation feature, simply open up “System Preferences” and go to the “Dictation and Speech” section. Here you will find a checkbox, “Use Enhanced Dictation”, which allows offline use and continuous dictation with live feedback.

One thing to note is that enabling this feature requires a fairly large download, about 491 MB in size for me. Some others have reported it between 700 and 800 MB, so we suspect that this is dependent on your chosen language.

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Once the download has completed, you can dictate text just as you used to before,using the shortcut specified in the Dictation and Speech preferences. The only difference will be that the transcription will now happen locally on your Mac instead of on Apple’s servers. This feature allows the words to appear “live” as you speak, resulting in a much more enjoyable and useful dictation process. Some people has commented that this new feature has made Dictation more inaccurate, but we didn’t experience any major mistakes.

There are also a number of dictation commands to help you with the formatting and punctuation. These are just the same as they are in Mountain Lion, however they become much more useful with this new enhanced dictation feature. Apple provides a full list which can be accessed here, and it contains things like “all caps”, “smiley face”, “new paragraph” and “next line”.

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This is only one of the many addition Apple made to Mac Mavericks. However, we feel that this is not enough for Dictation to be a serious competitor to commercial alternatives such as Dragon Dictate. For example, Apple should add a quick and easy way to edit existing text and correct transcription errors, without using a keyboard or mouse. It would also be great if the system automatically learnt from your corrections over time, or allowed manual training through the addition of tricky words such as names and places to the dictionary.

Maybe in OS X 11?….