How to Control Your Machine with Voice Commands

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07 / 08 / 2017

How to Control Your Machine with Voice Commands

Thanks to Siri, which is implemented in macOS Sierra, Mac users can control basic Mac functions with voice commands. Did you know that you could do similar tricks on older operating systems? Dictation and voice commands may work like a magic wand. You’ll be surprised about how much you can “squeeze out” of your machine even if it’s not eligible for Sierra updates.

MacOS dictation system can convert speech to commands and lets you control your Mac with spoken words. The main advantage is that you are not limited only with default system set of navigation, editing, and formatting commands. After you set up the system, you can use your voice to search in Spotlight, save documents, etc.

Where to start?

If you want to create custom voice commands, activate the Dictation feature first.

  1. In the upper-left corner, click the Apple logo and launch System Preferences.

  2. In the System Preferences window, select the Dictation&Speech pane.

  3. In the preference pane, click the Dictation tab.

  4. Toggle the radio button on to activate the Dictation feature.

  5. Select the “Use Enhanced Dictation” checkbox. As a result, the system will download and install Enhanced Dictation files.

Create your first voice command

Now it’s time to create your first voice command. Make sure that you activated the Dictation feature and installed all Enhanced Dictation files. Let’s say that we want to check if there are new mails in the mailbox. We are going to use the “iMac, Check Mailbox” command.

  1. Launch System Preferences and select Accessibility.

  2. Scroll down the Accessibility window and find the Dictation item in the list.

  3. Select the “Enable the dictation keyword phrase” checkbox.

  4. In the field below the checkbox, type the word that you’d like to use to alert your Mac that the command word is about to be spoken. My computer’s name is “iMac”, so I’ve used it as the command word. You can use whatever you like as the “key” word.

  5. Click the Dictation Commands button.

  6. You’ll see the list of default commands that your Mac already recognizes.

  7. There is no “check mail” command on the list, so we’ll create it. Select the “Enable advanced commands” checkbox to proceed.

  8. Click the “+” button to add your own command.

  9. Add the command to the “When I say” field. The phrase that we’re going to add should invoke the command. Type “Check Mailbox”.

  10. In the “Perform” menu, choose “Press Keyboard Shortcut”.

  11. In the “While using” menu, choose Mail app.

  12. Enter a shortcut that you’d like to use for checking your mailbox. The combination of 3 keys is what you need. Let’s set up the Shift-Command-N keyboard combination. You’ll have to press them simultaneously.

  13. Click “Done” to confirm the changes.

Congratulations! You’ve just created your own voice command. Ready to try it out? When you say the command “iMac, check mail”, the computer will open your Mail app. You can also use the Command-Shift-N combination to do the same. We are not limited to default system shortcuts or commands. Feel free to explore, add new commands, and improve your Mac skills.