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You know that you can input text with your Mac's keyboard, but Mountain Lion brings a new compelling way to enter text, your voice. For the first time, Mac OS X offers solid speech-to-text capabilities with the dictation feature. We'll start by looking at the Dictation & Apeech preference. System Preferences, Dictation & Speech. Here, you see the option to turn dictation on and off. When you turn it on, you see this warning, and that indicates that when you dictate text, the words that you say will be sent to Apple.
Now, this isn't so Apple can listen in on your conversations or your private correspondence. What they do want to do, however, is use the power of their many, many, many servers that can quickly turn that spoken text into written text and then send it back to you. So, I will now click on Enable Dictation, and it's switched on. Also within this window, you'll see a shortcut pop-up menu, which allows you to change the shortcut if you like. In this case, the default is pressing the Function or Fn key two times in a row.
And also you can choose the language that you'll be speaking. If you are concerned about Apple's policies regarding dictation and privacy, click on that button and you'll see a document that explains how this information is used. Dictation is supported system wide, so an application doesn't have to be written in order to take advantage of it. In this case, I'm going to launch TextEdit and we'll use that. And here's TextEdit and we will create a new document. I can now go to the edit menu and choose Start Dictation.
"I don't know about you, but I think Mountain Lion is awesome! Don't you think so to?" And then I press Return, and here are the results. It's pretty good. The one area where it was possibly confused is Mountain. Now, if I Control-click on that, it offers a suggestion. So, what's the difference? My Mountain is capitalized and their suggestion is not, which is pretty darn close.
What they didn't do however is capitalize Lion, and I can simply make that correction now. Now, you notice that when I spoke, I spoke the punctuation. So I had to say, I don't know about you--comma-- but I think Mountain Lion is awesome--exclamation point. If you want to add this kind of special punctuation, you have to speak it. Now, dictation is pretty good about understanding punctuation but you have to know what to call it. So, instead of saying, "Parenthesis," you must say, "Open parenthesis" and "close parenthesis." So, let's give that a try.
Press Fn twice, "I think this is pretty good (but you may not agree)." And as you can see, it inserted the parenthesis correctly. You can also insert line breaks by saying, "New line" or paragraphs by saying, "New paragraph." It also recognizes punctuation, such as open quote and close quote, hyphen, asterisk, em dash, en dash, and underscore.
In general, if you know the proper name for the kind of punctuation you want to use, dictation will recognize it. Like I said, dictation is available everywhere. So, I'll quit TextEdit. Now, I'll go into Mail, and now I'll create a new mail message. I'll send it to my good buddy Elmore. Press Fn twice. "Elmore, how about if we meet for lunch tomorrow? Love to see you again!" New line, "Don't forget to bring your guitar." New line, "See you then," New line, "Chris." Not bad.
It got everything I said, plus it took my new line commands. At this point, I would just send my message and I'd be ready to go. I can leave dictation on if I like, however, I can also turn it off. The advantage of turning it off is that any speech that you've uploaded to Apple will be deleted from their servers. So, simply turn off and the words you said will be erased from Apple's servers in the Cloud. While we're here, let's take a quick look at Text to Speech.
Your Mac cannot only transcribe what you say. It can act as a screen reader for existing text. Here, you can choose a system voice. In this case, the Alex voice is the default for good reason, because it sounds really good. You can change the speaking rate if you like, from fast to slow. It could also announce when alerts are displayed. It can also give you a spoken warning when an application requires your attention. If you press a certain key, it will speak the selected text, and you can have the clock announce the time, and if you need VoiceOver, you can change VoiceOver settings.
Now, Alex isn't the only voice available to you. Click on System Voice pop-up menu and you'll see a variety of voices. If you don't want the standard voices that came with your Mac, click on Customize and you'll see a long list of voices. And some of these have different kinds of accents. Under this Novelty accents, you're going to find a lot of very odd voices. They're fun to play with but they're not terribly useful. Here's some Chinese, Dutch. If you want your Mac to speak to you in an Australian accent, you would pick one of those voices, Indian accent, and so on and so forth.
So, the language you want the voice to speak as well as a regional accent. And that is Dictation & Speech on your Mac.
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