Why spend hours typing when you can dictate texts in less than half the time? Speech recognition technology can save you time, money and stress so we’ve taken a look at the very best dictation software for Mac in 2020.

The average person can type anything up to 1000 words in a half hour. Most people can speak however up to 4000 words in the same time period – that equals a massive potential increase in your productivity especially if you’re having to tediously document business operations.

Dictating rather than typing not only drives document productivity, it’s also safer for you.

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Excessive typing is one of the most common reasons for repetitive strain injury on hands and the more we type on both keyboards and mobile phones, the bigger the problem is getting. Other keyboard related injuries on the rise include Tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Quadriplegia.

If your career or work depends on your ability to type, this is a compelling reason enough to start enjoying the benefits of dictation.

Other reasons to use dictation tools include:

  • You can note down things hands free (for example when cooking, eating, doing the laundry etc).
  • You think much faster than you can type which means you can get a lot more down on paper in half the time.
  • It prevents you forgetting ideas that you meant to type out later.
  • It’s a good way for creative writers to get all their ideas down on paper without editing along the way.
  • It’s more confidential than dictating notes to a secretary or colleague.
  • Dictating cuts down on scribbled notes on pieces of paper if you want to go paperless in your office or home.

Dictation Software On Mac In 2020

Unfortunately even in 2020, the market for desktop dictation software for Mac is extremely small.

For years the leading solution has been Dragon Dictate Professional for Mac but the developer Nuance dropped a bombshell in October 2018 that it was discontinuing the product.

Dragon Dictate Professional still delivers by far the best voice recognition in the industry. Dragon products use unique Deep Learning technology that actually learn your accent and speaking style to deliver accuracy rates of up to 99%.

There’s simply nothing that comes close in the world of voice recognition software and so we’re still recommending Dragon Dictate Professional but by installing Windows on your Mac and running it using Parallels.

In fact, one of the World’s leading Dragon Dictate teachers recommends using the Windows version of Dragon on Mac anyway. The main reason is the Windows version has always been better than the Mac version anyway with more features,

The best desktop alternative to Dragon Dictate for Mac is now Apple’s Dictation tool in macOS but it comes a distant second. This doesn’t deliver anything like the same results as Dragon but it’s free, works on your Mac desktop and doesn’t require an internet connection to use.

There are also a few web-based voice recognition software that Mac users can use but they require a permanent internet connection in order to work. We have therefore also covered the best online voice-to-text recognition apps that Mac users can use in this article too.

So whether you’re a business report writer, lawyer, secretary, author, journalist, technical writer, medical professional or anyone that finds themselves stuck in front of a keyboard more than they should, you’ll find speech-to-text software here that saves you valuable time and fits  your budget.

Here then is our selection of the best voice recognition software for Mac of 2020 in order of ranking.

1. Dragon Professional Individual

The reason Dragon Professional Individual is our number one pick is the amazing accuracy and sophistication it offers compared to any other solution.

When it comes to voice recognition, Dragon’s dictation products are by far the best on the market. Dragon Professional Individual For Mac offers accuracy of up to 99% and while you won’t always achieve this, the accuracy is truly impressive.

The difference between Dragon Professional and most voice recognition software is that it can actually learn to recognize your voice. As it becomes more familiar with your accent and speaking style, it interprets your voice remarkably accurately. Other dictation apps simply don’t feature this level of Deep Learning sophistication or accuracy.

Dragon Professional is ideal for office environments as it’s optimized for reducing background noise such as in cubicles. It also has Smart Format Rules which understand how you want phone numbers, dates, abbreviations and other data to appear.dragon dictate professional

Another nice touch is that you can import audio clips from a device such as your iPhone and Dragon Professional will transcribe it into text. The accuracy isn’t quite as good as live dictation but it’s a lot faster than typing it out. This is especially useful for journalists who have to record and transcribe long interviews.

Dragon Dictate Professional also works in many word processors on Mac including Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Scrivener and more.

The downside is that, as mentioned earlier, Dragon decided in late 2018 to discontinue the Mac version. However, it’s still easy to run it on a Mac simply by installing Windows in macOS.

There are various ways to run Windows in macOS but the easiest and most reliable by far is by using Parallels. Parallels allows you to run macOS and Windows at the same time so that you can switch between the two with ease.

You then simply install the Windows version of Dragon Professional within your Windows environment and you can use it anytime on your Mac.

dragon dictate parallels mac

This is actually a better solution than using the Mac version anyway because the Windows version gives you slightly more control when tweaking and refining texts compared to on Mac.

Note that you can choose between installing the Home Edition and Professional Edition but we strongly recommend going with Dragon Professional Edition, not least because it allows you to dictate in Microsoft Office and other apps.

dragon dictate home for mac vs dragon dictate professional pro for mac

You can also watch Dragon Dictate Professional in action below.


2. Apple Dictation

Dictation is Apple’s own dictation software (and the equivalent of WSR – Windows Speech Recognition) that has been a feature on Macs since macOS Sierra. However, by default it’s only suitable for dictations of 30 seconds or less but you can turn-on Enhanced Dictation for unlimited transcriptions.

To activate Dictation, simply go to the Apple () logo in the top left of your screen > System Preferences > Dictation & Speech.

What we like about Dictation on macOS is that when you activate Enhanced Dictation, you can dictate offline without being connected to the internet. Be aware though that this requires 422MB of disk space to download some additional tools before it can work on your Mac.

best voice recognition software mac - macos dictation

You then simply configure a language and hotkey to start dictation or you can even activate it with a keyword. You can use this to start dictation in any application.

Dictation works with any app including Office applications (although not Google Docs which has its own voice recognition feature – see below).

What we like is that the voice controlled formatting commands are quite extensive and you can even create your own customized commands.

mac dictation customize commands

Apple Dictation supports 31 languages including English, Arabic, Chinese and Spanish.

The accuracy of macOS Dictation is surprisingly accurate although you won’t get the same results as professional software like Dragon Dictate.

If you’re looking for a free desktop dictation tool on your Mac, Apple Dictate is definitely worth trying.

3. Google Docs Voice Typing

Not many people are aware that Google Docs has a surprisingly powerful voice recognition engine which not only transcribes speech to text but also allows you to change the formatting of documents with voice commands.

In any Google Doc, simply go to Tools > Voice typing… and click on the microphone that appears to start transcribing.

voice recognition mac - google voice typing

Google Docs Voice Typing is pretty accurate for a free online text-to-speech tool. Arguably the most impressive thing though is the an extensive list of commands for formatting text.

You can simply say things like “go to end of paragraph” or “create bulleted list” to perform formatting actions. Note however that formatting commands are only available in English but the voice engine recognizes 43 languages.

The one downside is that it won’t work in Safari or Firefox – it only works in the Google Chrome browser.

4. Speechnotes

Speechnotes is a cheap and cheerful online speech-to-text service which works in Google Chrome and on Android devices. Speechnotes actually uses Google’s own voice recognition engine so it’s basically just an enhanced version of Google Docs Voice Typing tool.


There’s also a Speechnotes Chrome extension which allows you to voice type directly into any website including Gmail, WordPress and most other text fields.

Speechnotes claims to be a free alternative to Dragon Naturally Speaking and although the accuracy can’t really compare with Dragons products, it’s pretty good. Unlike Dragon Dictate, Speechnotes also can’t be used to voice control your Mac either.

Speechless gives you the advantages of Google’s voice recognition engine but with the added advantage of things like an Android app although there’s no iPhone app.


Other Dictation App Options For Mac Users

One other option which may be of interest to Mac users is Rev. Rev is an iPhone dictation app which uses real humans to transcribe recordings. Rev isn’t cheap as it charges per word but it’s extremely accurate because the audio is being listened to and transcribed by an actual person instead of a voice recognition engine.

rev dictationRev is only available as an iPhone or Android app though. There’s no Mac app though and it doesn’t work in a browser.

Another option is Braina. Braina is both a Siri style personal assistant and dictation app although it only works on Windows, iOS and Android. However, if you install Windows on your Mac, you could run the Windows version on it.

braina virtual assistant

Can You Use Siri To Dictate On Mac?

As of macOS Catalina, you can now dictate on a Mac using Siri. However, it only works for US English and you need to be online although there is still a way to dictate offline in macOS Catalina.

You can however use Siri on macOS Sierra and above to compose short messages like emails and texts. You can also ask Siri to turn on Apple Dictation for you.

Siri is still mainly designed as a personal assistant to launch apps, answer questions and generally speed-up your workflow on a Mac rather than dictation although with macOS Catalina, it’s moving closer towards being a more professional dictation software.

Dictation Microphones To Enhance Recognition

The in-built microphone on Macs is good but you’ll definitely get better results by using an external microphone or dictation headset.

External mics and headsets not only pick up your voice better because the microphone is closer to your mouth, but they’re better at reducing background noise.

You’ve got three different options when it comes to dictation devices: Wired Headsets, Wireless Headsets and Desktop Microphones.

The best option for you obviously depends on whether you want to wear something on your head, walk around, or just speak into a mic next to your Mac.

A good Wired Headset for dictation is the AAAPrice noise cancelling USB headset which is optimized for Dragon Dictate although works with any dictation software.

If you like to walk around, buy a Wireless Headset but just be careful with the range as it can vary wildly depending on the model. One of the best we’ve seen is the Logitech Wireless Headset which has an impressive Bluetooth range of up to 300 feet.

If you prefer not to wear something, Microphones deliver just as good results although you may find yourself craning over the desktop ones more than sitting up straight like you can with a headset. Dictation microphones vary in price with basic ones like the FIFINE USB microphone going for around $20 ranging up to the professional handheld Nuance PowerMic microphone costing over $200.

Useful Tips On Dictation

Dictation in itself can be a strange experience if you’ve never done it before. It can feel strange at first talking to a computer and hearing the sound of your own voice constantly. There’s a few other things to be aware of specifically related to the way dictation software works too.

  • The most important thing in any dictation app is how accurate it is at recognizing your voice. You will inevitably have a certain amount of correction to do whichever app you choose but the more accurate it is, the less errors you’ll have to correct. Most apps require you to do a certain amount of speaking first before using it so it can familiarize itself with your voice and accent.
  • All dictation apps have their own commands and way of working. Some definitely feel easier to use than others and once you get used to the way one works, it’s a pain to switch software at a later date.
  • Dictation obviously limits when and where you can work. If you’re in a public space such as on a train or even in an open plan office, it’s less private to dictate not to mention more complicated due to background noise.
  • You’ll make more mistakes constructing sentences dictating rather than typing. On a keyboard, you have more time to think, go back and revise, delete etc. It’s harder to formulate sentences perfectly thinking off the top of your head but the advantage is your output is more “uncensored”.
  • Try to avoid filler words like “erm”, “so..” and “OK” because editing these out later is a real pain. It’s actually much harder than you think to avoid filler words as it’s such a natural part of most people’s speech. Try to just take a pause or be silent instead while you think what you’re going to say next. To help avoid filler words, before you start dictating, have a rough plan of what you’re going to say.

These are the best voice recognition tools available for Mac users. As you can see, the options are very limited by without doubt, Dragon Dictate Professional still leads by a mile.

If you have any thoughts, experiences or suggestions regarding them, leave them in the comments below.

If you want other ideas to speed up your workflow, you may also find our look at the best OCR scanning and PDF conversion software for Mac useful too as they save valuable time retyping text locked in PDFs, images , newspapers and other documents.

About The Author


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19 Responses

  1. MacHow2

    I advise staying away from Dragon Dictate in any form. True, it works well but this is NOT a Mac oriented company. Support when I used the app was terrible, frequently rude and combative. Apple’s Dictation is very similar to Dragon, and I found it to be a viable asset for my Mac as it is 100% Mac supported!

    • MacHow2

      I think Dragon simply didn’t think it was worth putting resources into supporting the Mac version, hence the poor customer support you experienced and the eventual decision to drop it. The problem is that it’s still the best dictation software on the market, particularly for professionals in the medical, legal and other fields. As mentioned in the article, even professional writer and Dragon Dictate expert Scott Baker uses a Mac but actually recommends installing Windows on your Mac and using the Windows version because it’s that good. As you say though, for general needs, macOS Dictate is a very good alternative nowadays.

  2. MacHow2
    Anne-Louise Vernon

    Nuance just discontinued the only available comprehensive voice dictation software for Mac, leaving disabled Mac users in the lurch.

    For over a decade, disabled computer users have relied the only 2 comprehensive voice dictation software programs available-: Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows, and Dragon professional for Mac.

    Nuance abruptly terminated and ended support for Dragon professional for Mac on October 18, 2018, leaving disabled Mac users in the lurch.

    Mac users who upgrade their operating systems risk losing being able to continue to use their voice dictation software, due to software incompatibilities.

    (Nuance warned Dragon for Mac users not to upgrade to more operating systems to Mojave, saying that it was not tested or supported.)

    Only 3 limited and unsatisfactory options at present:

    1) Not upgrading their Mac operating systems, in order to continue using Dragon for Mac. (However, this will not be an option when buying a new Mac, as it will not give the option of an older operating system).

    2) Buy loads of expensive new Windows software to run voice dictation on Mac ( approximately $570).

    3) Mac users abandoning Macs and switching over to Windows across the board.

    For those who do not rely on voice dictation due to a disability, be assured that the voice dictation capabilities that exist on a Mac computer at present are not remotely as comprehensive as a full-fledged voice dictation program. It’s analogous to rollerskating across the United States versus driving in a car.

    It seems important to get visibility about the issue before the public, Apple, potential software developers, and the disability community, in the hope of encouraging addressing the future void for disabled Mac users being able to continue using their Macs.

    It is sobering to realize that a commercial third-party software monopoly has the potential to completely turn a disabled person’s tech world upside down by discontinuing its product.

    • MacHow2

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment and you make a very good point about disabled users being left in the lurch by Dragon’s decision. Unfortunately, even if you install Windows on your Mac and then install Dragon Dictate, you still can’t control your Mac with it via voice. Dragon Dictate for Mac was by far the best tool for voice control and it’s a big loss for the disabled community that relied on it. In future versions of macOS, it would be nice to see Apple add more comprehensive voice controls so that you don’t have to resort to third party software in the first place.

  3. MacHow2

    I will no doubt catch a lot of heat for this…but I believe that Apple has abandoned the idyllic original idea of the Mac being the computer created for “the rest of us” to give regular, every day, non-techie people, a computer that was friendly, simple to use… non-elitist. Apple should stop depending on companies like Nuance and Microsoft and a host of others who have interest in Mac users only so long as they are compliant with their wishes with no respect for us as significant users. Over the years, my first Mac was the Plus when it came off the line, I have seen Apple slowly drift away from its original tenets. Apple could easily develop great Dictation Software to help not just the ordinary at home user but also the handicapped and the professional. Maybe the focus should be diverted from continuing to build exotic new operating systems and to start agin to build user helpful and friendly computers and software for the “rest of us” who do not want to bow down to the world of Windows and its cohorts. God knows we spend enough on our Macs to get this done for us.

  4. MacHow2
    Warren Jones

    Yesterday, I used my computer (iMac) for the first time to dictate some material. The results were better than I had expected but not really completely satisfactory, so the thought of buying the Dragon version occurred to me. I had read about Dragon many years ago, so I presumed, perhaps unreasonably, that it would still be the best dictation software for my iMac. I had my finger on the Amazon purchase trigger, but then I decided t read the reviews. They were terrible. Not one of the Dragon models received even mediocre reviews. Now, I have my reservations about Amazon reviews, but I can’t disregard them, either. I was stuck. Buying a Dragon package seemed like a gamble with the odds against me, and I hadn’t decided what to do until I read your comments. I’ll certainly have to consider them. Installing a Windows’ product on my iMac instead of using a product designed for the Mac seemed ridiculous, but you’re the expert, and I’m not. I’m going to see what others have to say on the subject. That may seem overly cautious, but I am not a computer expert, so it is very possible that I might end-up blaming myself for problems caused by the software. Well, one thing is certain, I won’t be buying anything tonight.Thanks for improving my chances of success.

  5. MacHow2
    Robert Jacobson Jr

    So how well does running Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows on Parallels work? I have a Macbook Air 2014 w/ 8 GB Ram, and SSD drive. Has anyone tried this?

  6. MacHow2
    Eric Magnuson

    I have Parallels, and installed Dragon on it, but cannot get it to recognize the microphone plugged into the Mac. I spoke with Parallels support, and they were unable/unwilling to help. They said it was a Dragon problem.

    Is there some video or web page that will guide me on how to get Dragon to work with Parallels? I am running Windows 10.

  7. MacHow2
    Jeffrey Ady

    Anne-Louise, you’ve made a profound contribution to this discussion. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and it’s devastated my ability to write. I’ve been described by others as a truly exceptional writer, and one editor/publisher told me “Don’t let life get in the way!” (of my book writing).

    Life got in the way.

    RA makes every single keystroke painful.

    While RA might not be seen in the disability community as a truly disabling condition, I’ve discovered that it truly shuts down anything involved in my personal writing process.

    So: All I can really contribute is a “me too” reply, but I hope that software developers, MacHow and similar blogs and sites, will take notice and advocate for better dictation options for Mac users who can’t type.

  8. MacHow2
    Bryan Leyland

    A few days ago I decided to give up on High Sierra and Dragon for Mac because it was a pain to use. So I decided to upgrade to Mojave and rely on Macintosh dictation. Just for fun, I tried out Dragon and found that works much better on Mojave than it does on High Sierra.

    So far, I haven’t detected any major problem.

  9. MacHow2
    daniel taylor


    I would really love to move to a better dictation system than my built-in Mac version and I hate the thought of installing Windows on my Mac just to get Dragon.

    So, tell me more about your experience running Dragon on Mojave; are you still happy with it? And, is it still possible to purchase the Dragon for Mac somewhere?



  10. MacHow2

    Yes John I agree with you about Apple. When apple started it was for artists, creators, and it offered a more secure, closed system free from all the tech problems that plagued windows. I was one of those artists that they counted on while they built their market share. I bought the 17 in laptop because I needed the real estate for my photoshop work. I am no longer their target market. They now cater to the masses so the 17 in can’t be special ordered or bought in any way. So, we see how apple treats those that supported them in the beginning as they built their name and market share. We aren’t their masses anymore. We are the artists and creators – still only the 5%, but probably the top 5%.

  11. MacHow2

    Aaaaand for the rest of us who’s Apple dictation simply does not work – the frustration is without bounds. I have tried EVERY possible site and absolutely no results.
    I have been using the build in Mac dictation for quite some time and I am happy with it – although I sometimes need to make a correction it is better than having to type up every single word.
    I am working on a publication with a deadline. Needless to say I am so unhappy about not getting dictation to work. I am currently searching for software to buy as I simply cannot continue like this.
    Very disappointed in Apple.

  12. MacHow2

    I just purchased a 2020 MacBook Pro, OS Catalina and am trying to figure out how to access the built-in speech recognition system when I’m offline. In comparison to my old (now defunct circa 2010) MacBook Pro, it doesn’t appear that I have the offline option as detailed above. When I click the “on” button for dictation, I get a msg. stating what I dictate will be transmitted to Apple to be converted into text, as well as other info such as names of my contacts. I want the option of dictating when off-line and am also leery of sending Apple my names of my contacts. Any ideas?
    Also, is Dragon Professional compatible with Mac OS Catalina?

  13. MacHow2
    Jack Licate

    Hope this helps at least a few people. I use Dragon Dictate 6.0.8, the last version available before Nuance pulled the plug on us. I installed it on this Mac (late 20`9 with Catalina) from a Time Machine backup of my older Mac. Dragon works just fine here, better accuracy than Apple Dictation and Voice Control. I dictate a lot of long book notes into Word and Scrivener with no problem. I don’t use it to control the computer or transcribe text from another source.


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