Why spend hours typing when you can dictate text in less than half the time? Speech recognition technology can save you time, money and stress so we tested and reviewed the most accurate dictation apps for Mac of 2024.
Whether you’re a business report writer, lawyer, secretary, author, journalist, technical writer or medical professional you’ll find Mac compatible speech-to-text software here that saves you valuable time and fits your budget.
In our research and testing, we found that the best dictation software on a Mac is Otter (Free) which offers incredible levels of accuracy and speed especially for transcribing conversations or meetings.
In our tests, we found Otter was the best dictation app for Macs overall thanks to its impressive accuracy, ease of use on a Mac and generous free forever plan too.
Otter can be used for any kind of dictation although it has positioned itself more recently as an “AI meeting assistant” for transcribing meetings and sales meetings with tight integration with Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.
Most importantly though, it was the only dictation tool that came close to the industry standard tool Dragon Dictate (see review below) in terms of accuracy and speech-to-text recognition.
It also works in any browser on a Mac whereas Dragon Dictate will only work on a Mac in a virtual machine running Windows since Nuance has discontinued the Mac desktop version.
Otter has many useful touches for meetings such as Speaker Identification which is ideal for transcribing Zoom meetings as it automatically detects different voices and transcribes them separately.
Otter also allows you to import audio and video files which it will then transcribe automatically.
It also includes a feature called “Otter AI chat” which allows you to chat within the app to other Otter meeting members and teammates to get instant answers to meeting questions.
Although there’s no desktop app, there is a Chrome extension for Otter which automatically detects if you’re about to enter a Zoom Meeting, Google Meet or Google Calendar appointment.
The Otter app also offers one of the best free plans with 300 minutes of dictation per month although there’s a limit of 30 minutes per session.
However, you’ll need to subscribe to Otter Pro starting at $10 per month for up to 1,200 minutes for transcription per month with a limit of 90 minutes per transcription.
The Otter Business Plan allows you to use Otter in multiple meetings at the same time for up to 6,000 minutes with a limit of 4 hours per conversation or meeting.
If you pay annually, the pricing plans are 40% cheaper so it’s well worth doing as you’re almost getting it for half price over paying monthly.
Enterprise plans are available on request for company wide deployments.
Our advice is to try the free version of Otter to see just how well it transcribes, meetings and just about anything you throw at it on your Mac.
Pricing: Free for 300 minutes/Plans starting from $10/month
Although Dragon Dictate is the industry standard when it comes to dictation, the reason it only comes second on our list is that Nuance discontinued the Mac version back in 2018.
However, you can still use the Windows version of Dragon Dictate on a Mac by running Windows on your Mac using a virtual machine.
Even though this adds an extra layer of software, we still think its worth doing because of the amazing accuracy and sophistication Dragon Dictate offers compared to any other dictation tool.
Dragon products use unique Deep Learning technology that actually learn your accent and speaking style to deliver accuracy rates of up to 99%.
In fact Microsoft was so impressed by Nuance’s range of products including Dragon Dictate that it bought Nuance for $16 billion in 2021.
The big downside for Mac users is that to use it, you need to run Windows on your Mac.
By far the easiest and best way to run Dragon Dictate on a Mac is by using Parallels which makes it simple to install Windows on a Mac.
In fact, one of the World’s leading Dragon Dictate teachers Scott Baker recommends using the Windows version of Dragon on a Mac because the Windows version of Dragon has more features anyway.
In particular, the Windows version gives you more control when tweaking and refining texts compared to on macOS.
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.
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.
With Dragon Professional, there is also an option to listen to audio playback of your own dictation with the associated text highlighted on the screen making it easier than ever to proofread while supporting multi-tasking.
Dictation is Apple’s own free dictation app (and the equivalent of WSR – Windows Speech Recognition) that has been a feature since macOS Sierra.
Up until macOS Mojave, Dictation used it’s own voice recognition system but from macOS Catalina onwards, it now relies on Siri.
The good news for those concerned about privacy is that on Apple Silicon Macs with the M1, M2 and M3 chips, you can transcribe offline as long as your language is supported by Apple for offline dictation.
However, on older Intel Macs, anything you dictate in Apple Dictation is sent back to Apple’s servers so it may not be suitable if you want to dictate personal or confidential information.
Apple’s Dictation tool in macOS has improved significantly over the years and although it can’t compare to professional dictation apps, it’s free and works on your Mac desktop.
MacWhisper is a free tool that uses the incredible power of OpenAI to quickly and accurately transcribe interviews, conversations, meetings and lectures on your Mac.
MacWhisper has a Mac desktop app and apart from the free version, is also available as a one off purchase for €29 for batch transcriptions and many other added features.
MacWhisper is very basic but supports dragging and dropping audio files for transcribing and can even export transcripts for subtitles in .srt and .vrt format.
The app also allows you to dictate offline – all transcription is done on your device using a local OpenAI model and nothing is sent to servers to protect your privacy.
MacWhisper supports over 100 languages and works on both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs. However, because the processing power required to transcribe is quite high, we recommend an Apple Silicon Mac with an M1, M2 or M3 chip.
If you want a free, offline app for basic dictation then MacWhisper is one of the best free dictation apps we’ve tried on a Mac.
Not many people are aware that Google Docs has a surprisingly powerful free voice recognition engine which not only transcribes speech to text but also allows you to change the formatting of documents with voice commands.
Google Docs Voice typing is arguably even more accurate than Apple Dictation and it has now been updated to work with most browsers, such as the latest versions of Firefox, Edge and Safari.
To activate Google Docs Voice Typing, open any Google Doc and go to Tools > Voice typing… and click on the microphone that appears to start transcribing.
Google Docs Voice Typing is pretty accurate for a free online text-to-speech tool.
Probably 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 that formatting commands are only available in English but the voice engine recognizes over 50 languages.
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.
Medical professionals need specialist dictation tools and privacy protections and DeepScribe is the best medical dictation software for Mac users.
DeepScribe works via iOS apps for iPhone and iPad but anything that is recorded and transcribed on it is then available on your Mac.
DeepScribe uses AI to filter out small talk and irrelevant parts of conversations with patients, doctors, nurses and doesn’t require prompting when you want it to record.
The AI used by DeepScribe has been trained on more than 2 million patients as it has the biggest database of medical conversations in the world.
The aim of DeepScribe is to remove the administrative burden from Clinicians so that they can spend more time with patients and giving care.
DeepScribe also integrates with EHR solutions including AdvancedMD, AthenaHealth, ClaimPower and many others. The AI technology in DeepScribe is also HIPAA compliant and protected by multi factor authentication and user access restrictions.
Pricing: On Request
What Is Dictation Software?
Dictation tools enable your Mac to translate spoken words into written text which enables you to write much more than typing alone.
The average person can only type anything up to 1,000 words in half an hour.
However, most people can speak up to 4,000 words in the same time period – that equals a massive potential increase in your productivity especially if you’re having to do tediously jobs like transcribing meetings or business conversations.
Text to speech is already in everything from Siri to Google Docs although professional dictation apps offer much greater accuracy as they actually learn how you talk.
Why Use Dictation Software?
There are many reasons to use dictation software on your Mac but some of the most important ones are:
It increases productivity as you can talk much faster than you can type.
It saves valuable time transcribing meetings and other tedious tasks.
Dictation is safer for you. Excessive typing is one of the most common reasons for repetitive strain injury on hands and the more people 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.
You can note down things hands free (for example when cooking, eating, doing the laundry etc).
It prevents you forgetting ideas that you meant to type out later. It’s an especially 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.
Do Macs Have a Dictation Tool?
Since macOS Catalina including Big Sur, Monterey, Ventura and Sonoma you can dictate on a Mac using macOS Dictation.
Dictation is based on the Siri personal assistant tool and although it doesn’t do a bad job of transcribing text, using macOS Dictation to dictate on a Mac is not as accurate as professional dictation software.
Because its based on Siri which is still mainly designed as a personal assistant to launch apps, answer questions and generally speed-up your workflow, Apple is slowly moving Siri closer towards being a more viable dictation option for Mac users.
macOS Dictation is now available in 64 languages although only major languages such as English, Spanish and Chinese work offline.
Note also that only Apple Silicon Macs can process data in macOS Dictation offline. Anything you dictate in macOS Dictation on Intel Macs is sent via Apple’s servers.
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 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 apps work 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.