If you want to use macOS Dictation to dictate offline on a Mac, the situation is a bit complicated due to updates in macOS and the change to Apple Silicon Macs so here we explain your options.
One of the most frustrating changes for Mac users with the release of macOS Catalina was the removal of the free “Enhanced Dictation” feature which allowed you to dictate offline in macOS.
This means that by default from macOS Catalina onwards, anything you dictate on Intel Macs is sent to Apple for online translation by the Siri engine – which isn’t ideal if you’re dictating confidential documents or want to protect your privacy.
However, Apple Silicon Macs can dictate offline on-device, but only for certain languages.
Confused? So were we which is why here we’ve looked at the situation a little bit more closely.
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Can You Dictate Offline On A Mac?
You can still dictate offline in the latest versions of macOS but only on Apple Silicon Macs and only for certain languages that are supported for dictation on-device.
In addition, on any Apple Silicon Mac general text dictation such as composing messages, notes and anything that is not dictated into a search box, can be done in multiple languages offline with no internet connection required.
M Series Macs also allow you to dictate any length of text without it timing-out.
If you’re using an Intel Macs with macOS Mojave or earlier, then you can instantly dictate offline simply by selecting the “Enhanced Dictation” box in Dictation preferences.
However, this is now the only way to dictate offline on an Intel Mac. From macOS Catalina onwards, Apple removed the “Enhanced Dictation” option meaning all dictations are sent back to Apple’s Siri server which is used to drive macOS Dictation.
This means the only way to dictate offline with macOS Catalina or higher is by using an Apple Silicon Mac and be dictating in a supported offline on-device language.
How To Dictate Offline on a Mac (inc. Apple Silicon Macs)
In macOS Mojave on an Intel Mac, the Dictation preferences look like the panel below.
You simply go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation and check the box Enhanced Dictation in order for macOS to download the language packs necessary to dictate offline.
In macOS Catalina, Big Sur, Monterey, Ventura and Sonoma the Dictation preferences look like the panel below – the “Use Enhanced Dictation” option has been removed.
In the latest versions of macOS, there’s also no apparent way of configuring useful formatting commands such as “new paragraph” and “left indent”.
Dictation in Catalina, Big Sur, Monterey, Ventura and Sonoma will also turn itself off after 30 seconds of no voice input whereas in Mojave, it stays active until you turn it off yourself.
However the good news is that you can activate offline dictation in the latest versions of macOS and still have formatting commands by going to System Preferences > Accessibility > Voice Control and checking the box Enable Voice Control.
This will then automatically download the language packs you need to dictate offline in the latest versions of macOS.
The English language pack is around 422MB in size so you’ll need to make sure you have enough space on your mac hard drive first.
If you click on the Commands… button, you’ll also see all the different formatting voice commands possible too that used to be available in Enhanced Dictation in Mojave.
You can also activate and deactivate Voice Control by clicking on the floating Voice Control Microphone window or saying “Wake up” or “Go to sleep”.
What’s Voice Recognition Like in macOS?
The voice recognition feature in macOS has never been brilliant, although it’s not terrible either.
The main problem is that it never learns to adapt or recognize your voice or vocabulary like professional dictation software.
The other issue is that whilst it uses Siri for US English which does a pretty good job of transcribing, it still uses the same inferior Enhanced Dictation engine for other languages (such as UK English) for which the results are much poorer.
One of the main problems is there’s quite a delay in non US English languages between the time you speak and the time it takes to transcribe.
The recognition accuracy is also far worse and our advice to users in the UK is to select US English as your language of choice as you’ll get far better results than selecting UK English.
In fact the US English dictation accuracy in the latest versions of macOS has improved a lot.
Voice Control of your Mac meanwhile works much better in macOS than dictating a document and if you just need Voice Recognition for this purpose, it’s faster and more accurate at controlling your Mac than previous versions of macOS.