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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. enhanced dictation mac

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.

dictate offline mac catalina

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.

mac catalina dictation 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.

About The Author


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12 Responses

  1. SluGoth

    I tested the offline function on two m1 macs running monterey in shops, while am waiting for the new mbp. Got quite disappointed, cause the second, I switched wifi off, voice to text stopped. The mic symbol still reacts, but the cursor is not moving (tested notes and pages). Once wifi is enabled, dictation was possible again.

    So my dream of offline dictation like on ios or ipad os seems to be over?

    • MacHow2

      For US English, the latest versions of macOS including Monterey use Siri for Voice Control and dictation which only works online. Other languages still use the older “Enhanced Dictation” system which works offline.

  2. MD

    If you’re using Voice Control, it’s using Siri, which means the privacy concerns that lead you to that solution are not resolved as it is still sending contacts and other data (like what podcasts you listen to) to Apple’s servers.

    • MacHow2

      This is true for US English but for other languages, Apple claims that your Mac still uses the Enhanced Dictation feature used in earlier versions of macOS.

  3. Adam T

    So creating a virtual machine produced a very laggy low-res entity, the solution to which was high effort for MacOS on a VM. Instead, what we did was create a new partition on the Mac’s drive, then created a bootable USB Mojave installer and used it to install Mojave on the partition. The installer must be on a bootable USB as Apple does not allow installers for older versions of Mac OS to be run from the OS.

    Enhanced dictation then works and you have access to your files…but Bruh.

  4. Adam T

    Hi, Thanks for your response.

    In my view, and Steve Jobs’, computers should operate like consumer products. You switch them on, they work. Always. Without hiccups.

    The analogy is a carpenter. His old hammer worked fine, but the new, shiny expensive one he just bought just broke. He doesn’t know what model his last hammer was, and doesn’t care WHY his new one broke. He just wants–actually needs–it to work. I will probably ask one of my sons to install the whatsitsname on the watchamacallit as you suggest.

    I also note how Catalina dictation still has another unfortunate characteristic that has been appearing in Dictation for many years, and has never been fixed. When you dictate a longer paragraph, if the buffer gets full–or there’s a delay–it types, then suddenly DELETES what you’ve just dictated. It also does this on occasion if a phrase is repeated. Types it our for a moment, then the cursor just zooms back and deletes all of it. So you have to start again. So Apple has removed a useful feature but never fixed this INFURIATING bug.

    BTW I also tried to log in to Machow2 to post a reply but this didn’t work via Facebook, Gmail, or WordPress. When I tried to upload a response in Brave, it just hung.

    Software developers really do need to follow their users, see what’s going on, and most importantly, fix their bugs.

  5. Adam T

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t work well at all. The microphone blinks and ‘hears’ speech, but only a small portion of text is actually dictated, and accuracy is poor. Go back online and hey presto!–it’s working.

    The previous Enhanced (offline) dictation worked fine, and was ideal for someone like me who needs it when on the move. Because in the real world, gigabit Internet just isn’t always available.

    I shudder every time Apple releases a new OS version. I rely on dictation, and they screw it up with every new release. Invariably it goes non-responsive, leaving me in a blind panic, and unable to work, meet deadlines and feed my family until there’s some patch or workaround available.

    Why the perennial obsession with taking away useful, free features and replacing them with over-complicated, expensive and unreliable ‘enhancements’?

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Give me back enhanced dictation!!

    • MacHow2

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Which version of macOS did you find offline dictation worked better in? If it was Mojave, you could always try rolling back to it or use Boot Camp or a virtual machine to install it on a partition on your Mac.

  6. Davo

    Thanks for this mate, weird how Apple profess to protect users privacy but want access not only to what you dictate, but also your contacts and location in order ‘to provide a more accurate service’.

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck then it must be a duck.


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