Mountain Lion arrived and the new operating system does not disappoint. Apple boasts it has over 200 features, and the usual adjectives were tossed around at WWDC – “amazing”, “fantastic”, and “incredible”. I do have to say, “incredible” actually does apply to the new dictation feature in Mountain Lion.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a white MacBook (Late 2009) and I didn’t think I would get the voice to text feature. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I saw the feature was available. I was working in the new Notes app and saw the dictation option.
Notes is an app on the iPad that I pretty much disregarded, especially since there are so many third party applications that were useful and integrated with Dropbox. However, with the arrival of Mountain Lion and the ability to dictate text to the app, notes is something I will use every day. Integration with iCloud makes it seamless and actually makes Dropbox look almost clunky. You can also sync notes from accounts in GMail, Outlook, etc.
A word of warning for the paranoid – the dictation feature does access your contacts to decipher proper names. All of the information you dictate goes through Apple servers. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that happening. Expect companies like IBM that ban the use of Siri to ban this feature as well. I’ve resigned to the fact that Apple tracks a lot of things I do, just like the loyalty card program at my local supermarket does.
A big plus – the dictation feature actually works in any application where you can enter text. To enable dictation, go to System Preferences and select Dictation and Speech under system. You can even assign a hot key to start dictation (the default is pushing the “fn” key twice).
It appears the dictation feature learns my voice and what I am saying and improves with time. It also works even if you have music playing on your Mac. It can handle large sections of dictated text and the speed improves the more you use the feature. I noticed that after a few sentences I dictated, they started showing up immediately after I pressed the “done” key. You do have to specify punctuation as with other dictation programs, but at least you don’t have to talk like a robot to achieve the intended result. I used the feature to write the majority of this blog post and only had to correct one word out of all of the text.