@macautotips Question: Is it possible the new Siri in macOs Sierra will be able to be used similar to DragonDictate? Thanks for what you do!
— Tom Watson (@TomLWatson) September 10, 2016
Previously, I’ve compared Apple’s built voice-to-text features with Dragon Dictate, but with the recent inclusion of Siri on the Mac, my previous comparison needs updating.
Right off, you’re probably wondering does Siri replace the need for Dragon Dictate? The short answer is yes and no. Yes, if your dictation and Mac commands needs are not that great. In other words, you don’t do a lot of dictation, and you don’t spend lots of time at the computer issuing voice Mac commands, then Siri should suffice.
On the other hand, despite serious problems with Dragon Dictate, Siri can’t perform some important actions that Dragon Dictate can, especially in the areas of voice-to-text dictation, voice editing text, and creating custom commands (more about Dragon commands later.)
Siri and Dictation
When it comes to voice commands on the Mac, there’s now Siri commands, and the regular voice-to-text dictation and custom commands in the pervious versions of OS X. The regular Dictation feature is now located in System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation. This feature is mostly for dictating text, but you can also use it to issue built-in and custom commands that Siri doesn’t do.
To enable Siri commands, go to System Preferences > Siri. As with Siri in iOS, you can issue hundreds of voice commands and queries, such as open webpages, make and get scheduled appointments, make phone calls, get traffic directions, do web searchers, send a tweet or posting to Facebook, locate friends or family members, and much, much more.
Many of Siri of commands can’t be done as easy with Dragon Dictate, such as getting answers to queries without opening a webpage.
Siri commands enable you to get information that typically requires opening applications, typing queries, clicking buttons, and doing manual searches.
Siri can be accessed by clicking on its button in your menu bar or the icon in the Dock if you choose to leave it there.
All the query results appear in the notification type window, unless you send the command to open a file, webpage, URL, or play a song in iTunes. You can’t issue a command using Siri to for instance to paste an item on the system clipboard. You will need to create a custom voice command for that using the regular Dictation feature or Dragon Dictate.
Custom Apple Commands
Custom commands in Apple’s Dictation feature are separate from Siri commands. You create custom commands by opening System Preferences > Accessibility > Dictation.
You can create commands to run Automator workflows and AppleScript scripts, paste boiler plate text, and trigger menu items in application.
Based on my test, Siri can’t trigger menu items in applications. When I issued it the command, “Hide Status Bar” in Safari, Siri did a search for bar establishments in my area. So to trigger menu items, you will need to create those in the regular Dictation feature.
Dragon Dictate Commands
As I’ve written about before, you can create custom commands in Dragon Dictate. I have hundreds of them, and use them several times a day.
I would include a screenshot of how the commands are created, but as of this writing, the Commands Window in the latest version 6 update of Dragon Dictate is broken.
Note: I’m not sure if it’s broken for every user, but I can say that if you’re thinking about upgrading to version 6, don’t. If version 5 is still functioning for you, there’s simply no reason to upgrade to version 6, unless you just want to give Nuance more undeserved money.
Note: Do not upgrade to Dragon Dictate v.6 unless the prior version is not working in Sierra.
As they have done in the past, Nuance will probably get everything fixed, but as for now, many of us longtime Dragon Dictate users are finding version 6 a huge disappointment, especially for the upgrade costs Nuance requires for each upgrade.
[Tweet “Do not upgrade to Dragon Dictate 6 until Nuance fixes its current problems. “]
The set up for Mac text dictation appears to be the same as in previous versions of OS X. Text dictation indeed works. Unlike with Siri, you can leave the Dictation enabled even when you’re not typing.
In my test, I left it only for more than 5 minutes, and it didn’t shut off. So in this regard, if you’re working in a quiet room, can pretty much do Apple Dictation without a problem.
However, dictating text with Apple Dictation is not quite advanced as with Dragon Dictate. For example, I can’t get Apple Dictation to delete a word in the body of the text. As with Dragon Dictate, I can issue the command, “scratch that” to delete the least bit text dictated, but it’s harder to voice edit with Apple Dictation.
To be honest for long form text dictation I mostly do using Dragon Dictate is when I write in my journal, brainstorm ideas and create lists. I have a difficult time using Dictate while I’m writing a blog posts, because I usually have to research while I’m writing about a topic.
I find that long form text dictation works better when using the built-in text editor for Dictate, or when dictating in Microsoft Word.
There are times though when I am so exhausted with typing, that I will, as I’m doing now, dictate text in the WordPress editor.
Dragon dictate also works very well when editing documents. It reduces the amount of time I need to move my hand back to the keyboard in order to add or correct punctuation or delete words. Simply issuing the command to trigger the Return key or delete a character are nice little time savers.
Triggering Siri and DD
As you can see in the Siri preferences, there’s a default hotkey for triggering Siri. Unfortunately, unlike with the iPhone 6 or later, you can’t simply say, “Hey Siri” to trigger it. You have to use the assigned hotkey.
To solve this issue, I have mapped a custom hotkey for Siri to a Keyboard Maestro string trigger, so that I can trigger it while I’m typing. I’ve also mapped that command to a BetterTouchTool finger gesture, so what I can trigger Siri when my hand is already on my trackpad.
Because I use the USB 3-in-1 TableMike (affiliate link), I can pretty much leave Dragon Dictate enabled while I work, which makes it easier to issue commands and dictate text while I work.
Update: a subscriber to this site shared a useful Macworld link about how to add a “Hey Siri” voice activation on macOS using native apps. That hack is useful if you the macOS dictation feature on and simply issue a voice command to trigger it.
[Tweet “Check out this article for a free Siri Commands Cheat Sheet Guide”]
Many of us are still not accustomed to talking to our computers, so using Siri will take some practice. I still don’t use Siri enough on my iOS devices, though I have developed the practice of having Siri make imitate my phone calls and set timers.
And thanks to Mac tools, I can use both Siri and Dragon Dictate and not have them conflict with one another. I’ve already set up a string triggered macro that turns off Dragon Dictate if it’s on, and then proceeds to trigger Siri. If I have them both running at the same time, DD will type the command I give to Siri.
I’m also hoping that it’s possible for third-party developers to patch into Siri so that special commands can be used for different applications other the default Apple applications.
I’ll be writing more about Siri, but in the meantime I would like to hear what you think about the Siri features and how you’re using the most in your daily workflows.