Ask Mac Automator: Siri macOS vs Dragon Dictate

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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.

DD Replacement?

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.

 Siri dictation

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.

Siri custom commands

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.

 custom dictation commands

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. “]

Text Dictation

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.

 keyboard Maestro macro

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.



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  • Thanks for your blog! I found it via the Dragon forum.. I’m on DD5, and want to upgrade to Sierra, but don’t want to pay for Dragon 6.

    Any info on how well Dragon 5 works with Sierra?

    • Hi Rich, unfortunately I upgraded to 6, and am running it in Sierra. Though Nuance issued an update for 6, it still hasn’t fixed the problem of the commands manager not opening. I can’t say if DD5 works in Sierra. I guess you’ve raised the question in the DD forum? Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. But thanks for stopping by. Keep in touch.

    • HI Rich

      I’d like to offer you a way to think about upgrades to take some of the pain out of it or at least to shorten the suffering of annual upgrades.

      I’ve been playing with and watching the development of speech recognition (SR) on the Mac since ViaVoice from IBM in the 90s thru MacSpeak Dictate in the early 2000s which has gradually morphed into the Dragon of today.

      I was super jazzed to begin playing with SR and spent days and days and days trying to get some decent results. The early software and hardware simply didn’t work well enough to be useful unless you were desperate and had no alternative say from some physical condition that didn’t allow you to type. Personally I HATE!!! typing and will go miles and miles out of my way to avoid even typing my name. God, I can’t wait till typing is a thing of the past. I hope to live long enough to see the day.

      Anyway, in the beginning, while it was painful and super annoying to shell out hundreds of dollars over the years for annual upgrades I E V E N T U A L L Y came to think of paying around $100/yr as investing in the future of having the ability to do SP to replace typing then thinking about the utility to do it now. Kinda like backing the development of an Iron Man suit. A pay now enjoy later kinda deal. Taking the l o n g view.

      With that said, the current product is really getting there. IMHO I’d said we’re around 75-80% there which compared to the 90s is really something. Just the accuracy and correctabily of Dragon 6 within Apple Pages is worth the upgrade from Dragon 5. Just yesterday I dictated about a page and a half into Pages and manually moved the cursor several times and Dragon didn’t get lost! It was a huge improvement! I also find Dictate to be way more accurate the built in Apple Dictation plus AND if (a big if) you go thru the pain of learning some of the commands it’s now a decent way to navigate around your computer and the web.

      I asked Dragon if it is going to be compatible with Apple EarPods when they come out and they said they are untested and so don’t know. I’m going to buy and test and am hopeful they work well as the mic you are using plays a big part in how well it goes.

      So there’s the long and short of it. See if you are committed to having SR and if yes then join us in funding it into existence and pay little or no attention to the internal or external chatter about not wanting this or that or they are ripping us off or anything that brings you down or disempowers your commitment to have it come about.

      Be an unshakeable stand for that future. As Shaw put it “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

      I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
      I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

      That’s a place to stand where you won’t be sweating the small stuff. Thanks!

    • I do get some crashing on certain websites with Dragon Dictate. And I still need to call them about the Commands window not opening. The reason I haven’t done is because I can still use the Mac voice commands, but I just can’t edit or add new commands.

  • Great post! Quick question: how do you deactivate DD in KM? Obviously you can just send the microphone on/off hotkey, but how does KM know if DD is active or not?

    Shawn Myers

    • Shawn, I use string trigger to toggle the DD mic, and a 3 Finger Swipe Left finger gesture to toggle it when it my hand is on the trackpad. Are you using the latest version of DD?

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