Use Voice Control on your Mac

With Voice Control, you can navigate and interact with your Mac using only your voice instead of a traditional input device.

macOS Catalina introduces Voice Control, a new way to fully control your Mac entirely with your voice. Voice Control uses the Siri speech-recognition engine to improve on the Enhanced Dictation feature available in earlier versions of macOS.1

How to turn on Voice Control

After upgrading to macOS Catalina, follow these steps to turn on Voice Control:

  1. Choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Accessibility.
  2. Click Voice Control in the sidebar. 
  3. Select Enable Voice Control. When you turn on Voice Control for the first time, your Mac completes a one-time download from Apple.2Voice Control preferences
    Voice Control preferences
     

When Voice Control is enabled, you see an onscreen microphone representing the mic selected in Voice Control preferences.

Microphone icon with Sleep button

To pause Voice Control and stop it from from listening, say ”Go to sleep” or click Sleep. To resume Voice Control, say or click ”Wake up.”

 


How to use Voice Control

Get to know Voice Control by reviewing the list of voice commands available to you: Say “Show commands” or ”Show me what I can say.” The list varies based on context, and you may discover variations not listed. To make it easier to know whether Voice Control heard your phrase as a command, you can select ”Play sound when command is recognized” in Voice Control preferences.

Basic navigation

Voice Control recognizes the names of many apps, labels, controls, and other onscreen items, so you can navigate by combining those names with certain commands. Here are some examples:

  • Open Pages: ”Open Pages.” Then create a new document: ”Click New Document.” Then choose one of the letter templates: "Click Letter. Click Classic Letter.” Then save your document: ”Save document.” 
  • Start a new message in Mail: ”Click New Message.” Then address it: ”John Appleseed.”
  • Turn on Dark Mode: ”Open System Preferences. Click General. Click Dark.” Then quit System Preferences: ”Quit System Preferences” or ”Close window.”
  • Restart your Mac: ”Click Apple menu. Click Restart” (or use the number overlay and say ”Click 8”). 

You can also create your own voice commands.

Number overlays

Use number overlays to quickly interact with parts of the screen that Voice Control recognizes as clickable, such as menus, checkboxes, and buttons. To turn on number overlays, say ”Show numbers.” Then just say a number to click it.

Number overlays make it easy to interact with complex interfaces, such as web pages. For example, in your web browser you could say ”Search for Apple stores near me.” Then use the number overlay to choose one of the results: ”Show numbers. Click 64.” (If the name of the link is unique, you might also be able to click it without overlays by saying ”Click” and the name of the link.)

Voice Control automatically shows numbers in menus and wherever you need to distinguish between items that have the same name.

Number overlays next to a menu

Grid overlays

Use grid overlays to interact with parts of the screen that don't have a control, or that Voice Control doesn't recognize as clickable.

Say “Show grid” to show a numbered grid on your screen, or ”Show window grid” to limit the grid to the active window. Say a grid number to subdivide that area of the grid, and repeat as needed to continue refining your selection.

To click the item behind a grid number, say ”Click” and the number. Or say ”Zoom” and the number to zoom in on that area of the grid, then automatically hide the grid. You can also use grid numbers to drag a selected item from one area of the grid to another: ”Drag 3 to 14.”

To hide grid numbers, say ”Hide numbers.” To hide both numbers and grid, say ”Hide grid.” 

Grid overlays on a Photos window

Dictation

When the cursor is in a document, email message, text message, or other text field, you can dictate continuously. Dictation converts your spoken words into text.

  • To enter a punctuation mark, symbol, or emoji, just speak its name, such as ”question mark” or ”percent sign” or ”happy emoji.” These may vary by language or dialect.
  • To move around and select text, you can use commands like ”Move up two sentences” or ”Move forward one paragraph” or ”Select previous word” or ”Select next paragraph.”
  • To format text, try ”Bold that” or ”Capitalize that,” for example. Say ”numeral” to format your next phrase as a number.
  • To delete text, you can choose from many delete commands. For example, say “delete that” and Voice Control knows to delete what you just typed. Or say ”Delete all” to delete everything and start over. 

Voice Control understands contextual cues, so you can seamlessly transition between text dictation and commands. For example, to dictate and then send a birthday greeting in Messages, you could say ”Happy Birthday. Click Send.” Or to replace a phrase, say ”Replace I’m almost there with I just arrived.”

You can also create your own vocabulary for use with dictation.

 


Create your own voice commands and vocabulary

Create your own voice commands

  1. Open Voice Control preferences, such as by saying ”Open Voice Control preferences.” 
  2. Click Commands or say ”Click Commands.” The complete list of all commands opens.
  3. To add a new command, click the add button (+) or say ”Click add.” Then configure these options to define the command:
    • When I say: Enter the word or phrase that you want to be able to speak to perform the action.
    • While using: Choose whether your Mac performs the action only when you're using a particular app.
    • Perform: Choose the action to perform. You can open a Finder item, open a URL, paste text, paste data from the clipboard, press a keyboard shortcut, select a menu item, or run an Automator workflow. 
  4. Use the checkboxes to turn commands on or off. You can also select a command to find out whether other phrases work with that command. For example, “Undo that” works with several phrases, including “Undo this” and “Scratch that.”

To quickly add a new command, you can say ”Make this speakable.” Voice Control will help you configure the new command based on the context. For example, if you speak this command while a menu item is selected, Voice Control helps you make a command for choosing that menu item. 

Create your own dictation vocabulary

  1. Open Voice Control preferences, such as by saying ”Open Voice Control preferences.” 
  2. Click Vocabulary, or say ”Click Vocabulary.”
  3. Click the add button (+) or say ”Click add.”
  4. Type a new word or phrase as you want it to be entered when spoken.

 


Learn more

 


1. Voice Control uses the Siri speech-recognition engine for U.S. English only. Other languages and dialects use the speech-recognition engine previously available with Enhanced Dictation.

2. If you're on a business or school network that uses a proxy server, Voice Control might not be able to download. Have your network administrator refer to the network ports used by Apple software products.

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