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How to Set Up Speech Recognition in OS X Mavericks

Speech recognition is a powerful tool that's built into OS X Mavericks. It's both convenient when you have your hands full and freeing when you want your mind open.

To start using Speech Recognition with your Mac, launch System Preferences and follow these steps:

  1. Open the Accessibility System Preferences pane.

  2. Click Speakable Items in list on the left, and then click the Settings tab.

  3. Click the On button for Speakable Items.

  4. Choose the microphone you want to use from the Microphone pop-up menu.

    If you have a laptop or an iMac, you may get better results from just about any third-party microphone. The one that's built into your Mac works, but it isn't the greatest microphone on the planet.

  5. To test that microphone, click the Calibrate button and follow the onscreen instructions.

  6. (Optional) To change the listening key from Esc to a different key, click the Change Key button and press the key you want to use as your listening key.

    There are two listening methods you can use with Speech Recognition:

    1. Press a listening key — Esc by default — when you want to talk to your Mac.

    2. Have your Mac listen continuously for you to say a special keyword — "Computer" by default — when you want to talk to your Mac.

  7. (Optional) To change the listening method from Listening Key to Listening Continuously with Keyword, click the appropriate radio button.

    If you select Listening Continuously, you have two more options:

    1. To change the way your Mac listens for the keyword — Optional before commands, Required before each command, or Required 15 or 30 seconds after last command — make your selection from the Keyword Is pop-up menu.

    2. To change the keyword from Computer to something else, type the word you want to use in the Keyword field.

  8. (Optional) You can have your commands acknowledged by your Mac, if you like, by selecting the Speak Command Acknowledgement check box.

  9. (Optional) You can choose a sound other than Whit from the Play This Sound pop-up menu.

  10. Click the Commands subtab on the Accessibility System Preference pane's Speech Recognition tab, and then select the check box for each command set you want to enable.

    Enable them all unless you don't use Apple's Contacts, in which case you don't need to enable it.

  11. Click the Helpful Tips button and read the tips.

  12. Click each command-set name, and if the Configure button is enabled, click it and follow the onscreen instructions.

  13. (Optional) If you create an AppleScript you want to be speakable, click the Open Speakable Items Folder and place the script in the folder.

    The Speakable Items folder is opened for you.

    When you speak its name, the script is executed.

    If the Accessibility System Preference pane isn't open, and you want to open the Speakable Items folder, you can find it in your Home/Library/Speech folder.

  14. Close the Accessibility System Preference pane when you're done.

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