Believe it or not, dictation is built into the Mac, just as it is on the latest iPhones and iPads. You can speak to type.

In fact, OS X’s dictation feature is almost identical to the iPhone/iPad’s. It lets you speak to enter text anywhere, into any program, just by speaking. (Behind the scenes, it’s using the same Nuance recognition technology that powers Dragon Dictate.) You can blather away into an email, fire off a text message, or draft a memo without ever looking at the screen.

Now, before you get all excited, here are the necessary footnotes:

  • Voice typing works best if there’s not a lot of background noise. It works even better on Macs that have dual microphones, like MacBooks with Retina Displays; those two mikes create a “beam array”—a directional alignment that helps them differentiate your voice from the background noise.

  • Voice typing isn’t always practical, since everybody around you can hear what you’re doing.

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