When using dictation on OS X 10.8, if I speak for too long (approx 20 seconds+), the dictation times out and switches off. Worse, it loses (i.e. doesn't "type") all the things I've said so far. This is obviously irritating - I have to judge when to stop speaking, hit "Fn", let dictation type the text, and start again.

Is there a way to increase or turn off this timeout?

  • Seems like I'm not the only one with this problem: danshaferblog.com/dictation-in-os-x-mountain-lion-is-a-toy – Andrew Ferrier Jan 16 '13 at 10:39
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    Since you're sending a rather large voice file up to Apple's servers for speech to text translation and they're sending back the text, I would think there will be real limits on this for quite a while. Frankly, I'm amazed it works as well as it does. I've learned to break my dictation into sentences with punctuation and rarely send more than two at a time. I doubt there's a way for you to increase dictation time, that's something Apple will do on their end as they can. – Richard Jan 16 '13 at 13:09
  • It would be interesting to see if the server would even process a longer sample of audio. Unfortunately, we have to guess if Apple intends to lengthen this period over time (or via supplemental payment like it does for iCloud storage) or people needing minutes of dictation will instead get dragon dictation (or other local speech processor) or if google expands lengthy voice dictation to their web apps. – bmike Jan 16 '13 at 14:04
  • There are so many variables in this process that it's hard to test out. My success rate varies from day to day, connection to connection, sentence to sentence. However, I will say that it has steadily improved since the beginning and it will no doubt improve more. I'd rather have accuracy and learning than length: quality over quantity. I'm happy to learn to break things up and keep them short if it means ultra reliable translations. By the way, Dragon on iOS is also cloud based as far as I know. – Richard Jan 16 '13 at 16:32
  • @Richard, it's really not that large, not by modern standards. Over broadband, I don't think transfer time of 30s of mono lo-fi audio will be the issue. I suspect it's currently limited to 30 secs more to limit the processing time on Apple's servers. But, it does seem like the limit is currently a hard one. Thanks everyone for your comments. – Andrew Ferrier Jan 17 '13 at 17:39

The official answer (which clearly isn't the one you want based on how the question is phrased) is no for OS X 10.8 and earlier. For the initial implementation, dictation on OS X was limited to 30 seconds of audio per transcription event.

Hopefully this helps others that are looking for an official answer or explanation. On OS X 10.9 (Mavericks), offline dictation and longer dictation are allowed and you can enable it by answering yes when asked if you want enhanced dictation. You can also control it by going to the Dictation tab of the Speech & Dictation system preference pane:

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You need to enable enhanced dictation in the dictation area of settings. Your mac will then download a fairly hefty (750MB ish) file. This will allow you to dictate off line, and to keep talking to your mac indefinately. You will need additional downloads for thinks like Australian English. It works OK, but it messes up quite a few words on my Aussie/kiwi/English mongrel accent!

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    This is the correct answer as of OS X 10.9, where offline dictation is possible. – Andrew Ferrier Feb 21 '14 at 18:09
  • @AndrewFerrier You're right - surprised no one commented earlier, but I've updated my answer to cover this as well as the past limitations – bmike Feb 21 '14 at 18:30
  • on OS X 10.9, with offline dictation, it randomly shuts off sometimes in five seconds. – sam boosalis Jul 25 '14 at 20:34

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