How To Use Voice Control in macOS Catalina


Apple’s macOS Catalina is quite a dealbreaker for Mac users because of its buggy nature and incompatibility with 32-bit apps, harming over general productivity. However, Apple has put a lot of work to make macOS lightweight, secure, and feature-rich. One of the many features is Voice Control, a feature built on Siri’s speech-recognition engine.

Apple claims to have found a way to fully control your Mac entirely with your voice instead of using a traditional input device. With petabytes of voice samples and years of processed data, Apple has made a drastic improvement to Siri and the Enhanced Dictation feature in macOS. This is definitely a life-changing feature for people with limited mobility or other long-term health conditions.

If you want to try out the Voice Control feature, continue reading this guide on how to use voice control in macOS Catalina.

How to enable Voice Control in macOS Catalina

To get the Voice Control feature on your Mac device, make sure you have upgraded to the latest version of macOS, which is macOS Catalina of course. If you are still on macOS Mojave, open the Apple menu > System Preferences and click Software Update. Or you can click here to get redirected to the macOS Catalina page on the App Store.

Now let’s move on to the process of enabling Voice Control in macOS Catalina:

  1. Open the Apple menu and click System Preferences.
  2. Select Accessibility from the list of options.
  3. On the left sidebar, select Voice Control under the Motor section.
  4. Tick the checkbox next to Enable Voice Control.
  5. Alternatively, you can ask Siri to “Turn On Voice Control.”

    Voice Control in macOS Catalina Accessibility Settings

You can also select your preferred language and switch to an external microphone from the same menu. You can also enable “Play sound when command is recognized” in case you want it. Make sure you are connected to the internet as your Mac needs a one-time download to use additional Voice Control features.

How to Use Voice Control

When you enable Voice Control, a microphone overlay will appear on your screen. To use Voice Control, start by saying “Show me what I can say.” You will see a list of commands that you can use to do random things on your Mac device. Here are a few ways you can use Voice Control in macOS Catalina:

Basic navigation

The improved speech-engine for Voice Control can understand app names, labels, settings, and other things on-screen. So you can daisy-chain them with specific commands. Check out some examples below:

  • Launch and close apps: “Open a new window in Safari.” > “Close the Safari window.”
  • Enable Dark Mode: “Open System Preferences. Click General. Click Dark.” > Then say “Quit System Preferences” or “Close window” in case you want to return to the desktop.
  • Restart your Mac: “Open the Apple menu. Click Restart.” 
  • Use Pages: “Open Pages.” > To create a new document, say “Click New Document.” > Now choose a template by saying “Click Letter. Click Classic Letter.” > To save your document, say “Save the document.”
  • Compose a new message in Mail: “Open Mail.” > “Click New Message.” > Say the name of the receiver: “Techcodex.”

Number & Grid overlays

Photo editing with number overlays

With number overlays, you can easily interact with clickable UI objects such as menus, buttons, and checkboxes. Say “Show numbers” to turn on the number overlays. After that, you can say the number labeled to the object you want to interact with. Voice Control also shows numbers in drop-down menus or submenus for easier access to different functions. It is very useful for photo editing apps with various dials and controls.

Number overlays make it easy to navigate between web pages and elements. For example, you can try saying “Search for” in the Safari browser. Then use the number overlay to check out one of the tech news, how-to guides, or reviews on TechCodex website. If you head over to our reviews section, then you can check out our Apple Watch Series 3 2019 review by saying “Click Apple Watch Series 3 Review.” Speaking of web browsing, you can also use commands like “Zoom in” or “Zoom out” and “Scroll up” or “Scroll down” in a web browser.

Photo editing with grid overlays

The grid overlays help to interact with non-clickable onscreen elements. Just say “Show grid” to show a numbered grid overlay on your screen. You can also show the grid for an active window by saying “Show window grid.” Now you can say your preferred grid number to divide the area of the grid to another grid. It’s like cutting a paper to pieces, then taking one of the pieces and cutting it again. You can repeat this until you find your preferred selection.

Say “Click” with the number to select an interactive object behind a grid number. You can also say “Zoom” and the number to zoom in on that grid area. To drag a selected item from one grid area to another, you can say “Drag xx to xx.” (xx = number). If you want to hide grid numbers, just say “Hide numbers.” You can also say “Hide grid” to hide both numbers and grid overlays.

Text Dictation

With text dictation, you can use your voice to continuously dictate words in a document, email message, text message, or other text fields.

You can enter a punctuation mark, symbol, or emoji. For example:

  • Punctuation mark: “Exclamation mark” 
  • Symbols: “Dollar symbol”
  • Emojis: “Laughing emoji”

You can move between words and select texts by using commands such as: 

  • “Move up three sentences”
  • “Move forward two paragraphs”
  • “Select the previous word”
  • “Select the next paragraph”

You can also format texts with dictation commands. For example, say “Bold that” to bold a text or “Italicize that” to make texts italic.

To delete text, you can use commands like:

  • “Delete that” to delete the most recent text you have typed.
  • “Delete all” to delete everything you have written. 

Voice Control now also understands contextual sentences to maintain a seamless transition between basic commands and text dictation. For example, you can send a Halloween greeting via Messages by saying “Happy Halloween. Click Send.”

Create Your Own Dictation Vocabulary

  1. Open Voice Control preferences from System Preferences > Accessibility.
  2. Click Vocabulary.
  3. Click the Add button (+).
  4. Type your preferred word or phrase.
  5. Click Done.

Create Custom Voice Commands

If you want to create your own voice commands, Voice Control lets you do that as well. Here’s how you can create custom voice commands:

  1. Open System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Select Accessibility.
  3. Choose Voice Control in the left sidebar.
  4. After that, click Commands. Click the Add button (+) on the lower-left corner. The dictation command window will show up.
  5. Then add your own command in the “When I Say” box. The command is usable across all the apps by default.
  6. You can click on the “While using” box to select a particular application and execute the command only for that app. 
  7. Click the Perform box to choose an action to perform such as, “Open URL, copy text, paste text, paste data, press a keyboard shortcut, select a menu item, or run an Automator workflow.
  8. Finally, click Done to save changes.

    Voice Control Custom Commands Window

You can now use your new custom command in the same way as others with macOS Catalina’s Voice Control feature.


Previously, we have seen excellent text dictation features in macOS Mojave. Now with macOS Catalina, Apple has taken this feature to the next level by integrating the new and improved Siri speech-recognition engine to the Voice Control feature. Also, you don’t have to worry about your privacy as it just takes a one-time download to run voice recognition offline. All audio processing is done locally on your Mac device, so your personal data is always kept private.

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