Introduction: JARVIS Type Voice Commands on a Mac

***DISCLAIMER: This is not a guide on incredible voice automation or anything actually at the level of the Jarvis system from Iron Man***

UPDATE: This is now updated for the many changes in the latest version of OSX Yosemite. Some options appear to have disappeared completely, but most functionality is still there. Take a look and enjoy! Please let me know if anything is still wrong or confusing!

However, this simple guide will show you how to adjust some simple settings on your mac in conjunction with automator to give you pretty good basic control. By the end of this, you should be able to go to frequently visited websites, start music playing, navigate between and within programs and even ask basic queries such as what the weather's like. If you know how to program in applescript you can really do a lot with the built in voice command system that the mac provides, far more than me, but no programming is necessary for this. So without further ado, let's get started!

Step 1: Turning on Speakable Items

The first step is to click on settings and then click on Dictation and speech. Make sure that you turn on dictation. Next you want to check the small box below it that says allow enhanced dictation. This allows for many more options and offline use which is handy. Once you've done all that you want to choose a button as a shortcut, try and make it easy to remember.

Step 2: Basic Additional Commands

So now you can control your computer with built in voice commands on your mac, but what else can it do? Actually a good bit. This used to be a bit easier in previous versions of OSX but, you can still customize commands quite a bit. In fact there is now a special template for voice commands built in to automator, I'll get into automator later though. For now, you can first have alerts announced with a custom phrase by clicking on dictation, then checking the "announce when alerts are displayed" box. From there, you can click set alert options and then select or add a custom phrase.

Finally to complete setup, you want to go back to settings, click on accessibility. Then Click on dication, and then click Dictation commands. From there check the box that says "Enable advanced Commands". You are now ready to go! There are a couple ways to add your own commands, the first way is to click the plus below the dictation commands box and it will have several drop down menus to select the program or file you want to open or text to paste etc, and what command you want to use for it. This is the quick and easy way. The even more flexible way is to use automator.

Step 3: Automator and Beyond!

Automator is another great program that comes built in to your mac. It allows you automate all sorts of daily tasks. If your unfamiliar with it, it basically allows you to drag and drop different actions to create simple programs. This allows for a lot of creativity and great uses and if you've never tried it I highly recommend checking out some articles such as:


but for our purposes there are just a few things I want to point out. One is how to get a response from the computer when you give it a command. All you have to do is look under text commands and drag over get specified text and then the speak text command. You type in whatever you want and the computer will speak that text.

The next thing to be aware of is that there is now a template specifically for new voice command, Use this. It's the easiest way to add a potentially complex voice command through automator. However, you can also just use a general workflow document and accomplish the same thing. To use a workflow, you would need to go back into settings, click the plus, choose run workflow and give a voice command to activate it, with the new voice command template however, you can do all that within automator.

Step 4: Suggestions and Advice on How to Do More...

There are a ton of things to do with automator with and without voice commands so here are some of my favorites:

1. Party Mode (closes all windows, turns volume to maximum, open iTunes and starts playing a specific song and then open the iTunes visualizer

2. Show me the weather (opens up page for my area, and offers a voice response)

3. Refresh (useful for when I have a lot of windows open and want to switch to something else, it will quit all open programs

4. show home movies (will bring up the page for my area)

As for doing more, applescript is the best way to do it. I don't really know much about it but I do know that it looks to be pretty easy to learn and offers a lot of functionality for your mac and other apple products beyond automator. You can get started by going to :


I know this is not a great instructable but it's for fun and it can be useful plus you will learn a lot more about what your mac can do and if you are really bored one day I might suggest googling "psychologist on mac terminal" for a fun easter egg.

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