Although it may surprise many Mac users, the Mac is quite talented when it comes to speech. Its abilities fall into two categories: reading text aloud, using a synthesized voice; and taking commands from your voice.
The Apple marketing machine may have been working too hard when it called this feature "speech recognition"—the Mac OS feature called PlainTalk doesn't take dictation, typing out what you say. (For that, you need a program like iListen, www.macspeech.com—or, better yet, Dragon Naturally Speaking, an amazing dictation program for Windows that you can run on your Intel-based Mac in Windows, as described in Chapter 8.)
Instead, PlainTalk is what's known as a command-and-control technology. It lets you open programs, trigger AppleScripts, choose menu commands, trigger keystrokes, and click dialog box buttons and tabs—just by speaking their names.
Few people use PlainTalk speech recognition. But if your Mac has a microphone, PlainTalk is worth at least a 15-minute test drive. It may become a part of your work routine forever.
Figure 15-11. Turn listening on and off here. If you turn on "Listen only while key is pressed," the Mac pays attention to you only when you're pressing a key (like Esc). As a convenience, it even pauses iTunes playback while you're pressing the key. If you turn on "Listen continuously with keyword," you have to say a certain keyword to ...