October 22 2014 - 6:39 pm

Yosemite Dictation Commands and iTunes AppleScripts

A new feature in OS X 10.10 Yosemite is Dictation Commands, which replaces the venerable "Speakable Items". Essentially, this allows you to speak commands at your machine to launch apps and scripts, open files, and activate other tasks. Once you've set up Dictation Commands, you engage the Dictation Response HUD, a floating display indicating that your Mac is "listening", by pressing a set of command keys (fn pressed twice, by default). While the HUD is displayed, your Mac will be listening for spoken commands which you have associated with apps, scripts, Workflows, and so on.

I was hopeful I could fire off the Play Random Album script with a voice command. What a boss I'd be at my next party.

Unfortunately, the joy-killer about using iTunes with Dictation Commands is that while the Mac is in "listening" mode waiting for you to speak a command, iTunes is muted! Even with headphones plugged in. So, to use Dictation Commands while you're listing to iTunes, you've got to engage the HUD (two keyboard clicks), thus muting iTunes, speak your command to activate the script, then turn the HUD off to un-mute iTunes (another two keyboard clicks). And it's not exactly instantaneous. If you're launching a script to play tracks or playlists, well, you might just as well launch it from the Script menu with a mouse click.

An additional minor detail is that, while compiled scripts (.scpt) and applets (.app) work with Dictation Commands, script bundles (.scptd) do not. I use a lot the latter since I can bundle Scripting Libraries in them.

I'm sure Dictation Commands will be great for users who'd like to (or need to) bold their text by saying "Bold this text!". But really. Four keyboard clicks. The (slight?) inconvenience of interupting my music for a few seconds. Plus the effort to set things up in System Preferences and having to convert script bundles into plain compiled scripts or slower-launching applets. (Daniel Jalkut has a couple of other gripes, too.)

This was going to be a project post on how to use Dictation Commands with various AppleScripts for iTunes because awesome. But I'm afraid it didn't turn out that way since it's just that much trouble to bother. The magic isn't worth it. I'll continue to use keyboard shortcuts.

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