1/ Dictate your words instead of typing them — Your Mac can take your dictation and turn your words into text (you no longer need to buy Dragon Dictate). But it’s disabled by default. To enable it, launch System Preferences; select Dictation & Speech; and then click the Dictation tab.
Now click the On button. Enable the Use Enhanced Dictation checkbox if you want to use dictation without an Internet connection. Choose a language, if you need something other than English and your language is supported (but a lot are, from Catalan to Vietnamese) but even with English, you can choose US, Australian, UK or Canadian accents.
Add a keyboard shortcut to toggle dictation on and off without revisiting System Preferences’ Dictation & Speech pane. I made mine Control-F15 by selecting Customise (sic).
Finally, choose a microphone by clicking the little inverted caret below the microphone icon and selecting the mic you want to use if you have more than the internal one each Mac has.
The mic icon becomes your audio level meter; make a loud noise like a clap or a whoop and watch it bounce up and down.
Now, to dictate to your Mac, launch your favourite word processor and turn on dictation using the keyboard shortcut you created and just start talking. The words appear on in your word processor document like magic– especially if you have one of the supported accents, anyway.
2/ Advanced dictation tricks — You can enable advanced dictation commands to do even cooler stuff like edit text and control other functions on your Mac using only your voice.
Launch System Preferences again, but this time select the Accessibility pane.
Click Dictation in the list on the left. Click the Dictation Commands button, and check the Enable Advanced Commands checkbox.
Now you can speak advanced commands such as: select the next or previous word, sentence, or paragraph.
Go to the beginning or end of a word, sentence, paragraph, or document.
Undo; Redo; Cut, Copy, or Paste
Switch to or launch applications. It’s not as powerful as, and lacks many advanced features of, a dedicated speech recognition program like Dragon Dictate, it still works well enough.
3/ Turn icon labels on in the toolbar — Hold the Control key on your keyboard down and click in the grey area at the top of a Finder window – this area is called the Title Bar. This triggers a ‘Contextual Menu’ that lets you turn on Icon and Text instead of the default Icon – now you can tell what those icons actually stand for. (This works in many programs, like Apple Mail for instance.)
A Control-click is a right click, if you have that feature turned on for a mouse or trackpad. You can also choose Customize from the pop-out list to do what we talk about next …
4/ Customise Mac OS X’s Finder toolbars — In the Finder, go to the View menu and choose Customize [sic] Toolbar or initiate it with a Control-click as above.
Now you can add or remove items by dragging and dropping for the range such as Dropbox, Connect (to remote locations), Get Info, Quick Look, Path (my personal must-have) and more. Adjust them in the order you want, and you can finally have something useful up there to help with Finder file navigation and management.
5/ Spotlight’s Privacy feature — You might have a folder full of embarrassing or otherwise private (banking, for example) files. You might have buried that folder 10-deep in an obscure place, but a Spotlight search will uncover those files in a jiffy.
Luckily, Spotlight has a built-in way to exclude certain folders – or even entire external hard drives – from its searches.
Open System Preferences, choose Spotlight, select the Privacy tab, and then click the plus button at the lower-left to add a new folder to the list or just drag items into that white box from the Finder. The folders you add and their contents are then excluded from your searches.