VoiceoverEasy.net courses are tutorials geared toward blind and visually impaired users of iPhones and iPads with Siri capability, and who use Apple Corporation's accessibility technology called Voiceover to read the screen of their device.

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Unit 5: Dictating Text.

For iOS7,8, and 9.

SECTION 1: Introduction

In order to display customized text to meet your needs VoiceoverEasy.net needs to know if you want to learn about iPhones or iPads.


DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

In this lesson you will learn how to use dictation to speak text instead of typeing it into any Text Field including; email and text messages, notes, contacts, reminders, and just about anywhere else you can type text, except for password fields. You must use the keyboard or Handwriting Function to enter text into password fields. Handwriting mode will be discussed in an upcoming lesson. By the end of this lesson you should know how to:

1.1: Things to Keep in Mind About Dictating.

IMPORTANT! In order to use Dictation Mode, your iOS Device must be connected to the internet by 3G, 4G, LTE, or WiFi. If you have either the "LTE", "4G", "3G," or Wireless Signal indicators in the status bar, then you should have enough of a connection to use dictation. Otherwise, you must fall back to typing.

Dictation works best if you speak clearly. Clarity of speech is more important than speed, although if you pause too long, about a second or two, your iOS Device will think you are finished speaking and exit Dictation Mode. If this happens, simply restart Dictation Mode again and pick up from where you paused.

Ambient noise can affect Dictation Mode. Although your iOS Device is pretty good at filtering out background noise, Dictation will still work best in a quiet place.

It is best to dictate no more than a few sentences at a time. When you end Dictation Mode, your iOS Device processes what you spoke and converts it to typed text. The more it has to process, the longer it takes to get the typed text back. Also, later we will learn how to Undo dictation. If you dictate a lot of text at one time, and you find you made a mistake, Undo will remove the whole block of dictated text, and you will have to dictate all of it all over again. VoiceOver-Easy.net recommends breaking dictated text into paragraphs, and doing no more than one paragraph before exiting Dictation Mode. You can start and stop Dictation Mode as many times as you want while editing a Text Field.

1.2: Prerequisite.

This lesson assumes that your iOS Device has been set up to send and receive Email. If this is not the case, please go back to Unit 4: Email Setup and follow the steps to set up your iOS Device to send and receive Email.

SECTION 2: The Scenario.

You are a cub reporter working at the Puny Town Planet, a satellite office of the Metropolis Daily Planet. The power in your office has been out for two days, and you are writing a poison pen letter by hand to the editor about the poor performance of the Puny Town Power provider. Suddenly, your rotary phone rings. It’s Penelope Parker with an anonymous tip about a produce perloinment at the Paterson farm! You pick up a pen, paper, and your iOS Device and rush to Paul Paterson's place.

There you find Paul Paterson peevishly pacing. He points to his pickup and proclaims “My partner Pat put the pot of peppers in brine precisely poised on the tailgate. Then, Pow! A pushy person puffing a pipe and pedaling a bike pinched Pat’s pot and peeled away!”

Paul Paterson appears perplexed, but you think perhaps you’ve puzzled it out. There’s only one bike pedaling pipe puffer in town, and you better get this story in or lose your chance at the Pulitzer prize, but the power’s out! You’ll have to use your iOS Device to mail in the story..

SECTION 3: Starting Dictation.

  1. Let’s start by launching the app for Mail. You can activate the icon on the Home Screen.
  2. Once the Mail App opens, Press the "Compose" button to start a new Email message. VoiceOver says, “To, Text Field, Is Editing”. Remember, “To,,” is the label or name for the Current Item. “Text Field,” is the type of item it is. “Is Editing,” means that typed characters or dictated text will be placed here.
  3. NOTE: When composing an important email, it’s a good idea to leave the To, Cc, and Bcc fields blank until you complete the message and it’s just the way you want it. That way you won’t accidently send it unfinished or unedited.

  4. Let's skip all the address Fields in the header until we come to the Text Field labeled subject. You can use the Explore gesture to find it, or the Next Item gesture until VoiceOver announces, “subject”. Notice that VoiceOver did NOT say “Is editing”. This means that the subject Text Field is the current item, but it isn’t active. So the text you enter won’t go in that field yet.
  5. Use an Activate gesture. VoiceOver now says “Subject, Text Field, is Editing”.
  6. You could type this headline into the subject Text Field , “Poached Peppers in Puny Town,” but let's use Dictation mode instead.
  7. There are two ways to start dictation mode. You can activate the DICTATE key to the left of the spacebar, or you can Two Finger Double Tap anywhere on the screen.

NOTE: DO NOT use the Home Button to start Text Field dictation. This activates Siri, and it starts independent of the app you were working in.

3.1: Start/Stop Dictation, Two finger Double Tap.

Apple calls this the Start/Stop the Current Action gesture. For example; answers and hangs up a telephone call, starts and stops playback of music or videos, Starts and stops the stopwatch, starts and stops video recording, starts and stops voice memo recording, stops VoiceOver speech until another gesture is made, and starts and stops dictation mode. We’ll call this the Start/Stop gesture for short.

  1. Start Dictation Mode. A tone sounds signaling your iOS Device is ready for you to dictate.
  2. Now say, “Poached Peppers in Puny Town," and quietly wait a moment. You will hear the Stop Dictation ding. If you don’t want to wait, you can stop dictation mode immediately after you are done speaking with the Start/Stop gesture. When dictation ends, the insertion Point is placed at the end of what you dictated.
  3. Use the Start/End of Field gesture to go back to the start of the field to check what was dictated.
  4. Dial the rotor to the Characters function.
  5. Use the Move Forward gesture to examine the text one character at a time. We have got Capital P, then o, a, c, h, e, d, followed by a blank space. Remember, the space is a character too. Dictation Mode automatically capitalizes the first word you speak, and the first word of any additional sentences.
  6. Let’s check the next word. We’ve got p, e, p, p, e, r, s, and another blank space. But hey, this is the title of our biggest story ever! We need the first P in peppers capitalized. If you look further, you’ll find that the P in Puny and the T of town did not get capitalized either. How can we fix this?

3.2: Adding Capitalization.

You can edit the title using the steps described in Unit 1: Editing Text, Sections 4 through 6 and replace the offending lower case letters with upper case letters, or dictate the phrase again and tell dictation to capitalize the first letter of each Word we need capitalized. Let’s use the second approach. We need to erase the text we already dictated, so let's do that first.

  1. Dial the Rotor to the Edit Function.
  2. Use the Set Mode gesture until VoiceOver says, “Select All.”
  3. Use an Activate gesture. All the text in the subject field is now selected.
  4. If we needed this text later on, you could use the Cut mode of the rotor's Edit function to remove the selected text and make a copy of it in memory. However, you won’t need it again. So Press the DELETE key to get rid of it. The text is now permanently gone. You need to retype it or dictate it again to put it back.

3.3: Capitalizing the first letter of a Word.

If you want to capitalize the first letter of a word while you are dictating, say, cap, before the word.

  1. Use the Start/Stop gesture to start dictation.
  2. After you hear the tone, say, Poached, cap Peppers, in, cap Puny, cap Town.
  3. Use the Start/Stop gesture to stop dictation mode.
  4. Dial the Rotor to the Characters function and check your work using the Set Mode gesture. It should be much better now. Notice you didn’t need to say cap for Poached, because it’s the first word of the sentence.

SECTION 4: Dictating the Body of the Email Message.

  1. Use the Next Item gesture to move to the message body. Again notice VoiceOver did not say “Is editing.”
  2. Use an Activate gesture to activate the message body for editing.
  3. IMPORTANT: You must activate the message body for editing first. Otherwise anything you dictate will be put in the subject field.

  4. Start Dictation mode with the Start/Stop gesture or with the Dictate key to the left of the spacebar, and Say, Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers," Then stop dictation mode.
  5. When you are ready, start dictation mode again and say, "A peck of pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick," Then Stop dictation mode again.
  6. Start dictation mode again and dictate, "If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers," And exit dictation mode.
  7. Finally dictate, then Where's the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked?"
  8. Let’s get VoiceOver to read the entire message body by using the previous item gesture to exit the message body. Then use the Next Item gesture to return to it. VoiceOver will read the entire text of our story.

Yuk! No pauses between sentences, and if you look at the text character by character, you’ll discover missing capital letters too. The reason for the missing pauses is that there’s no punctuation. We could use the edit function and the keyboard to fix this, but let’s just delete the whole thing and start over. To delete the text do the following:

  1. Use an Activate gesture to be sure the text field is activated for editing.
  2. Dial the rotor to the Edit function.
  3. Use the Set Mode gesture until VoiceOver says, "Select All."
  4. Use an Activate gesture to select all the text we just dictated.
  5. Press the Delete key on the soft keyboard.

4.1: Specifying Punctuation While Dictating.

The top four punctuation characters used in dictation are the period, comma, exclamation point, and quote/End Quote. In order to insert any of these into your dictation, just speak them wherever you want them inserted.

  1. Start Dictation Mode and say, "Peter cap Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers period."
  2. NOTE: We didn’t say cap in front of Peter. This is because dictation recognizes it as the first word in a sentence and capitalizes it automatically.

  3. Go back to the beginning of the field and use the Characters function of the rotor to check your work. If you are not happy with it, you can erase it and try again. So far we have used the Select All mode of the rotor's Edit function to do this, but we can use the Undo gesture instead to erase the last thing we dictated.

4.2: the Undo Gesture, the Vertical Shake.

The Undo gesture is performed by TIGHTLY holding your iOS Device and shaking it rapidly up and down. This is just like you might shake a container with two different liquids or powders that you want to mix together. Do this for a second or two. When VoiceOver reads the Alert popup message, "Alert! Undo dictation," you can stop shaking the device. Use the Next Item gesture until VoiceOver says, "Undo, Button," and then Activate the button. The text you just dictated will be deleted. If you change your mind after the popup appears, do the Next item gesture until VoiceOver reads the Cancel button, and then Activate it.

NOTE: Be sure you are holding the iOS Device and any peripherals attached to it very tightly. You don't want to throw anything across the room. VoiceOver.net recommends a two handed grip on an iPad.

4.3: Other Punctuation and Special Symbols You Can Dictate.

Here are some other punctuation and symbol characters you can say. Semicolon, colon, apostrophe, less than sign, greater than sign, at sign, number sign, dollar sign, percent sign, caret, which is shift of the number six on top of the typewriter keys in a standard computer keyboard, ampersand, which is the and symbol or shift 7, asterisk, left parenthesis, right parenthesis, hyphen, underscore, plus sign, equal sign, slash, Backslash, left brace, right brace, left bracket, and right bracket.

Note: You do not have to say the apostrophe in most common contractions like won’t or don’t. Dictation does this automatically.

There is one other character available in dictation. You can say, new line. This is like hitting the return key on the typewriter keypad to start a new paragraph.

So with Capitalization and punctuation in mind, let’s redo our story one line at a time.

  1. Start Dictation Mode and Say, Peter cap Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers period, new line.
  2. Now Stop dictation Mode.
  3. Start dictation mode again and Say, A peck of pickled peppers did cap Peter cap Piper pick exclamation point, new line.
  4. Stop Dictation Mode.
  5. Start Dictation Mode again and say, If cap Peter cap Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers comma.
  6. Stop Dictation Mode.
  7. Start Dictation Mode again and say, where’s the peck of pickled peppers that cap Peter cap Piper picked question mark, newline.
  8. Stop Dictation Mode.
  9. Use the Previous Item gesture followed immediately by the Next Item gesture to get VoiceOver to read the entire Message Body. See how it sounds.
  10. To double check this important story, Dial the Rotor to the Characters, Words or Lines functions and use the move forward and backward gestures to carefully check your work. Fix any problems in whatever way you see fit.

IMPORTANT! The Dictation Mode is not perfect. You may not need to worry as much when you're sending a quick text or email message to a friend, but if it's really important, carefully review your dictated text as described in the last step above. Dictation Mode may have misunderstood something you said, or used the word s, t, a, i, r, when you meant s, t, a, r, e.

“Food” for Thought!

Do you know what a peck is? The entire staff here at VoiceOverEasy.net didn’t. It turns out a peck is one quarter of a bushel, or a cube of produce about 8 inches on a side. Let’s make sure your readers know this too by putting a footnote in your article.

  1. Move the Insertion Point to the space after the first word "peck" in the message.
  2. Start Dictation Mode and say, "asterisk," then stop Dictation Mode.
  3. Double check your work. You should now have p, e, c, k, star. Note that VoiceOver pronounced the asterisk character you dictated as “star”.
  4. Use the Start/End of field gesture to move the insertion point to the end of the field.
  5. Now add two blank lines to your story. In this case using the RETURN key is probably easier than dictating.
  6. Start Dictation Mode and say, "asterisk, A peck is one quarter of a bushel period," and stop Dictation Mode.

After reviewing your story, you realize that you didn’t date it or give yourself credit with a by line. Let’s fix that now. Both of these items need to go at the top of the message body.

  1. Move the Insertion Point to the Start of Field using the Start/End of Field gesture.
  2. Insert the word, "Dateline," followed by a colon. You can type this, or start Dictation Mode and say, "cap Dateline, colon," and end Dictation Mode.
  3. Start Dictation Mode and say the full name of the month, the day of the month, and the full name of the year. For example, "April 30, 2017."
  4. Exit Dictation Mode.
  5. Then insert two new line characters. You can do this with the Return Key, or by starting Dictation Mode and saying, "New Line, New Line."
  6. Now dictate , by, followed by your name and two more new line characters.
  7. Now go to the Start of Field and check your work. Notice that VoiceOver capitalized the name of the month automatically, and put the comma between the day of the month and the year. Pretty clever.
  8. Check the spelling of the word "by," and make sure Dictation Mode used "b," "y," instead of "b," "u," "y."
  9. Double check the spelling of your name. Unfortunately, VoiceOver can be pretty creative when interpreting names. Fix any errors. It will probably be easiest to use the keyboard to correct Names.

4.4: Another way to Review Your Text for Errors.

As VoiceOver is reading your text, you can stop it quickly with the Pause/Resume gesture if you hear something that doesn't sound right. Once VoiceOver stops, dial the rotor to the Characters or Words functions, and use the Move Backward and Forward gestures for a more detailed look at what VoiceOver just read. If you find mistakes, correct them, and then begin reading from that point with the Read to Bottom gesture.

SECTION 5: Other Dictation Commands.

5.1: Caps On/Caps Off.

Caps On will capitalize the first letter of each word until you say Caps off. This is particularly good for titles, because this feature is smart enough not to capitalize words like a, and, the, and so on. Earlier we dictated the title of our story by saying, “cap Poached cap Peppers in cap Puny cap Town”. We could have done this more easily by saying, “caps on Poached Peppers in Puny Town caps off”.

5.2: All Caps.

Makes the next word all upper case. This is a visual style used for emphasis. For example, you can dictate, "I all caps love dictation" to make the word "love" appear in all upper case. Not all screen readers will emphasize the capitalized word, but sighted readers will get the point.

5.3: All Caps On/All Caps Off.

All letters and words between all caps on and all caps off are in upper case. Be careful how you use this. In email messages and texts having something entirely in caps is often interpreted as yelling.

5.4: No Caps On/No Caps Off.

All letters between these commands are in lower case. For example, dictating, "no caps on, this sentence has no capitalization period, no caps off," will type the sentence with no capitalized letters.

5.5: No space on/No Space Off

Words or letters between these commands are strung together without spaces. For example, if you lived on Oaktree lane, and Oaktree was written as one word, you could dictate, "I live on, no space on, cap, Oaktree, no space off, lane."

5.6: Emoticons.

These commands insert small graphics into your message to indicate emotion. These graphics are called emoticons. The "Smiley," command inserts a colon, hyphen, and a right parenthesis. This looks like a smiling face turned sideways. The "Frowny," command changes the right parenthesis to a left parenthesis to make a sideways frowning face. The "Winky," command is a semicolon, a hyphen, and a right parenthesis. For example, you could dictate, "I won a beautiful new sweater at the tricky tray, smiley, comma, but it's too small, frowny."

SECTION 6: Review.

6.1: Three Ways of Stopping Speech.

Throughout the VoiceOverEasy.net lessons we have learned three gestures to stop VoiceOver from speaking; Pause/Resume, Start/Stop, and Toggle Speech. Although any one of these will stop VoiceOver from speaking, there are significant differences in their effects. You will most likely only use the Pause/Resume gesture while editing text as discussed in Section 4.4 above, but it's worth taking a moment to compare all three methods and their effects.

Comparison of Gestures that Stop VoiceOver from Speaking.
Gesture Name. Motion. Description.
Pause/Resume. Two finger single tap. This immediately stops VoiceOver from speaking. You can make VoiceOver resume from where it left off by doing this gesture again. If you perform any other gesture, or if an event such as an incoming call or message updates the display, then you cannot use this gesture to resume speech from where you paused. You will have to navigate to that spot and start reading again using the Read to Bottom gesture.
Start/Stop. Two Finger Double Tap. This gesture temporarily stops VoiceOver from speaking. VoiceOver begins speaking again at your next gesture or when an event such as an incoming phone call updates the display.
Toggle Speech. Three Finger Double Tap. This gesture stops VoiceOver from speaking until you perform it again. VoiceOver will not update you when the display is updated. This is not the same as turning VoiceOver completely off. You still need to use VoiceOver gestures to do things on your iOS Device. If you turn speech off this way, be sure to turn it back on before your screen locks, or you power off your phone.

6.2: New Gestures.

Table of New Gestures.
Gesture Name. Motion. Description.
Start/Stop Dictation. Two finger double tap. Starts and Stops Dictation Mode. When Dictation mode starts, a bell tone is sounded. When Dictation Mode ends, a higher bell tone is sounded.
Undo. Shake the iOS Device rapidly up and down. This gesture tries to undo the last action taken. It will not always work, but it will undo the last dictation you made.

SECTION 7: The Saga Continues.

A parabolic projectile passes overhead. The man of Steel perceives Paul Paterson’s produce plight. Perusing the prairie he picks out Peter parked in a potato patch. Plummeting precipitously, he plucks the pilfered pot of pickled peppers from Peter Piper’s paws and returns it to Paul Paterson’s pickup.

The Puny Town police force rush to pick up Peter and place him in the pokey pending his trial. The portly prosecutor, Prescott Pilsner , pleaded passionately for prison for Peter, but public defender Pamela Parson prevailed. ”Probation for Peter!” proclaimed the judge. Peter promised Paul and Pat that he would purchase his pecks of pickled peppers from now on.

7.1: The Rewrite.

You pause, pondering your prose. Perhaps the Puny Town perusing public might perceive purloined phrases, or worse, plagiarism! You decide to rewrite the article prior to submission, but you save this message in your drafts. You never know!

Open a new message and dictate your own news story for the events described in SECTIONS 2 and 7. Place the headline in the subject field. Include a date and a byline at the top of the message body, an place at least one blank line before the story itself. Make your story at least two multi-sentence paragraphs long. Make sure all the punctuation and capitalization is correct. Then mail to the instructor, to the VoiceOverEasy WebMaster, or a really good friend. No cheating by making it look longer with large fonts or anything else. This is the Pulitzer you’re after!

SECTION 8: Exercises

  1. What is a requirement before Dictation Mode can be used?
  2. What must you do before you can dictate text into a Text Field?
  3. What are the two ways to start Dictation Mode?
  4. What is the difference between saying, "cap," and "caps on," while dictating?
  5. What is the difference between the "all caps" command, and the "All Caps On" command?
  6. What is an emoticon, and what are the three emoticons you can use during dictation?
  7. Name two ways to get VoiceOver to read all the text in a text field?
  8. What is the Undo gesture? How is it performed?
  9. How do you get Dictation Mode to type consecutive words in all capital letters? How are phrases in all capital letters often interpreted?

Click here for answers.

Congratulations! This finishes the lesson on Dictation Mode. In the next lesson we will take a look at Siri, Apple's speech reconition software that allows you to give verbal commands for your iOS Device to perform.

Before you go on to the next lesson, would you like to take the optional survey for this lesson?

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