[Belatedly] Discovering Voice Control. (Commands)

My attention was drawn to Voice Control by a recent automators podcast with Sal Soghoian Automators #107: Control with your Voice, with Sal Soghoian - Relay FM with particular reference with using Voice Control with Omni Focus. Hitherto, I have ignored anything to do with voice on my Apple gear because I regarded myself as being incapable of being able to dictate anything more than a simple sentence. The idea of being able to dictate a coherent letter seems incompatible with my brain wiring! Nevertheless I have fallen in love with Voice Control. It is worth noting that Voice Controls delivers commands and dictation, but, it is at least for the moment, the command mode I have become besotted about.

Voice Control works for me because;

  • It is always on. [You can suspend Voice Control with the command “go to sleep” and get it going again with the command ‘wake up’]
  • No preliminary triggering messages like “Hey Siri”.
  • It makes lots of basic automation (that I have) redundant.
  • Activating menu items is easy (for me) because I can remember the menu name/voice control command, but not the numerous keyboard shortcuts living in one of several automation tools.
  • It does stuff that Siri cannot do.

If you have not had a look at Voice Control, now is the perfect time because using either URLs or shortcuts you can access your favourite automations in anything from Automator, Keyboard Maestro, Alfred or Shortcuts. As a result of knowledge deficiencies, not cleverness, I scan all the automation Apps to find the easiest way to create automations.

Voice Control is found within Accessibility functions ostensibly for those with motor disabilities, but the command mode is a very useful automation trigger. Additionally it strikes me it could help people with memory or focus issues. I have assisted elderly relatives and the problem often is, they have to remember to remember. For example, they have a problem getting Netflix, I set it up so they just have to click the Netflix button on the browser, but they often forget how to do this simple task, but knowing they want to watch Netflix. Perhaps using the Voice Control command “Netflix” my be an answer for some of these folk?

Voice Control commands will not suit everybody or every situation. I find it really useful for actions I use everyday, but not repetitively. Its nice to be almost walking away from my computer and to say “Quit all applications”. A point to note here, is that if you keep Voice Control in command mode you avoid the problem the computer starting to spontaneously take dictation because someone comes up and talks to you. However, if you switch to dictation mode, Voice Control will recognise commands but also recognise when it should take dictation. When you are in an App capable of taking dictation a symbol appears to indicate that dictation is turned off, but it would be really useful if there was a symbol on the Voice Control microphone as well to indicate what mode it is in.

If you are starting out in Voice Control you instantly notice there are too many clicks to get to the Voice Control preference panel. I have created a Voice Control Command to get there, but its slightly fiddly, … but the voice command that is the friend of the new comer is “create command”. MacMost has a video on this Creating Custom Voice Control Commands For Your Mac along with a couple of other Voice Control videos that maybe useful for some. Voice Control comes with quite a number of pre packaged commands and then you can create your own custom commands. Some observations about this;

  • It is not possible to print out the custom commands, and to date I have not found an up to date list on the web. [The command “show commands” shows a box listing commands which is sometimes very useful]
  • Custom commands can be backed up by exporting them. It would be really useful if Apple added an auto back up for custom commands.
  • Custom commands cannot be categorised, but are listed alphabetically, and search only acts on the actual command. My method of categorisation is to include a discretionary word in the command which I have no intention of using, but can be used as a search word. For example, in the command “[Omnifocus] Clean Up” I can use “OmniFocus Clean Up” or just Clean Up because OmniFocus is discretionary. The benefit of this is I can search on OmniFocus to see all the voice commands (grouped together) used with OmniFocus.

I was initially confused by the (numbers) overlay option because even if you use the default “none” option you still get numbers attached to menu items. This can be useful as voicing these numbers triggers the associated menu item. But it can be irritating as in some circumstances I end up with numbers all over the show. Possibly it would be nice to be able to turn this completely off?

Last point it appears some applications are not built to Apples accessibility standards. This means custom commands that attempt to open a menu item will not work, but curiously enough, they still show numbers next to the menu items and voicing the numbers works. This is not a huge problem because in need, you can do a work around by using one of the automation tools and linking it to Voice Control.

There are always mysteries. I can activate my home kit based garage door opener with Siri using my iPhone, but so far, not with Voice Control. Nevertheless, is useful to understand the difference between Voice Control and Siri. References on the web re Voice Control are fairly sparse, but Voice Control is an useful starting point, … also the OmniFocus stuff can be useful even if you are not an OmniFocus user, see Omni Automation


I’ve known forever that voice commands exist, but never much about how it works. Thanks!

Well it a bit of a jumble, but I find it surprising more has not been made of voice control. There is always “traps” for the beginner. If you use voice commands to open a web page(s) this call will always invoke the default browser even if you have told Voice Control to use the command in another browser application. So the work around is to use Keyboard Maestro or similar to open an URL in an alternate browser if this is required.

Talking of URL’s, whilst the trigger options within Voice Control work quite well, for third party automations I find triggering Keyboard Maestro by an URL scheme to work a bit more robustly than using a Hot Key as the link.

Interesting - I recently discovered on iPadOS 16 the Accessibility > Touch > Assistive Touch feature which is basically a floating totally customizable menu. Another non-obvious but extremely powerful tool.

Incidentally I’m in QLD for August, heading back through your namesake on Friday - hoping to drop in on General Macarthur’s old spot while I’m there.

Well the weather is great at the moment if not a bit cold (22C) by Brisbane standards.

More on URL’s.

If you have a voice command to open a web based URL there is the temptation make this command browser specific. However triggering by Voice an URL in Safari will only open if there is a Safari window is open. If Safari is on, but no windows open, nothing will happen. Conversely if you set this URL to open in any application it will successfully open the defined web page/URL even if Safari is shut down (assuming its the default browser).

This is kinda obvious in hindsight, but despite Queensland claiming to be the smart State, some of us are not very smart. :wink:

Two options to get around this issue if you use dual browsers is to;

Create some automation specific to the alternative browsers, or

Perhaps more elegantly and simpler, use a browser picker App like Choosy or OpenIn

Yes, I have just had a look at this - really interesting - once again I think some elderly might find this an easier way to navigate around iOS than traditional means. I thought doing a screenshot easier via Assistant Touch than conventional method. :thinking:

To elaborate if you start experimenting with Voice Control achieving a direct route to Voice Control preferences is extremely useful.

The solution to this problem is provided here;


The top two scripts enable direct access to Voice Control preferences and the second script facilitates the ability to Toggle Voice Control on and off. This later script will be useful for some users who have concerns about Voice Control’s CPU usage.