Microsoft Brings Dictation to Office

In a long-overdue move, Microsoft this week said that it was finally bringing dictation capabilities to its core Office apps.

Oddly, this functionality is being introduced via a Microsoft Garage project and not from the Office team. This is both good and bad: You’ll need to install a plug-in for this to work. But you also won’t need to be on the latest version of Office, or using some Office 365 subscription.

“You can speak much faster than you can type, so what if you could type with your voice?” Microsoft’s Athima Chansanchai asks rhetorically. “With Dictate, a new project released through the Microsoft Garage, you can. The add-in works with Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint for Windows and converts speech to text using the state-of-the-art speech recognition and artificial intelligence imbued in Microsoft Cognitive Services, including the Bing Speech API and Microsoft Translator.”

Dictate is available now for free from the Microsoft website. It works with Office 2013 or later, with 32-bit or 64-bit versions of the compatible apps, and requires Windows 8.1 or newer. The plug-in supports over 20 languages for dictation, and can translate to 60 languages in real time.

And, as you might expect, it supports commands like “new line,” “stop dictation,” “enter,” and the like.

Dictate was originally built as a prototype during an annual Microsoft Hackathon event, and there are now apparently over 1500 employees working on the project worldwide. Why this isn’t just built into Office is, of course, unclear. It’s so obvious.


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  • fanchettes

    Premium Member
    21 June, 2017 - 8:19 am

    <p>This is a pretty good first effort. It would be cool down the road if these features were merged into Cortana to where you could start a new dictation from anywhere in Windows. </p>

    • robincapper

      21 June, 2017 - 6:45 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#127271"><em>In reply to fanchettes:</em></a></blockquote><p>The problem with basing on Cortana is lots don't have it</p>

  • Kurt Koch

    21 June, 2017 - 8:22 am

    <p>This function is so obvious that it has been part of Google's word processing software for years. In fact, it is so useful that it led me to abandon Microsoft Word, which I was paying for, for the free Google Docs when I realized that I didn't need all the bloated functionality of office. I can't see what would ever make me go back. You snooze, you lose.</p>

    • SvenJ

      Premium Member
      21 June, 2017 - 10:16 am

      <blockquote><a href="#127272"><em>In reply to Kurt Koch:</em></a> It comes free with cloud storage. </blockquote><p><br></p>

  • Shmuelie

    Premium Member
    21 June, 2017 - 9:16 am

    <p>Windows has had built in dictation since Vista… I remember using it back then and it was pretty good, and funny sometimes I admit</p>

  • MikeGalos

    21 June, 2017 - 9:55 am

    <p>Actually, dictation has been part of Windows for over a decade now and usable in ANY application including Office.</p><p>What's new in Dictate is that it uses the online Cortana speech to text engine rather than the text to speech engine that's already built into the operating system. While the Cortana engine is probably the best in the world right now, the Dictate front end is actually less powerful than the Microsoft Windows front end which has many more commands, works with any application or the OS itself and can even replace a mouse.</p>

  • Maelstrom

    21 June, 2017 - 10:22 am

    <p>It's funning Dictate works better translating stuff directly from English to French than it is to dictate directly into French…</p><p>Machine learning needs active users and it looks like Hey Cortana isn't used as much as it needs to be…</p><p>Anyway, I may use this to keep automatic logs of audio/video Skype conversations (if that works).</p>

  • wshwe

    21 June, 2017 - 10:25 am

    <p>I agree with you Paul about it being built right in to Office instead of being a plug-in.</p>

  • chrisrut

    Premium Member
    21 June, 2017 - 10:43 am

    <p>Perhaps because there is an ecosystem of commercial products, and MS doesn't want to put them out of business by fiat. They would undoubtedly be accused of predatory business practices, in an area where they have little strategic advantage to gain. It is harder to criticize MS for allowing employees to do it on their own time and initiative. </p>

  • T182

    21 June, 2017 - 10:44 am

    <p>I hope they bring it to OneNote. </p>

  • gregsedwards

    Premium Member
    21 June, 2017 - 12:13 pm

    <p>Dictation should just be built into the OS. Oh wait, it is. ?</p>

    • RonH

      Premium Member
      21 June, 2017 - 1:24 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#127348"><em>In reply to gregsedwards:</em></a></blockquote><p>I have been using it for over 10 years.</p>

  • bbold

    21 June, 2017 - 2:32 pm

    <p>Awesome 😉 Big new features, especially accessibility ones, are always nice.</p>

  • nightmare99

    21 June, 2017 - 4:21 pm

    <p>I take it the 1500 employees includes the Cortana team in its entirety?</p>

  • Nonmoi

    21 June, 2017 - 8:44 pm

    <p>Dictation was build into the Windows for over 10 years now, I don't really know why this is better? </p><p>Well, send my condolence to MJF and other notepad users, none Windows Desktop version Office users (not to mention others who use other word processing software on Windows) for them now being left out?</p>

  • DocPaul

    21 June, 2017 - 10:17 pm

    <p>Sheesh, I remember typing school reports on Word 25ish years ago and thinking, "how cool will it be in the future when you can just talk and the computer will type it for you…" Seriously, how did it take so long for this to come from Microsoft?</p>

    • MikeGalos

      22 June, 2017 - 12:31 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#129812"><em>In reply to DocPaul:</em></a></blockquote><p>They've had it for 10 years now. System-wide Text to Speech shipped with Windows Vista in January 2007. </p><p>It was also included in Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.</p>

      • DocPaul

        22 June, 2017 - 1:23 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#130417"><em>In reply to MikeGalos:</em></a></blockquote><p>Yeah, I was expecting someone to point this out but clearly it's not the same thing.</p>

        • MikeGalos

          22 June, 2017 - 8:01 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#130502"><em>In reply to DocPaul:</em></a></blockquote><p>Nope. It's not the same thing.</p><p>Dictate is&nbsp;online only since it uses the back-end recognizer from Cortana, it's only for&nbsp;three Office applications rather than the OS and all applications running on it and it's got a much less flexible front end.</p><p>On the plus side, with the intelligence available with the Cortana back end recognizer it does an even better job of recognition.</p>


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