Microsoft Brings Dictation to Office

Posted on June 21, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Office with 19 Comments

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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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Microsoft Brings Dictation to Office”

  1. fanchettes

    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.

  2. gregsedwards

    Dictation should just be built into the OS. Oh wait, it is. ?

  3. DocPaul

    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?

  4. Nonmoi

    Dictation was build into the Windows for over 10 years now, I don't really know why this is better?

    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?

  5. nightmare99

    I take it the 1500 employees includes the Cortana team in its entirety?

  6. bbold

    Awesome ;) Big new features, especially accessibility ones, are always nice.

  7. T182

    I hope they bring it to OneNote.

  8. chrisrut

    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.

  9. wshwe

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

  10. Maelstrom

    It's funning Dictate works better translating stuff directly from English to French than it is to dictate directly into French...

    Machine learning needs active users and it looks like Hey Cortana isn't used as much as it needs to be...

    Anyway, I may use this to keep automatic logs of audio/video Skype conversations (if that works).

  11. MikeGalos

    Actually, dictation has been part of Windows for over a decade now and usable in ANY application including Office.

    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.

  12. Shmuelie

    Windows has had built in dictation since Vista... I remember using it back then and it was pretty good, and funny sometimes I admit

  13. Kurt Koch

    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.

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