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.