How to add hands-free typing to Office apps

If there is one feature missing in Word, Outlook, and other Office apps is the ability to type hands-free. Sure, you can set up speech recognition in Windows, but it's not a really good experience, and it's a feature that hasn't been updated in a long time.

However, if you speak faster than you can type, the Microsoft Garage team has created Dictate, a new add-in that brings a good speech-to-text experience to Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

While Dictate is an experimental project, it's a powerful tool. It uses Cortana's speech recognition technology to convert voice into text in more than twenty languages, there is support for voice commands to control a dictation session, and it also includes real-time translation in sixty different languages.

How to install Dictate add-in for Office

The installation of Dictate is a two step process: first, you need to identify whether you're using the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Office, and second, you need to go through the setup wizard.

Identifying Office version

  1. Open Word.
  2. Click on the File menu.
  3. Click on Account.

  4. Click the About Word button to see which version you have installed.

Installing add-in

  1. Download Microsoft's Dictate using one of these two links:

    • Download Dictate 32-bit.
    • Download Dictate 64-bit.
  2. Close any running Office application.
  3. Double-click the file you just downloaded and follow the easy on-screen directions to install the add-in.


How to use Dictate add-in in Office

To start typing hands-free in Office, do the following.

  1. Open Word (PowerPoint or Outlook).
  2. Using the Ribbon menu, click on the new Dictation tab.
  3. Click the Start button.

Once you turn on the feature there aren't special settings that you need to configure, just start dictating and see the magic happen.

The add-in also adds punctuation automatically, which means that as you speak depending on the phrase and pauses you make, Dictate will try to add a question mark, comma, or period. However, if you want to stay in control, you can always turn off this feature by clicking the Manual Punctuation button in the Ribbon menu.

Voice commands

Dictate for Office also includes a number of voice commands (English) that you can use during a dictation session:

  • New Line: Moves the cursor to a new line.
  • Delete: Removes the last line.
  • Stop Dictation: Turns off dictation.
  • Full stop or period: Enters (.).
  • Question mark: Enters (?).
  • Open Quote: Enters (").
  • Close Quote: Enters (").
  • Colon: Enters (:).
  • Comma: Enters (,).

Real-time translation

Perhaps one of the best features with Dictate is the ability to translate what you want to type in sixty different languages.

If you need to write a report or reply to an email in another language, you simply select your language in the From drop-down menu, and in the To drop-down menu, pick the language you want to translate. Then click the Start button to begin translating.

The add-in shows some minor difficulties trying to make accurate translations, but it does a decent job considering that it's doing all the work on the fly.

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