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Jun 24 2017

Cost-Free Speech Recognition for MS Office

For the larger part of the past 30 years, finding speech recognition programs that work with Microsoft products wasn't exactly problematic. However, things could get tricky if one wanted solutions that were affordable, not limited in language and/or application support, and not third-party programs, all at the same time. Users still seeking for such a package may want to take a look at Microsoft's new Dictate add-in for office applications.

For a great many Microsoft customers, Dictate will look like a dream come true: Not only does it support the most popular programs within the company's Office suite – Word, Outlook and PowerPointbut it's also completely free of charge. Moreover, the app recognizes 29 spoken languages (among them five English idioms, the rest are Asian and European), can translate text into 60 languages in real-time, and lets users choose between automated or 'manual' dictation/punctuation modes. Finally, it provides "visual feedback," or in other words, lets users watch what they have just dictated to allow for easy and immediate corrections. For an app that originally started as a side project in Microsoft Garage, the company's experimental research and development community, that's quite the comprehensive and ambitious feature set.

Since Dictate is still a first-version freebie, it's also normal for it to go through a few teething troubles. One is that, at least for the time being, it'll work best in conjunction with the latest (updated) versions of Windows 10 and Office 2016. Like most traditional Microsoft apps, Dictate is backwards-compatible, but in this case only over one product generation – meaning that the oldest platform it will install on is a combo of Windows 8.1 and Office 2013 with .NET 4.5.0 or later attached. Also, working in 'manual' dictation/punctuation mode requires knowledge of the relevant English commands, plus adequate pronunciation – thankfully, the developer team has added a shortlist of the most frequently used terms.

Dictate is available for download from the Garage website or directly at


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