Office 365 Dictate

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When I was about ten years old, during the school holidays, I decided to carry out what I thought was a very reasonable scientific experiment. The aim was simple, could I jump off the top of a bunk bed and land on my feet without bending my legs? The conclusion of the experiment was no! The jump resulted in a broken arm that put me in a cast for six weeks and limited what I could do. Needless to say, it was the last experiment I did that summer.

Five years later, I started building PCs and, having spent too many hours installing the likes of Windows and Office from floppy disks and even more time playing SimCity (ea.com/games/simcity), I realised how uncomfortable I found using my computer keyboard. I suspected it was Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) (nhs.uk/conditions/repetitive-strain-injury-rsi/). Luckily, Microsoft released their Natural Keyboard in the mid-90s. I purchased one as soon as I could and my problem went away. I still use Microsoft keyboards to this day and am currently using the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 and the Sculpt Economic Desktop (https://microsoft.com/accessories/en-gb/keyboards).

Broken arms and RSI are common problems and although solutions to help with them existed at the time I suffered, the technology available now is even more useful. Dictate is just one example.

Dictate In Office 365

Within Microsoft 365, it is possible to use the Dictate tool (previously a Microsoft Garage project microsoft.com/en-us/garage/). For example, in Microsoft Word and in Microsoft PowerPoint, you can dictate text within the application. This means that, in theory, you can produce documents faster because you just need to speak to your computer rather than using the keyboard. Most of us aren’t professional typists with a high words-per-minute count, so using the dictate functionality means that we are able to be more productive. Also, if for some reason your hands are occupied, say at home while you are doing the washing up and you have work to do at the same time, it is possible to dictate while you do other activities.

I strongly recommend that you try Office 365 Dictate, most of this article has been created using it. The technology behind it is extremely accurate; it didn’t pick up all my words, but I would say its accuracy is about 95%. The experience is completely different to when I first started using such software back in the late 90s early 2000s. Similar industry- and situation-specific solutions are available (nuance.co.uk) and years ago, I used the Dragon tool for home use, but I never really got on with it. However, Dictate is quite precise and I’m able to actually dictate what I want to type.

I haven’t had to do any pre-configuration for Dictate; historically, with such software you had to train it by saying certain keywords so it can get to know you. With Microsoft 365 Dictate, I can request key punctuation to be added, so for example, I can request that it adds a full stop.

The disadvantage of such tools is that in an open office environment, it may be a bit strange to use. I am more comfortable using it when working from home or alone in a meeting room.  

Dictate is available in Microsoft Teams connected apps including Word and OneNote.