Microsoft is providing dictation and transcription in Word Online. word online is part of the Office 365 or Microsoft 365 package offered by Microsoft for a monthly subscription fee.
I recently began using dictation and transcription in Word Online as a replacement for Otter.ai. I like Otter, but I was already paying for Office 365, so why not use it and see how well it does for dictation and transcription.
I do a lot of writing via transcription. I carry a Sony ICD-PX370 voice recorder when I walk daily. I record articles, journaling, and ideas while I am walking. I try to walk two miles a day at a minimum and I am not the fastest human on earth, so I take around 35 to 40 minutes round trip. If I were to transcribe every one of my walks, I would require about 900 minutes per month for transcription.
Otter.AI provides 600 minutes per month through a free account. They do not allow the uploading of audio for transcription without paying for a Pro account. A Pro account costs $12.99 per month but provides up to 6000 minutes of transcription.
I wanted to find out what would happen if I went over my monthly allotment of minutes using Word Online. Below are some screenshots of what happens.
As you can see, Word Online will transcribe over the 300 minutes if it is currently working on an audio file. Once it passes the limit, it will no longer allow you to upload audio until the next month. Notice the “Upload Audio” button is greyed out.
I have found Word Online to be decent, but not great. People who use dictation and transcription are likely familiar with Dragon Dictation know it’s the best of this category of software. Dragon allows you to train words so that people who are writing fiction can use made up words while dictating and transcribing. It learns your voice and voice to text becomes more accurate over time. It provides robust correction of documents.
By comparison, Word Online has many faults and drawbacks. Dictation mode, when you are speaking directly into a document, allows you to turn off a profanity filter and you may select whether it will do auto punctuation.
Transcription does not allow you to turn off the profanity filter and does not allow you to do your own punctuation. It seems to put periods wherever it feels best regardless if it makes sense. How it breaks paragraphs in line breaks doesn’t appear to have any consistency.
Otter.ai’s target market is in transcribing meeting notes. Zoom has exploded since the pandemic started and it is still used heavily. Microsoft’s Teams application is used heavily in the same manner. Word Online is clearly targeted toward people who are transcribing meeting notes.
We can hope Microsoft makes their dictation and transcription offerings more robust. They recently acquired Nuance, the company that owned Dragon Dictation. It’s clear they required that technology because Dragon owns the healthcare and legal software segments where people are using dictation quite heavily.
Microsoft may not care enough about the individual user or organizations to roll Dragon’s technology into their Office 365 offering.
Time will tell.