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Microsoft Word just got a killer feature that puts Google Docs to shame

Microsoft Word Transcribe
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

I don't use Microsoft Word, but I might have to start trying it. That's because a new audio transcription feature has debuted in Microsoft 365, and it's the kind of thing that will save me (and many others) time and money — and make me wonder when Google Docs will catch up.

Debuting today in Word on the web (as a part of Microsoft 365), this new Transcribe feature allows you to upload audio into Word, and then get a transcript you can immediately drop into your document, one chunk of dialogue at a time. 

And if you want to write and edit live, there's a Dictate button for live audio. But for those like myself who capture audio via the iOS Voice Memos app (or any other program) there are some limits to be aware of. Transcribe supports MP3, MP4, WAV and M4A formats and limits you to 200MB uploads.

Microsoft first promised that this feature would be coming to Word on October 2, 2019, in a blog post. Here's a GIF of how it works in action:

MIcrosoft Word Transcribe

(Image credit: Microsoft)

How to use Transcribe in Microsoft Word

Here's how to use Transcribe if it's available in your version of Word:

  1. Click the Dictate button in the toolbar
  2. Click Transcribe
  3. Click Upload Audio
  4. Find your audio file
  5. Watch as your text appears
  6. Drag and drop text from the menu to the document.

Word Transcribe also offers automatic formatting options, so you can insert quotes as pull-quotes. Want to verify Transcribe's accuracy? Click the timestamp next to the text to jump to that part of your audio file. 

Tom Warren at The Verge notes that transcription time varies while uploading audio, but text translation works in seconds if done live.

Transcribe only supports English at the moment, and it's due to hit the Android and iOS Word apps later this year. Transcribe was originally slated for "early 2020," with the mobile app support coming in "the spring," so it might be another season before it makes it to other devices.

Personally, if this works as well as it should, I could see myself starting to use Microsoft Word over Google Docs — except Google Docs is free.

Microsoft 365 starts at $6.99 per month, but if you want a free option, Otter.ai has free live transcription and has a $9.99 monthly version that adds uploading. Hopefully Google Docs adds a Transcribe option, which seems like a no-brainer considering how Google Assistant is capable at hearing what you say.

  • michaelnic
    Google Docs has had this feature for a very long time actually. Tools>Voice Typing.
    Reply
  • hhelmbold
    michaelnic said:
    Google Docs has had this feature for a very long time actually. Tools>Voice Typing.
    This is very true and Google Translate can transcribe in several languages... Google actually has several tools that can do this but you cannot expect someone who is using Google Docs just because it is free to actually write a sensible article? I mean.... it takes effort to do research on what you writing.

    There are soooo many actual reasons to use Word over Google Docs but this is most definately not one of them. Rather write an article about using graphics in Google Docs as backgrounds or letterheads if you want to have a real reason
    Reply
  • ninjæon
    My understanding of this article is that the new feature to Word allows you to transcribe existing audio files, which is very useful to those that record voice notes on the go via their smartphones. Another possible use is to take an extracted audio stream from a video and then transcribe and edit it within Word (useful to quickly convert a video to an article). This is beyond simply a "voice typing" feature.

    At a glance, I don't see a comprable "transcription" feature in Google Docs or as an add-on in the G-Suite marketplace.
    Reply
  • gpatterson
    hhelmbold said:
    This is very true and Google Translate can transcribe in several languages... Google actually has several tools that can do this but you cannot expect someone who is using Google Docs just because it is free to actually write a sensible article? I mean.... it takes effort to do research on what you writing.

    There are soooo many actual reasons to use Word over Google Docs but this is most definately not one of them. Rather write an article about using graphics in Google Docs as backgrounds or letterheads if you want to have a real reason

    Maybe you should provide examples instead of crapping on the author of the article, because there is no built in way to upload audio files to do this in Google Docs currently. Sure there are APIs and 3rd party services to support this, but it doesn't appear Google provides this in their own app.
    Reply
  • geolt3
    I've been using Google Doc's to transcribe audio and video files for a while now. I just had to use a little ingenuity to get it done. It is correct that Doc's can not import and transcribe from an audio file directly...so, I just use a smart phone to play the audio/video file on a headset and then just place the speakers near the microphone of my computer that is running Google Doc's "Voice Typing". Yea, its a little effort and time but emphasis on "little". It's all about getting the job done economically with quality and if possible efficiently. I am also able to correct the transcribing as it types it out.
    Reply
  • GeneralKarl
    hhelmbold said:
    This is very true and Google Translate can transcribe in several languages... Google actually has several tools that can do this but you cannot expect someone who is using Google Docs just because it is free to actually write a sensible article? I mean.... it takes effort to do research on what you writing.

    There are soooo many actual reasons to use Word over Google Docs but this is most definately not one of them. Rather write an article about using graphics in Google Docs as backgrounds or letterheads if you want to have a real reason
    Word is superior in creating graphics, backgrounds, and letterheads.
    Reply