Microsoft Word is hardly an exciting piece of software. I don't mean that as a slight; that's just not Microsoft's thing. Also, it's a word processor--it's used mostly for writing things like reports or letters, not exactly scintillating stuff. It happens to be good at it, but that's what it is.
Now, however, Word is getting a productivity feature that really does make things exciting. Then again, I'll admit, I get excited at just about anything that makes work easier or a little more fun. If you spend much time taking notes in meetings or wish there was an easier way to transcribe presentations or interviews, this will do both.
Today, Microsoft is announcing that transcription services will be available to all of its Microsoft 365 customers using the browser-based version of Word. In addition, Microsoft says that it is working to bring the feature to the iOS and Android versions soon.
In a blog post, Microsoft says:
Now you can record your conversations directly in Word for the web and transcribe them automatically. Transcribe detects different speakers so after you finish recording, you can easily follow the flow of the transcript. After your conversation, you can revisit parts of the recording by playing back the time-stamped audio and you can even edit the transcript if you see something amiss. Your transcript will appear alongside the Word document, along with the recording, which enables you to leverage your transcript to create great content in the way that is best for you.
Even more, Microsoft will allow you to upload audio files you've previously recorded, and the service will transcribe those as well. Uploaded transcription is limited to five hours a month, and file sizes are limited to 200MB, but still, for a service you aren't paying extra for, that's a pretty great deal.
The time limit doesn't apply to transcriptions you record directly in Word.
I was able to see a demo of the feature, and to my eyes, it appeared to work as well as other popular options like Otter.ai. I mean, it's Microsoft, so you'd at least expect the company has put some of its A.I. experience behind this feature.
Importantly, Microsoft says it only processes your recording for the purpose of transcription and does not keep it once it finishes. Recorded files are stored in a user's OneDrive, which is a consideration depending on how much storage you currently have.
I reached out to ask Microsoft how recordings are encrypted in transit and throughout the transcription process but did not immediately receive a response. In a briefing, a representative pointed out that the only place the files are stored is in your OneDrive, which is encrypted.
Overall, if you're someone who records meetings, or just likes to take notes, the fact that you no longer require a third-party service to do that is a killer productivity feature. The fact that it's included at no extra cost is even better.