Microsoft just added an extremely useful feature to Word on the web: transcription! Sure, Google Docs and apps like Otter.ai are free and let you type with your voice, like Word’s Dictation feature. However, Word on the web now allows you to upload entire audio files in addition to live transcription, merging the best of what Google Docs and Otter already offer, plus giving users a little something extra.
Like Google Docs, Word’s dictation feature puts whatever you say into your microphone directly on the page. Both programs are mostly accurate, but sometimes they get hung up on processing a lot of words at once and might skip a sentence or two, or get a few words wrong. The same thing happens with Otter, too, especially if there’s a lot of ambient noise. Word’s new transcribe feature is not immune to mistakes, but at first glance it seems to be more accurate than Google Docs, Otter, and even Word Dictate.
If you’re recording live via Word’s Transcribe, the tool will upload your audio file to OneDrive for processing, and then spit it back out in the side bar, complete with time stamps and the option to add in speakers’ names. From there, you can import that transcription directly into the Word doc itself with a click of a button. You can also listen back to the audio directly in Word and edit any part of the transcript the software misinterpreted.
The Otter app has offered the same capabilities for some time, but not the ability to transcribe from an uploaded audio file. Transcribe supports .mp3, .wav, .m4a, and .mp4 files, which definitely comes in handy if you want to transcribe your podcast or an interview, perhaps from an edited recording in Audacity. It may take a while ,though, depending on the length of the audio file. I tried transcribing an hour-long file (30mb) from something I recorded and it took around an hour — and that was using a fast internet connection.
You can only store one transcript per document, as well. When you create a new transcript, the current transcript will be deleted, but if you transfer the transcription into the Word doc itself prior to creating a new transcription, you will still have the text. This is why uploading a recorded file instead of a live transcription comes in handy.
While Word’s latest transcription feature is miles ahead of Google Docs’, and slightly surpasses what you get from Otter, there is a downside. Word on the web is free for anyone to use, but users must have a Microsoft 365 subscription to access the newest transcription features. The features are also not available on the desktop version of Word at this time. Gizmodo reached out to Microsoft to see when, if at all, Transcribe will become available for desktop, but we haven’t yet heard back.
Transcribe in Word is also only available in English at the moment (unlike Dictate, which supports several languages), but Microsoft is working on support for more languages. Transcribe in Word works in Microsoft Edge and Chrome browsers, and while there is no limit to how much users can record and transcribe within Word for the web, the current limit for uploaded recordings is five hours per month at 200mb per recording. Transcribe in Office mobile will be coming by the end of the year, and I have a feeling it might replace Google Docs and Otter as my go-to transcription apps.