It’s time to speed up how you write emails. If you struggle typing quickly, dictating email can help boost your productivity. We’re going to show you Dictate, which integrates straight into Outlook.
Dictate is a utility developed by Microsoft and also works with other Office programs. You just plug your microphone in, click a button, and start talking. Everything you say is then transcribed.
If you use Dictate or have a different speech-to-text software that you use, please let us know in the comments.
Microsoft Garage is a division of Microsoft that allows employees to work on their own projects with the support of the company. Its name comes from the fact that Bill Gates started Microsoft out of his garage and this division is now located in his former office on the Redmond campus.
The teams can be made up of any number of people and can receive support from those experienced in all stages of project development. Not only does Microsoft Garage foster creativity, but it also helps the company look for innovation.
One such project that came from this is Dictate. It’s a speech to text utility that integrates into Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint, similar to Google Doc’s voice typing feature. You simply talk into your microphone and it turns that into text, using the technology that powers Windows 10’s virtual assistant Cortana.
Dictate is capable of understanding more than 20 languages and can scribe into 60. It can also automatically input punctuation, or you can switch to speak it manually. We’re going to show you how it works for Outlook.
Before you download Dictate, you first need to check whether you’re using the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Office. Note that even if you’re using 64-bit Windows, it doesn’t mean that’s your Office version.
To check, open Outlook and go to File > Office Account > About Outlook. You will see your version of Outlook listed.
Next, close all Office programs you’ve got open. Then, go to the Dictate website and download the version you need. Run the installer and open Outlook once it’s completed.
How to Use Dictate
You can use Dictate at any point when writing an email, accessible via the Dictation section on the ribbon. Before beginning, ensure your microphone is plugged in.
Use the From drop-down to set what language you’ll be speaking and the To drop-down to set what language you want the text to output as.
When you’re ready to talk, click Start. It’ll detect your microphone and the icon will display a red circle to show that it’s listening.
Unlike some other email dictation apps, Dictate doesn’t input the text immediately as you talk. Instead, it’ll wait until you’ve reached the end of your sentence and then put it in. When you’ve finished, click Stop.
You can use the following commands while talking:
- New line: Enters a line break.
- Delete: Removes the last line you dictated.
- Stop dictation: Ends the dictation session.
Dictate will automatically place punctuation in your sentences. It’s pretty good at detecting when to do this, but you might prefer to control it yourself. If so, before recording, click the Manual Punctuation button from the ribbon.
These are the commands you can use for that:
- Question mark
- Open quote
- Close quote
One of the most requested features for Dictate is support for more manual punctuation commands, so this list might be expanded in the future.
Dictate in Action
I’ve recorded some videos so you can see how to dictate email in Outlook with Dictate. This first video shows me talking in English, with the text being outputted in English, and the punctuation automatically being detected.
As you can see, Dictate is very accurate. I tried a few different attempts, somewhere I was talking very quickly or not fully pronouncing words, and it still did a commendable job at turning it into text. Of course, your mileage may vary, especially if you’re in a noisy room.
I then created a second video to try out manual punctuation while dictating email.
Although it correctly transcribed what I said, including the punctuation, it didn’t adhere to grammar rules as well as it did when the punctuation was being automatically detected. It placed spaces between punctuation if you pause before saying it, which wasn’t necessary. However, it’ll handle punctuation well enough if you say at the same time as the sentence.
Other Speech-to-Text Options
It’s still early days for Dictate, so hopefully, the development team will continue to improve its functionality alongside the detection quality of the Cortana technology. Perhaps one day it’ll even be integrated into Office out of the box.
If you’re looking for other email dictation options for Windows 10, check out our articles on how to enable use speech recognition to control your PC and the best free third-party programs to do similar things.
Do you use Dictate to transcribe your emails? Is there another program that you prefer?