If you have a paid version of Microsoft Office 365, you have an audio transcription tool

I’ve been meaning to write about the tools that I’ve found to be most useful in my Bredemarket work, but I’ve never gotten around to actually write about them. Maybe one of the companies will sponsor my post or something.

Well, this post isn’t a sponsored post, because I don’t think that Microsoft regards me as an important enough influencer to throw money Bredemarket’s way. But I recently used a Microsoft feature to save myself some significant time on a client project.

As part of the work that I do for one of my clients, I participate in half-hour interviews with the client’s customers and ask them questions about the client’s software. Before the interview begins, the client asks the customer for permission to record the conversation. After the interview is over, I can then refer to that recording to extract nuggets of information.

You can imagine the process.

  • Advance two minutes on the recording to get past the preliminaries.
  • Listen for a few seconds.
  • Fast forward 30 seconds.
  • Fast forward 30 seconds again.
  • Oh, that’s good! Back up 10 seconds.
  • Listen for a few seconds while typing.
  • Stop.
  • Listen and type more.
  • Fast forward 30 seconds.

As you can see, it takes a while. So I began thinking about transcribing the recording to make things easier.

My first attempt didn’t go so well. I opened up a copy of Microsoft Word on my computer and opened up the recording, then I pressed Word’s “Dictate” button while starting the recording.

Good idea in theory, but it didn’t work in practice. And even if it had worked, it would have taken 30 minutes to dictate the entire interview.

So I did some research and found this article from Beebom. It described a “transcribe” feature in Microsoft Word, but you could only use it under certain conditions.

  • You have to have a paid version of Microsoft Office 365.
  • You have to use the web version of Word, not the on-computer version.
  • Your audio file cannot be larger than 200 megabytes.
  • Your audio has doesn’t have to be in the English language. While this was apparently true at the time the Beebom article was written, it looks like the transcription software now supports dozens of languages.
  • You cannot transcribe more than five hours’ worth of audio in any month.

I was able to meet all of these conditions, luckily. When you use the online version of Word, the “Dictate” button becomes a “Dictate/Transcribe” button, allowing you to upload an audio file to OneDrive and then transcribe it.

Transcription is much faster than real time. In my case, the service transcribed 30 minutes’ worth of audio in a few minutes.

You can then save the transcription to Microsoft Word (cloud or on-premise), and can include timestamps if you desire. The transcription also attempts to identify speakers separately.

I can say that the transcription was fairly good. I did not need five nines’ accuracy on the transcription; I just needed to figure out what we were talking about. And if I had needed to clean up any portion of the transcript, the timestamps could guide me to the exact place in the audio.

So this provided time savings for me, and also provided benefits for my client, since I was able to easily identify more “nuggets of information” than I could have the old fashioned way.

Now there are certainly other services out there, and this particular service isn’t technically a free service (since I had to pay for the Microsoft Office 365 subscription), but in certain cases transcription services are worth the money you paid for them.

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