Microsoft does it again; Speech Recognition in Office 2007

Posted by james on March 6, 2008

My mother is taking a computer class, which is incredibly awesome. They're teaching things in there that literally some computer science students I knew in college still didn't understand. It involves a lot of typing, and she was inquiring about speech recognition programs to do her homework.

"Hey, there's one included with Microsoft Office" she says.

I visit the <a href="http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/HA101668651033.aspx">requirements page for Office 2007</a> and sure enough, "Speech recognition functionality requires a close-talk microphone and audio output device." Awesome, that saves a bit of money. All the instructions I find on Microsoft.com say to go to the "Tools" menu and click on "Speech". Simple enough. I open Word 2007, and am flabergasted.

What the heck happened to Word??

There is no Tools menu. There is no menu. There is <a href="http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/2005/09/14/467126.aspx">The Ribbon</a>. I can't really get into it completely, except to say, yet again, "What the heck were they thinking?". First the "peekaboo" menus in Internet Explorer 7 (which I hate... did anyone there take UI/HCI classes at all??), now the incredibly complex, wasteful, annoying ribbon. Microsoft has always had a philosophy of "dumbing down all interfaces to crayon level" and then making them so complex that even the crayon holders have no clue what's going on. Instead of a simple device (microwave, push 2 numbers and start button) or a powerful one (video editing board, rotate dials and push all the buttons) you get the "help you in every way possible to do what we think you want to do" (like a control-freak secretary that decides your daily meetings would look better alphabetized rather than by time, or how you should really eat at company-recommended restaurants for lunch or we'll lock the door to your office until you 're-activate' it).

So how about Speech Recognition in Office 2007? After a lot of searching (mostly not on Microsoft.com. Why would their Office 2007 page actually list how to do anything?) I finally find my answer. According to this appropriately titled article, <a href="http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/HA102243561033.aspx">What happened to speech recognition?</a>, they state:

<div class="quote">
If your operating system is Microsoft Windows XP, you must run a previous version of a Microsoft Office system program to use speech recognition features.
</div>

What a slap in the face. Particularly cold is how they mention casually that you "must run a previous version of" Office. Restated, "You bought Office 2007 that advertises Speech Recognition, but since you didn't pony up the money for the complete failure that is our new OS Vista, you should also go out and buy Office. Again."

I run out of PG-13 words to describe Microsoft. The analogy I can make is a towing company's fees. My friend once got towed for parking outside his own residence for 30 minutes while unloading some things from his car. True story. He was towed not to a towing company in our town, but one 30 miles away in another city. In addition to the high per-mile fee, the total bill included a substantial "hookup fee", a "nightime charge" (he was towed in the daytime), and a 1 day storage fee (the car was there about 3-4 hours).

It could have been worse. They could have told us we also need to buy the 2003 version of his brand new 2007 car in order to drive home. But then, even they aren't that evil.