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Microsoft to add a text prediction feature to Word

The feature, scheduled for release next month, makes suggestions as a person types in Word. Microsoft said the predictive text feature will make writing faster and more efficient.

Microsoft plans to speed up writing in Word by adding a text prediction feature to make suggestions as a person types a document.

Microsoft announced that it expects to release the Word technology in March, within the Windows version of the 365 productivity suite. The company did not say on its 365 updates page whether it will add the feature to the Mac version of Word.

The machine learning technology makes predictions based on the text an employee has entered, Microsoft said. For example, if a person writes that two companies "have a long and trusted," Word will suggest relationship to complete the thought.

People can accept the suggestion by pressing the tab key or reject it by hitting escape. The feature will learn over time to give better recommendations based on the employee's writing style.Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker said someone weak in grammar and spelling could find the feature helpful.

According to Microsoft, worker data will remain secure when using text predictions. The technology does not store content or show it to any human unless a user opts to send it to Microsoft through the feedback app.

Google, Microsoft's main competitor in the office suite market, provides a similar feature in Gmail and Google Workspace. Smart Compose operates the same way, offering suggestions that a worker can accept by hitting the tab key.

During the past several months, Microsoft has added features that make workers less reliant on their keyboards while using 365 applications. It has launched a transcription tool for Word and improved voice controls in Outlook. Microsoft added to Lens, a 365 app, a feature that changes handwriting in pictures of notes and whiteboards into editable text.

Microsoft Word predictive text
According to Microsoft, the text prediction tool in Word will make writing faster.

Bowker said people often use text prediction and voice control features when sending text and writing email in consumer apps. Microsoft and other business software makers have brought the same functionality to their products.

"Enterprise companies, like Microsoft, have to match the innovation that's happening in the consumer space," he said.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering end-user computing topics such as desktop management. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily NewsWalpole TimesSharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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