Live subtitles and translation in PowerPoint – how it works

Office for Mere Mortals helps people around the world get more from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Delivered once a week. free.


Adding automatic subtitles with optional translation to presentations is a step closer with the latest PowerPoint 365 for Windows Insiders release.

Last month we told you about this promised addition to PowerPoint and now we can see it working compared to Microsoft’s promises.  At the moment it’s just PowerPoint for Windows, Insiders. Subtitles will spread to Slow Insiders and all Office 365 for Windows.  PowerPoint for Mac and Online are also promised to get subtitles.

Subtitles – speech to text for slides

At it’s simplest, Subtitles is live ‘speech to text’ for a presentation.

You speak and PowerPoint will convert your words into subtitles on a slide.

Subtitles are setup in a new option on the right of the Slide Show ribbon.

In normal use, both the Spoken Language and Subtitle Language are the same.

Subtitles are made via Microsoft’s cloud service so a good, reliable Internet connection is necessary.

The usual privacy warnings about cloud services apply, don’t use PowerPoint subtitles for anything confidential or private.

Pause before speaking after starting the presentation.  Wait for the ‘Starting Subtitles’ message to disappear before opening your mouth.

Translation too, subtitles in another language

PowerPoint subtitles can go a step further and translate the ‘speech to text’ subtitles into another language.

That’s real-time translation of a speech into a language you might not know or even know existed!

There’s no way to see the original language subtitles to verify that Microsoft’s speech-to-text has worked OK, let alone the translation.

“You have to trust Microsoft’s translation”  is what we said in English, and this is what Microsoft returned in Bosnian (we suspect it’s not accurate).

No need for slides

Of course, you really don’t need a full PowerPoint presentation to use the subtitles feature.  Just make a single slide presentation, put it on the screen with subtitles on.  The result is live subtitling of your speech.

Can’t save subtitle text

The entire presentation can be recorded as video/audio but there’s no saved record of the subtitles.  That’s a shame because saved subtitles could be reused offline or when there’s a less reliable connection.  Also the subtitles could be edited to fix errors (human or computer).


Want More?

Office Watch has the latest news and tips about Microsoft Office. Independent since 1996. Delivered once a week.