Word 2007 and Vista Speech Recognition – don’t say "delete document"!

December 10, 2008 8:35 pm

I had a very unpleasant experience today. My wife is trying to deal with pain in her arms and hands from too much typing by using Vista’s speech recognition feature along with Word 2007. She was writing a final paper for a college class and had just finished the last four of nine pages. That’s when she noticed an extra word in her paper, right at the end: “document”. It didn’t belong there, so she did what you’d do naturally and said “delete document”.

THAT’S WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPENED. Apparently the speech recognition software turned that phrase into a command and proceeded to empty the nine page paper of all content without hesitation. On top of that, the undo feature of Word seemed to not have noticed the command (or been bypassed somehow), so she couldn’t get the document back via undo either!

This all happened while I was in a meeting at work right before lunch. When I got back to my desk I had several panicked voice messages. Luckily, five pages from the day before could be salvaged because my wife had the presence of mind to close the document without saving, which let her recover all but the about four hours of work that had gone in before the disaster struck.

I went home over lunch to see if I could salvage any more. I decided that I needed support from Microsoft. Well, the call with Microsoft Product Support was less than pleasant (as support calls usually are) and didn’t get us the four pages back, either. Best I could tell nobody had ever reported such an issue before.

I’m surprised this glaring problem escaped all testing at Microsoft. One of the cardinal rules of software development was violated in this case: “Never, EVER, lose the user’s data.” I can’t believe there was no prompt to confirm if she really intended to delete everything in response to the phrase “delete document”. I can’t believe there was no undo possible.

I just can’t believe it. Yet, it’s true.

2 Responses to “Word 2007 and Vista Speech Recognition – don’t say "delete document"!”

John wrote a comment on August 1, 2011

A few years later, but I thought you might like to hear someone else had the same problem – I said “Hello” to my wife, which Word 2010 interpreted as “Delete all”. Document gone, no undo! Nice work, Microsoft. I only lost about 30 mins of work, though.

GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on August 2, 2011

Wow. Nobody has bothered to fix that yet? Unbelievable. Sorry to hear about your incident. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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