How To Transcribe Audio & Video Files Into Text With The Help Of Express Scribe

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transcribe a recordingThose who do a lot of audio to text transcriptions know only too well that even with the help of a digital player, digital word processor, and the ability to type using ten fingers at an amazing speed, transcribing is still a challenging task. Especially because catching what other people say is not as easy as it sounds, and most normal human typing speeds can never catch up to speaking speed.

To make the matter worse, you have to do a lot of stopping-rewinding-replaying to the audio/video files, and continuously go back and forth between the player and word processor.

Luckily, Express Scribe can help you solve the problem.


Not only can it slow down the audio files while maintaining constant pitch, it will also give you playback shortcuts that you can use from within your word processor. This amazing software is available for Mac, Windows and Linux; and it’s totally free.

Now let’s take a look at the basic features of the software. (Note: I’m using the Mac version, so there might be slight differences with the Windows and Linux version).

Slow Down, Stay Stable

To start a transcription process, open the app and click on the “Load” button from the main window and browse to the location of the file. You can load several files at once by using the Command key while selecting multiple files.

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transcribe a recording

Then you can play the file using the controls that you will find in the main window. These tools consist of standard playback buttons like “Play – Stop – Rewind – Fast Forward” and other more advanced tools like “Speed” and “Playback Position” sliders.

01c Express Scribe Main Window.jpg

If you do a lot of transcriptions, the Speed slider is the answer to your prayers. You can adjust the playback to be slow enough for your ten fingers to catch up. Express Scribe will keep the pitch stable and maintain the words as clear as they are in the original speed.

Once you press the “Play” button, a “Multi Channel Display” window will appear. This window allows you to adjust the volume of the left and right audio channels, or turn them on/off.

transcribe software

Setting Up The Hot Keys

Even though all the controls are just a click away, the purpose of using this app is so we don’t have to go back and forth between the player and the word processor. Express Scribe allows you to set up hotkeys to control its functions from within other applications.

To add hot keys, open the “Preferences“.

transcribe software

Then go to the “Hot-keys” tab and check the “Enable system-wide hot-keys” box. After that click the “Add” button.

transcribe software

Choose one of the functions from the drop-down list, and click “Change” to assign shortcut to it. Press the key combination that you chose, and click “OK.

transcribe

There are a lot of functions listed on the list, but I personally think that you should assign hotkeys only to the most important playback functions as memorizing too many shortcuts is not going to make the process faster. You should also use the most practical but unused key combinations.

Here’s the list of all my shortcuts and the hot-keys to give you a clearer picture.

  • Play : “Ctrl + Alt + Right Arrow”
  • Stop : “Ctrl + Alt + Period”
  • Rewind : “Ctrl + Alt + Left Arrow”
  • Go to start : “Ctrl + Alt + 0″
  • Decrease playback speed (-5%) : “Ctrl + Alt + Down Arrow”
  • Increase playback speed (+5%) : “Ctrl + Alt + Up Arrow”

Setting Up The Default Word Processor

You can open the word processor that you are going to use to write the transcription straight from the Express Scribe window. The default application is whatever application that you set to open a “.doc” file (In most computer, this will be Microsoft Word).

transcribe

But if you want to use a different application as your chosen word processor – maybe something simple like TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad (Windows) – just change the default template file from the “Preferences – Other“.

transcribe

First, create a blank document with the extension that you choose, and add the file to the Express Scribe template list.

transcribe mp3

Then select the file, click the “Set to default” button followed by the “OK” button.

transcribe mp3

Now every time you click the “Open Word Processor” button, Express Scribe will open your chosen application.

Another useful transcribing tool that you can use is the ability to add a time stamp to the word processor. This feature is very useful for those who do movie or interview transcriptions.

This tool can be accessed under the “Notes – Copy To Clipboard – Time” menu, or simply “Command + T” from within Express Scribe.

transcribe a recording

Barely Scratch The Surface

As an amateur transcriber, this is the extent to what I use the software for. But I have barely scratched the surface. There are more advanced features for pro-level transcribers such as support for a professional foot pedal, the ability to dock analog and digital portable recording, playing movie files (with additional plugins), and integration with speech recognition software. You can see the complete list on the website.

Have you tried to transcribe? Do you know other alternatives? Have you pushed Express Scribe to its limit? Share your experiences using the comments below.

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Comments (13)
  • Easy

    Hi, we just released easyTranscribe for iPhone and iPad. Maybe someone is interested? It’s ad supported and free and we are working on a pro version.

  • thurana

    Hi,

    I don’t know how to convert .dct to .mp3, sorry. But if you want to slow down mp3, the easiest way is to use Audacity. Open the song, select the entire track, then go to “Effects – Change Tempo” menu.

    For more bells and whistles, you could use Garageband.

  • manahattan

    hello,

    do you happen to know how to convert a .dct file into an .mp3 (using express scribe and a converter–eg, switch–while preserving the slowed-down speed as part of the saved file?

    i have dozens of .mp3 tracks of spoken Latin that I’d like to hear at a slower speed until i can understand them at full speed. ideally i’d like to hear them on my iPhone so i can listen on the go (instead of just through my laptop). i just found express scribe, but i couldn’t find a way to save the slowed-down file (at half-speed) for transfer to an itunes .mp3 and then the iPhone. do you know a way to do that?

    thanks in advance for any suggestions!

  • manahattan

    hello,

    do you happen to know how to convert a .dct file into an .mp3 (using express scribe and a converter–eg, switch–while preserving the slowed-down speed as part of the saved file?

    i have dozens of .mp3 tracks of spoken Latin that I’d like to hear at a slower speed until i can understand them at full speed. ideally i’d like to hear them on my iPhone so i can listen on the go (instead of just through my laptop). i just found express scribe, but i couldn’t find a way to save the slowed-down file (at half-speed) for transfer to an itunes .mp3 and then the iPhone. do you know a way to do that?

    thanks in advance for any suggestions!

    • Anonymous

      Hi,

      I don’t know how to convert .dct to .mp3, sorry. But if you want to slow down mp3, the easiest way is to use Audacity. Open the song, select the entire track, then go to “Effects – Change Tempo” menu.

      For more bells and whistles, you could use Garageband.

  • Samext

    Hmm. Tried to post this before but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. Here goes again:

    To snoop911: you might as a workaround try using Jack (Jack Audio Connection Kit) (or for that matter something else) to route your chipmunk audio—I assume from your comment that you’ve gotten things to work such that you have fast video plus chipmunk audio—through a pitch shifter to shift the pitch back down. I don’t have a specific suggestion re pitch shifter, but I’d say there are lots around by now, either as plugins to audio players (most likely) or possibly as standalone apps. Probably you’ll need to find one that works in real time. Jack is free by the way, both as in speech and as in beer ;-). I’m a recent switcher from OS X to gnu/linux, and I used it on OS X 10.3.9, and have it now on Ubuntu Studio. Jack is very nice, and there are probably other ways to route audio too. I don’t have a link for it but you might check freshmeat.net. Hopefully this helps. Now I’ll try posting this again…

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.