Anyone who's done interview transcription themselves knows that it's both necssary and a giant, unimaginable time-suck. When I'm getting towards the end of a 2 hour interview that took place in a loud cafe, I know I'm about to poke my eyes out. So I try to send them out to transcription services whenever possible. It isn't cheap though, so sometimes we're stuck.

Through the Anthrodesign list I learned of a new, free (Shareware) application called transScriber. It's a simple and functional tool for playing back transcription audio while you're typing it into a word processor. I like that it's unencumbered and easy to use – you load the sound file into the app. and it sits in the background while you work in MS Word or whatever. To access the audio controls you just hold down the Alt key and hit an arrow key. Up is start/stop, left and right are for stepping back and forth in 10 second chunks. You can also set bookmarks by hitting the down key, but it looks like there is no way to save them if you quit the program. It supports a wide variety of audio formats, at the moment MP3, MP4, AAC, WAV, AIFF, GSM, and G.711.

So, I like tranScriber, but all things considered, I'd definitely choose Express Scribe (which I blogged about last year) instead. On the one hand, Express Scribe doesn't do bookmarks, and transScriber's Alt-function keys are nice compared to Express Scribe's use of the function keys at the top of the keyboard. I found hitting 'F7' and 'F8' with any speed required a lot of accuracy since my hands have to move from the typing position. Alt – arrow is much easier. On the other hand, Express Scribe is also free, does everything transScriber does, and has a ton of flexibility and features:

  • Supports foot pedals
  • Lets you customize the playback speed, supports slow playback
  • Let's you customize the FWD and REW jump lengths
  • Remembers audio position across sessions
  • Supports a VERY long list of file formats

Still, you've gotta give transScriber's author Mads Rydahl a huge amount of credit. He built the software from scratch to help out his girlfriend who is a social anthropologists. That's get you points!!!