A great transcription tool for writers – Otranscribe

Otranscribe is a web app for transcribing recorded interviews. It was developed by Elliot Bentley.

Otranscribe is a web app for transcribing recorded interviews. It was developed by Elliot Bentley.

After the first two great episodes of my new radio show Behind the Prose, I needed to transcribe just over 60 minutes of audio featuring my phenomenal guests Tavonne Carson and Jennifer Genest.

Why transcribe?
Well it’s ADA compliant! I want as many writers who want to hear the show, to do so with ease using my show transcripts page.

Plus, a listener might want to read the interview instead. Also, I use the transcription time as an opportunity to critique the show, find great sound bites, and absorb the thoughtful responses of my guests with more reflection than I can live on the air.

So, I opened up Audacity and Microsoft Word on my Macbook and began a cumbersome finger dance of clicking and typing and pausing and rewinding and slowing down the playback speed. This was as horrendous as it sounds.

After a Google search for a better way, I found Otranscribe – a tool that promised to make transcription easier. The beta web app doesn’t translate the audio for you, but its interface makes the transcriptionist’s task so much easier – and dare I say – fun?

In one window, I can navigate the audio file and text document with the keys on my keyboard: no mouse pad swiping and tapping. The shortcut commands control playback and insert timestamps into the doc, though I wish the command to fast-forward and rewind were two buttons that were easier to press in tandem. On my Macbook, it’s an uncomfy stretch to reach the F1 key and the FN key with one hand.  I know how to do so – having acquired my 80 wpm typing skills from my mom who was a secretary – but alas, the movement slows me down to about 70 wpm. A combination of different keys would make that shortcut much more user-friendly.

Though using the shortcuts sped up my processing time, those were not the most helpful features of the app. The magic of Otranscribe happened when I used the pause/play function.

When resuming playback after a pause, the audio began a second or two before the point where I hit pause! This intuitive element gave me time to remember the last words and pick up with my typing. In other audio programs, I had to scrub backward until I recovered those few precious moments.

I don’t know what Otranscribe’s plans are for the future – will the web app remain free or will they charge? – but I do know that I’ll be using it next week to transcribe my interview with San Francisco Bay Area writer Soo Na Pak about her essays which appeared in The Rumpus and The Butter.

Yeah, and I’m Otranscribing all the other shows after that too. Unless of course, you want to do it for me.