A Look at Transcription Software
“Isn’t there a simpler way of doing this?” Almost everyone who every tried to transcribe audio to text has said this at some point.
Transcription is a notoriously tedious process and almost everyone who’s ever tried it has asked this question at some point.
Unfortunately voice recognition is still an evolving technology and there aren’t perfect solutions available yet.
However, there are some applications that can make the process easier. These can be put into two categories –
1. Voice Recognition Software that allow you dictate text into a computer or recording device.
2. Transcription Tools that help you manually transcribe audio to text.
In this post we’ll discuss the features of a couple of products from both categories.
Voice Recognition Software
Dragon Naturally Speaking
Compatibility: Mac and PC
Price: Starts at $99
DNS is the most popular transcription software in the market. It’s highly accurate and comes with a bunch of features. All you have to do is put on a headset and start dictating – either to your computer or a portable voice recorder and it will transcribe audio to text.
Like all voice recognition software, you do need to ‘train’ it first to understand your style of speaking. Once trained, the text accuracy of this application can vary from 80-98% depending on how clearly you speak and the complexity of the subject (for e.g. technical terms may not come out very accurately).
The software is not suitable for audio with multiple speakers though. Also, you have to dictate real time, i.e. it does not come with the functionality to transcribe recordings. A work-around for this is to ‘re-speak’ a recording into a microphone in your own voice.
Windows Speech Recognition
Price: Bundled with Windows Vista and Windows 7
If you’re looking for a free application, this is one of the best transcription software you’ll find for a PC. The software converts your speech into text as you talk into a microphone.
Like Dragon Naturally Speaking, you have to train Windows Speech Recognition to understand your speech. The training system is quite extensive and works well for casual users.
The downside is that this application is quite slow and not very accurate. But if you speak slowly, pause for several seconds between sentences, and use simple vocabulary you should be fine.
Again, you can’t transcribe recordings using this software, everything has to be dictated real-time.
While these two are the most popular applications if you want to transcribe audio to text, there are several other transcription software available to choose from. You can find a good comparison of features here.
Compatibility: PC & Mac
Price: The basic version is free and the pro version is for $19.99.
Description: This easy-to-use application allows you to playback recordings while you transcribe audio to text. It lets you play, pause, rewind, and fast-forward your audio and also let’s you add time codes using its in-built shortcut keys.
Express Scribe is fairly customizable in terms of hot keys (you can set your own if you’re not happy with the presets). It also lets you adjust the audio speed (slow it down or speed it up). Another good feature is that it lets you set the number of seconds to rewind or fast forward each time you press the appropriate key.
Developed by NCH, this is probably the most commonly used transcription software and is a favorite with professional transcriptionists.
Compatibility: PC & Mac
Price: Starts at $99
Description: Inqscribe is another simple transcription software that you can download to your computer to transcribe audio and video recordings. One advantage with this app is that it lets you run a video alongside the transcription window. The playback can be controlled either with the mouse or keyboard shortcuts.
Inqscribe also comes with a decent subtitle creation functionality and can run most of the standard file formats.
In summary, even though speech-to-text technology still has a long way to go, there are some decent options available for dictation and manual transcription. With a little practice these transcription software can save you a lot of time and frustration.
In the mean time, if you’re battling tough deadlines or need multi-speaker audio transcribed then a transcription service is still the way to go.
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