In the past couple of years, my writing workflow has evolved to accommodate my changing habits, which now include working from wherever I am, thanks to my handy smartphone and physical-keyboard-and-tablet combo. I use them to jot down notes at events and conferences, take screenshots to illustrate points and of late, I’ve begun to record voice notes and calls for interviews, which greatly reduces the time I spend preparing content for articles.
There’s just one problem with recorded notes though: you have to convert them into editable text yourself. Transcribing requires you to listen, pause, type, and repeat until you’re done — and I had not come across a way to do this elegantly, until recently when I stumbled upon Transcribe Pro. This clever app combines robust audio playback control and note-taking for a simple web-based solution to your transcription woes. Today I’d like to show you how I get my work done, and how you can get the most out of Transcribe Pro.
Transcribe Pro helps you transcribe content from audio files by letting you control playback using keyboard shortcuts as you type out your notes. It also allows you to create and save documents that you can export, and even comes with a companion iOS app to record and upload audio to transcribe later. Additionally, there’s a stripped-down free version you can try.
Transcribe Pro offers two monthly paid plans with a 30-day free trial starting at $19/month for 8 hours of audio and 20 documents, and $2.75 for additional hours; you could alternatively opt for the pay-as-you-go plan at $3/hour of audio, with $10 of free trial credit to check out the app. You can try the free trials without a credit card, which means you can see how much use you get out of Transcribe Pro without any fuss.
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be prompted to create a new document. Each document has an audio file and rich text associated with it — you can upload pretty much any audio format to work with. Next, you can begin listening to your recording by simply hitting Esc or F5 and making notes in the simple WYSIWYG text editor below the audio player. Now for the ingenious bit — you can pause by hitting Esc/F5 while you’re typing! This works brilliantly for when you’ve heard a sentence and want to transcribe it, before allowing the audio to continue.
You can also slow down or speed up the audio, or skip forward or rewind in five-second increments, using keys F1 through F4. And if you need to indicate at what point in the recording a word or sentence comes up, you can quickly hit F6 to paste a time code in your text. The app even shows you the waveform from your audio file so you can skip through silent passages if necessary. Plus, you can export your document, links and images in tow, as a .doc file when you’re done.
Wait, there’s more!
Aside from the dead simple audio control, Transcribe Pro throws in a couple of nifty features that make it genuinely useful: for one, your documents are regularly auto-saved so you don’t lose any of your work when you leave your browser. You can also use the app’s Templates feature to create acronyms for frequently-used phrases, which will auto expand when you hit the space bar. For example, I could type “iap” and have Transcribe Pro expand it to in-app purchases, like magic.
How I use Transcribe Pro
When I review an app, I first generally take a tour of the app and note all the features I want to highlight. I then sign up, take the app through its paces, testing each feature to see how well they all work together to help users achieve their goals. I then check out the competition to see what else is on offer in terms of pricing, functionality and usability. To do this quickly, I use either my smartphone or tablet and record voice notes to quickly list all my facts, figures and findings.
I then load up my audio into Transcribe Pro and type out my notes while listening to my recordings, pausing the audio whenever necessary. This not only helps me get down to writing my review sooner, but allows me to retain and recall finer details that I may miss out if I only typed or wrote down what I saw and experienced, as I can be far more lucid when recording than when writing out my observations. When it comes to interviews, Transcribe Pro is a no-brainer — recorded calls and one-on-one chats no longer sound like nightmares that would take ages to transcribe completely and accurately.
What’s missing in Transcribe Pro
Although Transcribe Pro does a great job of helping you write, it could do with a few more features and flexibility to address the needs of power users. For starters, I’d like to be able to re-upload or replace an audio file in a document and use multiple audio files in the same document. I’d also like to be able to mark up an audio file by adding comments on to the waveform, as you can do with Soundcloud tracks — this would make delegating transcription work easy. Finally, I’d like a cleaner, distraction-free full-screen mode like some of our favorite writing apps so I don’t have to use multiple apps to finish an article.
Transcribe Pro also has a free app that you can use without creating an account. It supports WAV/MP3 files, playback control keyboard shortcuts, and a plain-text editor that saves your work locally.
Transcribe Pro is a simple idea executed well, and sometimes, that’s really all you can ask for from a web app. However, I feel that it’s yet to reach its full potential: the app could be marketed better, rounded out with more features for document creation, collaboration and audio file management, implement a more modern UI and feature a simplified pricing structure (who keeps count of how many hours of audio they have to transcribe?).
Other than that, this is a nifty little app that helps get the job done. I only wish I had discovered it sooner so I could share it with my fellow writers and our awesome readers at AppStorm. Take the risk-free trial, or the free app for a spin and see how quickly and accurately you can get through your transcription jobs.