Listen & Type: A good transcription tool

I downloaded Listen & Type last night. It’s a handy transcription tool for Mac OS (Shareware. $15. 20 days’ tryout time). I’ve mentioned it before. But oh, it bears mentioning again. (Later today I’ll post the results of that transcription session). It takes a few minutes to adjust to after launch, but then you’re up and runni– er, typing.

When you first launch Listen & Type, an Open dialog box appears, directing you to open a sound or movie file. (Listen & Type works with any media file that QuickTime can work with.)

imageOnce you locate and open your media file, a new window appears, with playback controller and a small button labeled “Front.” Here’s the part that makes the app both tricky and wonderful: The window with the sound file floats above other windows on your screen. Once you click anywhere on the screen after it first opens, the Listen & Type window, though floating on top, is not the “active” window. Open up any text editor and that window is active. You can type to transcribe the speech while using a set of key commands to control the playback.

The tricky part: The window is in front, but it’s not the active application. Once some other application is active (keep looking at the menu bar, at left, to see what application is active), and before you get started, you find yourself puzzled, wondering how in blazes you’ll figure out the key controls to make the audio play. Or more importantly, how to start and stop and what is the magic key command to skip back 5 seconds. (Hint: click the Front button on the playback bar to bring the Listen & Type application to the foreground, and then access the preferences for the app (Listen & Type > Preferences).

image
Preferences and key commands
(click to enlarge)

The wonderful part: Once you have Listen & Type working, with your open text file ready for your lightning-speed accurate (cough, cough) typing skills, everything works oh-so-beautifully. You click a command to start the audio (Shift-return); same to stop it. As you find yourself falling behind the speaker, a key command (control-left arrow) cycles the audio back 5 seconds. Press twice for 10 seconds, and so forth. The audio plays, you type.

The transcription rule of thumb is that it takes 6 hours to transcribe an hour’s worth of audio. I was only aiming to transcribe a 10- or 11-minute snippet. I don’t remember if it took me an hour to do so, but the task didn’t feel arduous, nor was I painfully aware of the passage of time. (It helps to have a good quality recording in the first place. It also helps that I was transcribing a fun story, as you’ll soon see.) 

About those key commands. You can change them at will. This is good. One of them for shift-space shows me a moment of lazy typing. And for those with solid geek cred who remap their text editors to follow the commands for text-editors sch as Emacs, the key bindings preference dialog box will need some re-work.

If you want to transcribe your audio, and you’re using a Mac, I heartily recommend this extremely helpful software application.

 

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 14, 2007 in • AudioAudio: SoftwareTranscription
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