I love my job. One of the main reasons for that statement is that I get to speak to broad range of people from all walks of life all across Australia daily. One minute it might be a family member in the bush who wants to record a grandparent telling stories of their life for future family generations to hear and for them to transcibe into a family history record. Next minute it might be a journalist in Melbourne looking for the best voice recorder to grab quick, clear soundbites of someone in the news ready for them to quote in a story later that day.
One thing most people who buy a digital voice recorder have in common is the need to listen to the audio while typing up notes or a verbatum account of the audio. For those who are not in the know, this usually involves playing the audio back through Windows Media Player or QuickTime flicking quickly to Word to type a few words then flicking back to the audio player to stop and rewind so you can hear the last sentence or two again. This in itself will very quickly become tedious and a truely painful experience.
This is where transcription software can and does help. Both Olympus and Philips have their professional transcription kits for people who do this kind of thing day in and day out, but for your average person who has an occassional need to transcribe some audio you need to look at Express Scribe from NCH Swift Sound.
NCH is an Aussie company based down in Canberra. They have been around for a fair few years and I have watched them grow over time from quite a small outfit to the giant in the digital audio software world, not just in Australia but all over the World.
What do I like about Express Scribe? It’s price and it’s functionality. The price can’t be argued with its $0. It’s functionality is certainly not lacking. Included in the software is variable playback speed, auto file loading from network or email and background noise reduction or extra volume boost for those not so well recorded audio files.
Express Scribe is available for both Windows and Mac. The Mac version supports alot less audio file formats than the Windows version which covers just about anything you can throw at it, except at the time of writing this post, the new DSS Pro (.ds2) audio format.
So how does it work? You take your audio file (from a digital voice recorder, from your email, downloaded from the web etc) and load it into Scribe (much like putting a tape in the palyer in the old days). Once loaded and ready to play you flip to your Word document and using the configured playback keys (or USB foot control) you play/stop/rewind your audio while typing your notes from it without leaving the Word document. Trust me, this saves a mountain of time.
Express Scribe does have an area where you can type called the Typepad but in my opinion better to type directly into Word or whatever word processing software you use to get the benefits of spell checker real time.
Setting playback control. With Express Scribe you have the option to use any keys on the keyboard for stop/play/rewind (and a load of other audio manipulation functions) or a USB foot pedal like the cheap and nasty VEC’s or the more classy three pedal Philips 2310/2320 and four pedal 2330. By default Express Scribe comes pre-configured with a number of F (function keys) to perform various tasks like stop/play/rewind. You can either go with these presets or you can set your own. In this screen shot you will see I have set my arrow/cursor keys to take on the stop/play/rewind function. Just about any keys and any key combinations can be used.
Selecting audio file types. As I mentioned above the Windows version of Scribe can take a multitude of varying audio file formats, here is the latest list from the NCH website:
Express Scribe on Windows:-
wav, mp3, dct (encrypted dictation), ra and rm (RealAudio), sri (VoiceIt), dss (Olympus, Lanier and Grundig), au, aif, msv, dvf, mp2, vox, compressed wav (including PCM, uLaw, ALaw, ADPCM, CELP, SBC, Windows Media, DSP TrueSpeech, GSM 6.10), Philips Digital Recorder format, Sanyo Digital Recorder format and more. Please note that DSP TrueSpeech is not currently supported on Vista.
Express Scribe on Intel Mac:-
wav, mp3, aiff and dct file formats.
Windows people be warned, although the software can take all those formats they are not “on” by default. You will need to check the tick box list of audio files to make sure the file type you want to transcribe is ticked. Obviously the more common audio formats are on by default but many are not. Settings -> File Types is where you will find the audio file list.
Sony DVF files. To play audio files from Sony digital voice recorders which produce .dvf files you will need to download and install an additional plugin from Sony. This is quick and easy to do and I recommend a reboot after install. The Sony plugin can be downloaded from here.
You can download the Windows version of Express Scribe from us here at Dictate Australia. We don’t get a commission or anything for the download, remember it’s free software, I just got tired of sending people daily to the NCH website so I had them brand a version for Dictate. Click the NCH logo and box to be taken to the download page.
A word of caution when installing. As this is free software NCH try to take install time as an opportunity to dump other software onto your PC. Personally I am not a fan of this and prefer the in application advertising method which is much less intrusive. Nonetheless, a tip for you. During the install process you will be given the opportunity to install other “recommended” software which can be selected via tick boxes. Do not tick any of the boxes, you only need Express Scribe and nothing else.