Academic Tips and Tricks

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How to Make Transcribing SO Much Easier


Don’t thank me for this post, thank my boyfriend, who is a genius.

This innovation actually changed my life. As a linguistics student I’ve done A LOT of really complicated transcriptions over the years, and I’ve done many many hours of simple transcription as a paid transcriber. My set-up used to look like this:

transcription set up 1

I imagine that looks familiar – you can quickly access the media player to stop and start it and if you’re doing a simple two-person transcript you’ve done what you can to make everything quicker. But you still have to waste time taking your fingers off the keyboard to click between the two programmes and manually start and stop the audio. You might even be clumsily clicking the bar on the audio player to skip back to listen again.

Now my set-up looks like this:

transcription set up 2No media player. And you don’t need a laptop with built in media controls to make this work. If you use VLC (which is free to download and has a lot of great features) you can configure the global hotkeys so that you never have to click back and forth again!

Here’s How

transcription set up 3Go to tools and click on ‘preferences’, then:

transcription set up 4Go to hotkeys. You will see two columns ‘hotkey’ and ‘global’. Hotkey will only work when VLC is the active (selected) programme. Global will work from anywhere, e.g. from Word, if you’re browsing the web etc. The settings you want to create are global ones. Your global column should currently be blank like mine. This is what you need to do next:

Double click in the ‘global’ column on the setting you want to change, I clicked on ‘play/pause’

transcription set up 5You should get a pop-up box asking you to select a new key combination. You now need to choose keys which:

1. You can easily remember mean ‘play/pause’

2. Are not another shortcut

E.g. don’t pick ‘p’ as every time you type the letter p during transcription, your audio will stop or start. I choose shift+right arrow, as this combination is easy to press and isn’t already used as a shortcut/hotkey in Word:

transcription set up 6Once you’ve done this, your new combination should appear immediately in the global column, like this:

transcription set up 7These are the four hotkeys I have programmed specifically for transcription (image below). I find they are enough and make the whole process easier, the slow down command is especially useful when people are talking really fast! You can even slow down the audio so much that you can type as fast as the speakers are talking, but this can make the sound pretty distorted.

transcription set up 8When you’ve chosen all your commends, you will need to press ‘save’ then exit VLC completely and restart the programme before the changes will take effect. There is no need to restart your whole computer. When VLC is restarted, you should find you can use almost any programme while listening to VLC and control the audio remotely without having to click onto VLC to make the change.

Happy Transcribing!


Author: Liz

Hi, I'm Liz. I like easy crafts, photography, cooking, lifestyle blogs and YouTube videos. I work as a part-time proofreader and am currently studying for a PhD in linguistics.

2 thoughts on “How to Make Transcribing SO Much Easier

  1. Reblogged this on Linguistics PhD and commented:

    I wrote this post on my Academic Tips and Tricks blog. I hope it’s helpful!

  2. Very handy tip. I am seeing this in 2017! Thanks for saving me a ton of grief.

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