Do you usually record your university lectures and are you looking for a solution that will allow you to unwind them and, therefore, transcribe them quickly? Then I am pleased to announce that you’ve come to the right place at the right time! With today’s guide, in fact, I’ll show you a series of programs to unwind your recordings that can be used both on computers and on smartphones and tablets.

There are solutions for all tastes and budgets: from programs that can be installed on your computer and allow you to transcribe recordings quickly, to free online services that allow you to import audio files, transcribe their contents via a browser and export the final result as a text file. If, on the other hand, you don’t have much time to devote to transcriptions, you can consider paid programs and services that can do the “dirty work” for you.

If you agree, let’s not waste any more time chatting about it and get on with the job. Courage: carve out five minutes of free time, carefully evaluate each of the solutions proposed in the next paragraphs and choose the one you think best suits your needs. I am sure that, following my instructions, you will be able to quickly unwind each of your recordings. Enjoy reading and, above all, enjoy your work!

Programs to unwind for free

If your intention is to download and use programs to sbob without putting your hand in your wallet, you’ll be glad to know that there are several free solutions you can consider that will allow you to manually transcribe your recordings: here’s a list of the ones I think are most interesting.

Express Scribe (Windows/MacOS)

Among the first programs for unwinding that I recommend you consider is Express Scribe, a Windows and macOS compatible software that allows you to transcribe audio recordings in a manual manner, with the ability to slow down the playback speed to facilitate writing and configure an external pedalboard to stop or resume playback with ease. In addition to the free version, there is a Pro version of the software that also allows you to play video files and use recording files in the formats of Sony, Philips, Grundig and Olympus recorders.

To download Express Scribe on your computer, go to the program’s official website and click on the Download now button. Once the download is complete, if you are using a Windows PC, double-click on the essetup.exe file you just downloaded, press the Yes button to allow the program to make changes on your computer and click Next to accept the license agreement and start the installation.

If you use a Mac, open the downloaded dmg package, press the Agree button and drag Express Scribe to the Applications folder of macOS, then right-click on the program’s icon, select the Open option from the menu that appears and press the Open button, to bypass macOS restrictions on applications from non-certified developers (this is required only on first startup).

Now you are ready to use Express Scribe for your transcriptions. After launching the program, click on the Upload button in the upper left corner to import an audio file from your computer, or click on the Insert button to upload a recording from a portable recorder connected to your computer via a cable.

Once the import is complete, press the ?? button to start playing the audio file and begin unwinding, typing in the notes for the currently selected dictation in the Type here field. Using the media player at the bottom, you can use the common pause, stop and advance commands, while using the slider under Speed you can increase or decrease the playback speed.

Once the transcription is complete, click the Send option (top) if you want to send the transcription via email, then click the Done item to mark the audio track as transcribed and remove it from the list. Alternatively, you can press the floppy disk icon to save the transcript and resume work later, or press File and Export Notes to export the transcript in TXT format.

As previously written, Express Scribe is also available in a Pro version, at a cost of 29.99 euros: for more information about it, you can press the Buy Online button present in the main menu of Express Scribe.

Listen N Write (Windows)

Listen N Write is a free software program available only for Windows PCs that allows you to not only transcribe an audio recording, but also record it. Among the program’s most interesting features is automatic pausing, which allows you to not fall behind in your transcription.

To download Listen N Write, go to the official website of the software and click on the Download button for the version you are interested in: Portable Listen N Write Free is the portable version of the program, which can also be run from a USB stick and does not require any tedious installation procedures, while Listen N Write Free is the classic version of the program with an installation package.

Now, if you downloaded the portable version of Listen N Write (the one I recommend), extract the ZIP archive you just obtained and run the executable Setup Listen N Write Free.exe, then click the Run button, select the Italian language and click OK. Then click the Next button four times and click the Install option to complete the installation.

You are finally ready to start your transcription with Listen N Write! The program has two windows, a player and a text editor. To import an audio file, click on the folder icon in the player, select the file you want to transcribe and press the ?? button to start playback.

To increase or decrease the playback speed, click on the Playback item and press Decrease playback speed or Increase playback speed. Alternatively, you can use the function keys to quickly perform the same functions: F3 to decrease the speed; F4 to increase the playback speed; F5 for the Play and Stop function; F6 to go back a few seconds in the recording and F7 to go forward a few seconds.

Also, by clicking on the smiley icon, you can activate the Smart Play function, which automatically pauses the transcription for a few seconds, allowing you to catch up with the transcription without having to intervene on the player every time. When the transcription is finished, click on the floppy disk icon to save it in TXT or RTF format, or press the printer icon to print it.

oTranscribe (online)

One of the best solutions for online transcribing is oTranscribe. It is a web service that allows you to upload audio and video files and transcribe via your browser, with the option to export the text file in TXT, MD, OTR formats, or upload the file directly to your Google Drive account. It is completely free and does not require registration.

To start your transcription on oTranscribe, connect to the service website, click on the English option at the top left and select the Italian option to set the language to Italian. Now, click the Start transcribing button, click the Choose audio (or video) file option and select the file you want to import from your computer (MP3, OGG, WEBM, WAV formats are supported). Alternatively, you can unwind a recording from YouTube by selecting the YouTube video option and entering the address of the movie into the Enter YouTube video URL field.

Once the import is complete, you can see a player for playing the file at the top, and a text field for transcription at the bottom. To start playback, press the ?? button, and click the two triangles icon to go backwards or forwards in the imported audio track (you can also use the progress bar at the top).

Also, you can click the Speed button and move the slider to the left or right to reduce or increase the playback speed, and you can press the two arrows icon to “clean” the player and proceed with a new import.

At this point, you are ready to start playing the audio/video file and begin transcribing it into the text field. Again, you can take advantage of some features via the toolbar on the right: B to enter text in bold; I to write text in italics; the clock icon to enter the minutes of a particular point in the recording you want to remember; History (the arrow with hands) to view the transcript history; Import (the arrow to the right) to import an OTR file and Export (the arrow inside a square) to export the transcript in TXT, MD, OTR format or upload the file to your Google Drive account.

You should know that on oTranscribe it is also possible to associate a “keyboard shortcut” to all the features mentioned above: to do this, press the gear wheel icon and click on the + button for the feature to which you want to associate a hotkey.

Programs for unwinding for a fee
Do you prefer to rely on the programs for paid transcription? If so, you should know that there are several online services that allow you to submit a recording and get a transcript in a few days. Which ones are they? I’ll tell you right now!

Amberscript (Online)

Amberscript main page

The first paid chunking solution I recommend you try is Amberscript. Never heard of it before? Let’s fix it right now! Amberscript is an online service that, basing its operation on Artificial Intelligence (AI), is able to transcribe in over 30 languages, including Italian.

It offers the possibility of using an automatic transcription function (called Direct) and a “manual” one (called Perfect): the latter, as its name suggests, allows you to obtain even more precise results than the one called Direct, since the transcription is edited and improved directly by Amberscript’s linguistic experts. Once the transcription is created using one of the two functions, it is possible to export it to various formats, including the subtitle format.

Before moving on to the actual use of Amberscript, I would like to point out the prices of this service. At the time of writing, three plans are available: Direct per hour, which costs 15 euros/hour and allows you to transcribe 1 hour of uploaded audio/video using the Direct function; Direct monthly, which costs 50 euros/month and allows you to use the Direct function to transcribe 5 hours of uploaded audio/video; and Perfect per minute, which allows you to use the Perfect function starting at 1.90 euros/minute.

You’ll be pleased to know, however, that you can test the service for free for a 30-minute transcript. I myself took advantage of the demo version of Amberscript to draft this part of the article: you can do the same thing and see if the platform is right for you or not.

Let’s finally move on to the actual use of Amberscript. First, go to its main page and click on the orange button Create a free account. On the page that opens, provide in the text fields email, password (twice) and specify whether you are an individual or a company through the appropriate boxes. Then click on the blue button Sign up and, to complete the registration process, provide in the appropriate text fields the required information (name, surname, country, industry, etc..) and then click on the Save button.

Amberscript account creation

Remember, then, to go to the mailbox you used to sign up for Amberscript and click on the link contained in the welcome message you were sent, so as to confirm your address before using the service. If you can’t find the message in question, try looking in your junk/spam mail – it’s probably there.

Once you have registered, you can start using the service. As you can see from the message in the lower left corner of the Amberscript page, through the demo you have as a “starting point” 30 minutes of transcription that can be spent through the Direct function. To use it, all you have to do is upload the file you are interested in (audio or video) and let the service process it and transcribe the audio.

Click on the Upload file button in the middle of the page, click on the Choose a file link and upload the file you are interested in or, if you prefer, drag it directly to the Drag and drop it here box to upload the file. At this point the Quality Control box will appear, inviting you to check the audio quality of the uploaded file: make sure that the speech is pronounced clearly, that there is no background noise and that there is no heavy accent. If the audio in question actually meets these characteristics, click the OK button (if you do not want to see the box in question again in the future, you can tick the appropriate box before pressing “OK”).

Uploading the file to Amberscript

Next, specify the language of the speech in the file you are interested in (using the Language menu) and also the number of speakers (using the Speakers menu). Before uploading, make sure that the length of the file (indicated in the upper right corner of the opened box) does not exceed the available time (indicated in the upper left corner of the same box). After that, click on the Upload File button and you are done.

Next, specify the language of the speech in the file you are interested in (using the Language menu) and also the number of speakers (using the Speakers menu). Before uploading, make sure that the length of the file (indicated in the upper right corner of the opened box) does not exceed the available time (indicated in the upper left corner of the same box). After that, click on the Upload File button and you are done.

If you want to use one of the paid options among those provided by the platform, you can do it by clicking on the other available buttons and then providing the payment method and billing information needed to proceed. If, as in my case, you decided to test the demo version of the service and clicked on the “Transcribe” button, you can now choose whether or not to save your choice for future transcriptions by clicking on the Yes or No button.

Start transcription in Amberscript

Now all you have to do is wait for the operation to complete. For the standard transcription mode you just chose, it will take about an hour. If you have chosen Perfect transcription, which is more precise and accurate than Direct transcription, it may take a few days, depending on the length of the transcription.

When your transcript is complete, you will receive an email at the address you provided during registration. Open the message with the subject Your transcript is ready and click on the View Transcript button contained within it. On the page that opened, login (if necessary), filling in the text fields Email or username and Password with your login information and then click the Login button. Once you have logged in, click on the green Go to Your Registrations button located in the middle of the page, click on the name of the registration you are interested in.

Transcription performed with Amberscript

On the page that is shown to you, you will find the complete transcription of the audio or video file that you have uploaded and processed with Amberscript. If you notice some “smudges” in the transcript (perhaps some vowels that are not accented correctly or some punctuation marks placed in the wrong place), you can act on it: just click on it and “manually” correct the part of your interest.

To export the transcript, click the Export button (top left), indicate the export mode you prefer (Text, Subtitles or Video), specify the format using the drop-down menu. After defining any other details about the output file, click the Export Text, Export Subtitles or Download Video button (depending on the option you chose previously) and wait for the output file to be downloaded.

Sbobina.it (online)

Sbobina.it is a paid online solution that allows you to upload audio files in numerous formats, such as MP3, WAV, OGG, WMA, MP4 and MOV, and get the transcription in 48 hours: an ideal service for those who do not have time to unwind and are willing to spend a few euros (5 euros for an hour of audio) to get a perfect transcription.

In order to send the audio file to be transcribed, it is necessary to register for free. So, connect to the website of Sbobina.it and click on the red button Register now, then enter your data in the fields Email, First Name, Last Name, Tax Code, City, University and Faculty, put a checkmark to consent to the processing of your data and click the Submit button to complete the registration. Within a few moments, you will receive an email containing the password to use to login to your account.

Now, go back to the main page of Sbobina.it and click on Login at the top right corner, enter your data in the Email and Password fields and click on the Login button. Before you can upload a file and get the complete transcript, you must top up by clicking on the Credit item in the top menu. Then click on the Recharge now button visible in the Recharge by Credit Card or PayPal section, enter your PayPal account details in the appropriate fields and press the Accept and Continue button, to make a 5 euro recharge.

After you have recharged your account, click on Sbobina now, click on the Select a file button and upload the file to be sbobined. Once the upload is complete, you will have to wait to be contacted by the Sbobina.it team who will evaluate the audio quality of the submitted file and, if it is acceptable, will send you a free sample of the transcription. You will decide if the transcription is satisfactory and whether to proceed with the purchase of the complete transcription.

Sbobinami.it (online)

Unroll me

Sbobinami.it is another online service that allows you to send the audio file to be sbonined and get the automatic transcription. It costs from 38 euros for one hour of audio transcription.

All you have to do to get a transcription with Sbobinami.it, is connect to the main page of the service, select the option Sbobinami! located in the menu at the top and, in the new screen displayed, choose the package that best suits your needs: 1 hour 38 euros, 2 hours 55 euros, 3 hours 70 euros, 4 hours 87 euros and 5 hours 100 euros.

Once you’ve made your choice, press the Pay on PayPal button for the package you’re interested in, enter your PayPal account information in the Email or cell phone number and Password fields and click the Sign In and Pay Now buttons to complete the payment.

At this point, you will receive an email to the address associated with your PayPal account containing a link: click on it to upload and send the file to be unwrapped. As soon as the transcript is ready, you will receive a new email containing the transcript of your recording.

App for unwinding

App for unwinding

I’ll conclude this guide with a series of unwinding apps to install on your smartphone or tablet. Some of them look like voice recorders that offer the possibility to send the recording and get a transcription for a fee, others like unwinds that allow you to increase/decrease the playback speed of the audio file for an accurate transcription. Choose the ones that seem best suited to your needs.

Transcription Tool (Android): a manual transcription via smartphone or tablet is not ideal, but for those looking for such a solution can install this app. In addition to transcribing audio/video files, it allows dictation and archiving of transcripts.

Smart Recorder (iOS/iPadOS): app that allows you to record and order transcription at a cost of $0.99 per minute of audio. The unwinding is done in 24 hours and if unsatisfactory you can get a refund.

Transcribe (iOS/iPadOS): is an application that allows you to automatically transcribe recordings, voice memos and all audio/video files available on your device. It supports more than 80 languages and allows you to upload files from Dropbox as well, with the ability to export the transcription to special apps. The app is free but transcription costs €5.49 for one hour of transcription or €32.99 for 10 hours. New users get a free 15-minute trial.

Cogi – Notes & Voice Recorder (Android/iOS): a free app that allows you to record (including phone calls) and offers the automatic transcription feature for a fee. The cost is $1.50 per minute of transcription.

Unwind (iOS): an app that presents itself as an audio file player that allows you to increase or decrease the playback speed of your recording, pause and resume playback whenever you want. It is free and allows you to import audio files present in your device’s music library.

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