What is a good and professional software for interview transcription (academic context)? Both free and commercial.

OS: Windows (although Linux is just as fine)

Features: Quickest possible turn around time from audio file (format doesn't matter) to transcribed text. That's in essence the only criteria.

PS. I am not looking for something that magically transcribes it for you - as such software at the moment simply isn't remotely reliable enough yet - , just the tooling that helps you as much as possible in the process.


5 Answers 5


After a frustrating search for a cross-platform (Windowns and Linux) open-source software to help me transcribe some interviews for my academic project, I ended up doing one myself:

pmTrans (The Poor's Man Transcriber)

The main features that will help you speed up your transcriptions are:

  • customisable shortcuts for short and long rewind, play/pause, timestamps insertion
  • find/replace with regex support
  • audio loops (play 10 secs, rewind 3 secs, repet)
  • exports to nvivo-compatible txt

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

  • So, would you argue this provides any advantages over f4? Because it looks like it even misses the feature to link all text to time automatically~ Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 19:46
  • @DavidMulder the main advantages are that it is open source and completely free, it is portable (no installation required), and it is cross-platforms (tested on win7 and linux, but should work on mac). And yes, clicking on a timestamp will play the audio from that point Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 9:23
  • It should be noted that at least from 2020 the download site is now: github.com/juanerasmoe/pmTrans/releases Commented May 17, 2020 at 8:41

Personally I recommend either:

footswitch2 (uses Vlc for audio) - https://sourceforge.net/p/footswitch2


footswitch3 (uses Gstreamer for audio) - https://sourceforge.net/p/footswitch3

(full disclosure: but then I would as I wrote them)
Both are Linux only and permit control using an Infinity USB footpedal and are integrated into Libeoffice Writer with Writer drop down menus and hot keys for extra control if you do not own a foot switch. Both come with full documentation, so you can read that before you decide to download the software or not.
Of the two, footswitch3 has the most features.
They are both free.
(Note: Linux Only)

As of May 2016 there are now "basic" versions of both the above transcription tools. These are cut-down versions that strip the code down to just the essential core requirements for transcribers. As with the full versions, both are fully documented. Search Sourceforge.net for footswitch2basic or footswitch3basic.
All 4 packages will now work with other manufacturers foot pedals


Just to set some sort of baseline, the best software I know of is f4. It is commercially available for fair prices (from 15E (educational) to 150E (pro) depending on usage and functions) and is available on both windows (f4) and mac (f5).

It has all the basic things like:

  • Text to time linkage (so clicking on the text drops you on the respective location in the audio)
  • Customizable text macro shortcuts
  • Can be used with a foot pedal
  • Some specialized tools for interview transcription

Suggesting this answer without complete details such as OS:

  • Transcribe audio without alternating between an audio player and a text editor Transcribe (1 week free, then $20/year)

enter image description here

  • oTranscribe A free web app to take the pain out of transcribing recorded interviews!. This is a Free WebApp Beta

Subhash VCD Player is a media player software that I wrote more than a decade ago. It can be used as a wave player. I added support for a transcription mode (press T). This allows it sit in the system tray and still be available to play audio files and respond to global hotkeys (F keys) when working in other applications such as a text editor. No footpedal is required. It is based Windows Media Player 6.4 and is GPL open source. It works in all Windows versions 95/98/Me/2000/XP/7/8. It may not work in Windows 10.

In Windows 7/8, you need to enable .NET Framework 3.5 in Control Panel before running the installer. The installer may prompt for the installation of a Windows component called NTVDM. After installation, you can modify the shortcut to make it run in Windows XP/7 compatibility mode.

Subhash VCD Player

  • your Subhash VCD Player looks very cool but i guess is a little outmoded (only for Windows XP or 2000, not Windows 10) - but wondering as with the aforementioned downloads for a footpedal, footswitch2 (uses Vlc for audio) - sourceforge.net/p/footswitch2 or footswitch3 sourceforge.net/p/footswitch3 and pmTrans - if the footpedals can work with Subhash VCD player? I don't know if anyone knows about or uses Listen 'N Write, a lot of the same features as pmTrans, maybe a little more customizable, not all python maybe, but they say their (L&W) is only for Olympus foot pedals, not su
    – cfran
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 21:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.