Transcript: A Windows Program for Transcribing Documents

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Many times I have transcribed information from books and older documents such as wills, deeds, and other documents that genealogists often use. In this day and age, most of the documents are in electronic format. I may have downloaded an image of a document from the World Wide Web, or I may have scanned it or snapped a picture of a document or a few pages from a book with my cell phone while visiting an archive or library. Obtaining the image is easy, but transcribing later into a text file or into a genealogy program is a bit more tedious.

In the past, I would open two windows simultaneously on the screen of my computer. I would display the image in one window and the word processor or genealogy program in another window. That works although with a few minor frustrations. Keeping the two windows in sync with each other can lead to an excessive amount of mouse movement and clicking.

Transcript 2.4 is a Windows program that simplifies and improves the process. It doesn’t eliminate all the mouse movements and clicking, but it does reduce the tedious actions a bit. The program is available in two versions: free and a Pro version for 15 Euros, roughly $17.50 US. Luckily, you can pay with PayPal, so there is no need to obtain a check or money order in Euros.

Transcript was created by Jacob Boerema in the Netherlands. It is a program designed to help you to transcribe the text in digital images of documents.

On the Transcript web site, Boerema writes:

“Transcript came into being because of my dissatisfaction with using a separate editor and picture viewer when transcribing images of old documents. I always had to switch between the editor and my image viewer when I needed to move the image so the next part would be visible.

“I thought that it should be easier when this could be done from within one program. I couldn’t find a program that did this though, so I decided that I would try to write such a program myself, and here is the result.

“The basic idea is very simple. Divide the screen in two parts. In the upper half the image is shown and in the lower half you can edit the text. Starting with version 2.4 it is also possible to show the text and image side by side but only in the registered version. The size of those windows can be changed as you wish.

“From within the editor you can move the visible part of the image in many ways using shortcuts. You can also use keys to move to the previous or next image in the same directory/folder. Besides that, it is of course possible to use most of the common editor functions also found in other editors.

“Transcript has furthermore many options and additional functions which are designed to help make it easier for the user to transcribe an image.

“By default the program remembers the exact position (and many other settings) in the text and image where you were last time and goes back to that position when you start the program.”

Transcript is not an OCR program. No text is ever converted automatically. Instead, a human has to manually enter all the new text.

Upgrading to the Pro version of Transcript adds several features, including:

  • Working on several projects at once. A project contains all settings of importance like edit and image file and the current working positions in those files etc. You can switch between projects by choosing another project from the project list in the menu. This is very useful for everyone who works occasionally or often on different transcriptions at the same time.
  • There is a project management dialog where you can rename or delete projects, make a desktop shortcut to start the program with a specific project, and add a description to the project.
  • You can log the time you have worked on each transcription.
  • An optional image highlighter/ruler is available that can be turned on or off from menu View, Show highlighter. You can move and resize the highlighted portion with the mouse.
  • You can select a part of the image and copy that part either to the clipboard or into the editor.

You can learn more about the Pro version at: http://www.jacobboerema.nl/en/RegFeatures.htm.

Transcript 2.4 works on Windows XP through Windows 8.1. While Macintosh is not officially supported, users of Transcript reportedly have been able to use the program on a Macintosh that runs Crossover. It also should work on any Macintosh that runs a full version of Windows with a program such as BootCamp, VirtualBox, Parallels, or VMware Fusion.

In comparing Transcript with other programs that offer similar capabilities, the biggest drawback I see with Transcript is that is has no capability to transcribe columns of information into a spreadsheet format, such as with transcribing census records. With Transcript, the only method of transcribing columns of information from preprinted forms is to first transcribe the information into the simple text editor built into the program and then to later figure out how to convert that information into a spreadsheet. If it was me, I would make transcription of columnar data by inserting a semicolon after each bit of information transcribed, making sure I entered exactly the same number of data items in each line of text as I did in all the other lines. It should then be easy to import that data into a spreadsheet program.

In contrast, a similar program called GenScriber that I described last month in this newsletter at http://goo.gl/D26BQY includes the capability to transcribe free-form text into a text editor as well as to transcribe columns of data into a spreadsheet format. GenScriber also can import a GEDCOM file, a feature not found in Transcript. Finally, GenScriber has versions for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh while Transcript is for Windows only.

NOTE: The Macintosh version of GenScriber is actually the Windows version packaged inside a Wineskin wrapper. While not ideal, the “pseudo-Windows” version is still a reasonable solution for Macintosh users. Unlike Transcript, a Macintosh owner can download a working version of GenScriber for Mac, and it will work immediately without any further configuration or “tinkering.” In contrast, a Mac user who wants to use Transcript will need to download and install Crossover, then download and install Transcript, and then figure out how to make Transcript work with Crossover.

You can learn more about Transcript and also download the free version of the program at http://www.jacobboerema.nl/en/Freeware.htm.

14 Comments

Thanks for this. Might you have a recommendation on a book about understanding what you are transcribing? I found this Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History.

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Thanks for the information. Just downloaded, easy to use and exactly what I needed to transcribe a 1709 document!

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Many thanks for sharing. It would be great if programme such as this included limited OCR . For a long transcript (assuming in the same handwriting or at least the same standard hand) the transcriber would highlight from the text examples of the letters a onwards. The programme then looks for matches and near matches and could fill in automatically a proportion of the text. Where the letters were ambiguous it could prompt the transcriber and then the semi finished transcript could then be checked and further edited (there are lots of reasons why it couldn’t work perfectly first time)
Very Best
Richard Heaton

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    Richard,
    I may regret saying this later when I discover I’ve opened up a can of worms, but GenScriber 2.4 does include an OCR option.
    I don’t advertise this as a feature because many people do not understand the limitations of OCR, or don’t know how to do training.
    You need to be willing to do some Tesseract training
    If you don’t already have it, you will need to install the Tesseract engine. (http://code.google.com/p/tesseract-ocr/).
    The OCR feature can be turned on by adding the line ALLOW_OCR=1 to the genscriber.ini file.
    Then restart GenScriber, and the OCR options in ‘Preferences’ will become active.
    It will run OCR on the current image being displayed. The results are made available in the TextPad area.
    Have fun.
    Les Hardy

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Sounds brilliant, much better than my method of printing out the manuscript and working from a paper copy. Has anyone experience of using it and what are the downsides?

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Love this thing. It does one thing well and has a five minute learning curve. That’s my kind of software. It has been a great help to me with Wills and Probates. I’m far more likely to finish a project with this than any other method I’ve devised for myself before I discovered this beauty in the comments section here. Thank you all so much.

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Some time ago I purchased a similar transcription program, but I find it easier to use what Windows already offers: the ability to display multiple windows. I place my document on the left, open a blank Notepad or Word document on the right and re-size the windows as needed to display both. I can also magnify the document within its window without affecting my transcription window. Having a large monitor helps, but I can still do this comfortably on my laptop when I’m travelling.

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Genscriber does a nice job, too … with many templates … http://genscriber.com/genapps/genscriber/about_genscriber

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I love this program. It made transcribing wills much simpler.

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Leslile makes a good point. And, you can navigate between the two windows simply by pressing ALT, TAB keys with one hand. Quick and simple.

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There’s another Windows/Word alternative. Insert the picture in your Word document and transcribe above/below it. You can crop the image as you finish portions so you see only the remaining part and then delete it entirely once you are done. That way you are working in a single document/window and not jumping between them.

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My simple method is to display the document on the screen; open Word; reduce the margin at the top and close the ribbon at the top; reduce the size of the Word window and lay it on top of the image and begin transcribing. This works well for transcribing lines in a census image because you can position the Word doc directly below a specific line.

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David Paul Davenport January 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm

I believe that “OMEKA” does something very similar. I have used it for about three years to transcribe documents on the DIYHistory website created by the University of Iowa Library (aka also called iowaheritage.org). OMEKA also creates searchable pages so after the page is transcribed OCR “scans” it.

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This looks great, so I may try it. Presently I use Open Office on my laptop and put the piece I want to transcribe on an extra external monitor. Really works well if you have the desk space.

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