Introducing TranscribeSharp

I've previously recounted how I was (am) unsatisfied with ExpressScribe for controlling audio playback for transcribing interviews. Because the basic functionality of the program is so straightforward (using global hotkeys to control audio playback), I was disappointed that there was no free, open-source alternative to ExpressScribe. So I'm making one.

The TranscribeSharp UI

The TranscribeSharp UI is essentially identical to the PracticeSharp UI in this preview release. Transcription-focused changes to the UI are planned.

TranscribeSharp is a program that will let you control the playback for audio files using hotkeys while you transcribe the file in another program (e.g. Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer). You can slow down, speed up, fast forward, rewind, pause, etc. the audio using you keyboard without ever leaving the program you are transcribing with.

The Hotkey Settings menu

The Hotkey Settings menu can be used to change between two predefined sets of hotkeys.

TranscribeSharp is in large part based on PracticeSharp by Yuval Naveh with addition of the LowLevelHooks library by Curtis Rutland. I do not consider myself a skilled programmer, and TranscribeSharp is in some sense just these two pieces of software smashed together. Without PracticeSharp and LowLevelHooks, TranscribeSharp would not be possible.

Right now, this is just a preview release. There are a few bugs, but it is a functional software solution. I wrote this to use for transcribing interviews for my dissertation, but I figured that other people may be interested in using it as well. This is a very low priority project for me, though, so please understand that. I do have a list of features that I would like to eventually add (e.g. the ability to customize the hotkeys, video playpack, an installer, and a different UI), but I have no timeline for implementing these.

TranscribeSharp is written in C# using Visual Studio 2013 and licensed under the LGPL. The full source code is available at BitBucket. If anyone is interested in helping out with bug fixes or implementing new features, just get in contact with me - I am very interested in not working on this project alone. (This was also my first time really using Git, so in future releases I intend on re-structuring the way I use the dependencies.)

To use the program, just unzip the file below and run TranscribeSharp.exe. You'll need the .NET Framework (at least version 4) installed to use it. The program should work on Windows 7 and 8 (maybe more). I hope you find this program useful.

Download TranscribeSharp (Preview) version (zip, 2.6 MB) here

Null (baseline) model RMSEA in Mplus

Familiarity with statistical computing software - particularly programs as flexible and feature-filled as R and the packages on CRAN - has been a tremendous boon. However, this familiarity has sent me searching the web for a way ask for particular output that is not printed by default. This expectation that the output I want from software is available with the right option or command has led me (more than once) to forget the possibility of simply computing the required output manually.

In particular, I recently needed to compute the RMSEA of the null model for confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). A few months ago, I chose to use Mplus for the CFA because I was familiar with it (moreso than the lavaan R package at least) and it had some estimation methods I needed that other software does not always have implemented (e.g. the WLSMV estimator is not available in JMP 10 with SAS PROC CALIS).

Mplus does not print the RMSEA for the null model (or baseline model, in Mplus parlance) in the standard output, nor does there seem to be an command to request it. Fortunately, this is not an insurmountable problem because the formula for RMSEA is straightforward:

RMSEA = \frac{\sqrt{X^2 - df}}{\sqrt{df(N-1)}}

where X^2 is the observed Chi-Square test statistic, df is the associated degrees of freedom, and N is the sample size. In the Mplus output, look for "Chi-Square Test of Model Fit for the Baseline Model" for the X^2 and df values.

The reason for needing to check the null RMSEA is that incremental fit indices such as CFI and TLI may not be informative if the null RMSEA is less than 0.158 (Kenny, 2014). If you are using the lavaan package, it appears this can be calculated using the nullRMSEA function in the semTools package.

(As an aside, don't let the vintage '90s design fool you: David Kenny's website is a great resource for structural equation modeling. He has the credentials to back up the site, too: Kenny is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut.)


Kenny, D. A. (2014). Measuring Model Fit. Retrieved from

Crafting a CV: Decisions, decisions...

My curriculum vitae - the Latin origin of "CV", a term so ubiquitous in academia and so rare outside (in the US) that it may serve as a shibboleth - slowly evolved out of a résumé that I began as an undergraduate. Trying to break out of the résumé mindset and accept that brevity required of a CV was a challenge. My one-page résumé - chock full of details and action verbs - was reduced to a paltry, unimpressive CV upon entering grad school. A lack of presentations and publications as an undergrad - items inappropriate for a résumé - were the cause. When I was reviewing my professors' CVs in a search for the optimal format for mine, I caught a case of CV-envy. Continue reading

PDF Reader for Windows with Highlighting

Previously, I had been annotating PDFs on my Nexus 7 (2012) using ezPDF Reader Pro (by Unidocs) with good results. The most useful feature was the ability to highlight text in different colors. (This allowed me to color code parts of articles, e.g. yellow for general claims, blue for details about the study/article, green for things germane to my work, etc.)

I've started using a Windows 8 tablet (an Asus Transformer T100TA) and wanted a similar program. Many PDF readers support highlighting in Windows, but many (such as the free Adobe Reader) only allow yellow highlighting. Changing the color of the highlighting should be trivial, and I don't think this feature is worth the $119 for Adobe XI Pro.

Fortunately, this post on superuser led me to Okular. Part of the KDE suite, Okular is popular on Linux, but it does run on Windows. The installation is a little larger than some other programs because KDE provides a platform for many different programs, but one doesn't need to install all of them to use Okular. The tools for reviewing are accessed via F6 or the Tools menu, but the default set includes several useless (for me) tools and only a yellow highlighter. The aforementioned post, however, describes editing a tools.xml file to customize the offerings.

Okular showing customized reviewing tools and several highlighting colors in a document.

Okular showing customized reviewing tools and several highlighting colors in a document.

On Windows 8, tools.xml file is located in C:\ProgramData\KDE\share\apps\okular along with a folder named pics that holds the icons used. (The folder is probably in a different location on other versions of Windows, but searching for tools.xml should turn up the location.) I've uploaded my tools.xml file and some quick icons I made in Paint that match the highlighting colors I use below; changing the colors/tools shouldn't be difficult if my exact setup doesn't work for you. (The color/properties of individual annotations can be changed by right-clicking.)

When annotating PDFs in Okular, all of the changes are automatically saved but not in the PDF file itself. It can be a little confusing to open a file, see the highlighting, and then to email it a colleague where the highlighting has disappeared. The original PDF file that was opened does not seem to be changed by Okular. To save the highlighting in the PDF file itself, choose File -> Save As... The new file will display the highlighting on in other PDF readers on other computers.

In short, with a tiny bit of work Okular is a great, free tool for reading and annotating PDFs on Windows 8 and is comfortable to use on a tablet.

Customized tools.xml and icons (70 KB; .zip) - unzip into the above folder to use

Statistics on The West Wing

The United States decennial census features heavily in the sixth episode of The West Wing (S1E6, "Mr. Willis of Ohio"). In particular, the topic of sampling versus a door-to-door headcount is discussed at length. The episode is 45 minutes long, and would probably be appropriate for high school students and beyond. (Not to say that spending an entire class period on this one episode is the best use of time, but there is certainly value to knowing this episode exists even if it is just for interested students' knowledge.)

While sampling-versus-census is a central focus of the episode, there are other subplots. Some of the subplots may be uncomfortable for some viewers, particularly in the later part of the episode. You should watch the episode before recommending or assigning it and know your audience.

The episode is available for streaming on both Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Cast of The West Wing, © NBC

Cast of The West Wing, © NBC