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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


  1. JoetteB
    JoetteB March 30, 2015

    I stumbled upon your Express Scribe screed (don't disagree) and followed your link here out of curiosity, as I'm both a transcriptionist and all about open-source solutions to issues -- which is why I run Linux and use a similar kind of mash-up of VLC and xdotools that my husband cobbled together. I don't, unfortunately, code myself, so I can't offer assistance with that aspect of your post. I can say, however, that if you can imp in foot pedal support, you may find quite a bit of interest by the transcription world in what you've written.

    Also, if you like the idea of a completely open source (OS on down) solution to the problem, instructions are here:

    • Doug
      Doug March 31, 2015

      Thanks for the comment and the link to using VLC for transcription. Implementing pedal support is something I would like to do, but I don't have a foot pedal and just make use of keyboard shortcuts for transcription, so this is definitely more of a horizon goal if I keep being the only contributor. I don't have to do too much transcription, so a simple tool is all I need to fit into my workflow... for now. =]

      I think that a similar solution could be done on Windows using AutoHotkey (, also open-source software (GPLv2). The downside to this solution is that it requires scripting and therefore isn't as straightforward to use as a standalone solution. This blog post has proof-of-concept code for using a foot pedal with AutoHotkey, but I don't know if anyone has published a complete, Windows-based solution for it yet. I think part of the hurdle is that many foot pedals use different ways of interfacing with Windows and send different signals when buttons are pressed, so many solutions will be suited to limited circumstances (e.g. a single foot pedal model). The benefits of software like ExpressScribe is that they have a team of people that can spend the time to support a wide variety of foot pedals, but this of course translates into a cost for the software.

  2. Jennifer
    Jennifer June 13, 2015

    I totally wanted to use this, but it is not available for Mac. Back to ExpressScribe I go. I know this isn't a priority, but do you think you will add a Mac version? Thanks.

    • Doug
      Doug June 21, 2015

      Hi Jennifer, it is unlikely that I'll make a Mac version - I primarily use Windows and, in the interest of making the software quickly, chose to use the Microsoft .NET platform to code it. Pros: it made adapting the code from an existing project pretty easy. Cons: it's pretty much locked-in to the Windows platform. (There is a project to provide cross-platform support for the .NET technologies called Mono, though I doubt it would be as easy as we both hope it would be to make this program work on Mac.)

      However, there are definitely other things that you can do on the Mac system that can be considered alternatives to ExpressScribe. This StackExchange post describes using Apple's Automator and Quicktime in conjunction to create Global Hotkeys. It's definitely more work than just downloading a program, but it would likely be a solution that would work in the end. (That link is a little light on the details, but I suspect that Apple's Automator is well-documented and that there are many resources online.) Sorry that I don't know of any more - I'm not a Mac person-anymore. The key phrase that you'd be looking for when searching for programs that are comparable is "Global Hotkeys" - applications that have this feature tend to highlight that they do.

  3. DanZee
    DanZee July 17, 2015

    I agree with JoetteB that the transcription world would be interested in an alternative to Express Scribe. ES established itself in the industry by giving award its transcription software and charging for dictation software. I'm not sure there was that much demand for dictation software since there are so many recording programs and digital recorders around, so then NCH focused on selling an upgraded version of ES. Soon after, it crippled the free version, forcing people to buy the software after a few days. It is also forcing other software onto people's computers without their permission, and changing registry settings to associate pop-up ads for its software with just about every file type you can click on.

    So the transcription industry would certainly appreciate an alternative to Express Scribe, and if it were free or a reasonable $5 or $10 in price, it could certainly win people over. It would be great if you could create an ES rival or hire coders to create a professional version of TranscribeSharp. I think there's a market there.

  4. Nuria
    Nuria September 2, 2015

    Thank you! I am a Spanish PhD student. I have just started to use your programme and uninstalled express scribe from my computer. Long life to open source! 🙂

  5. Judith
    Judith October 2, 2016

    Hi Doug,

    is it possible to use a foot pedal together with your program?

    Kind regards,


    • Doug
      Doug November 21, 2016

      There is no built-in support for a foot pedal. But I believe there are other programs out there that will map foot pedals to certain button combinations. Using a complementary program like this would, I believe, allow foot pedals to work with it.

  6. Tammy Clemons
    Tammy Clemons December 11, 2016

    I used ExpressScribe for a couple of years and was disappointed to learn about associated malware. I love TranscribeSharp and have used it for several interviews for my dissertation research.

    However, I find the TranscribeSharp hotkey commands a little cumbersome when transcribing in Word, and I tried to remap them using AutoHotkey. This worked when I attempted to remap the keyboard shortcuts for audio playback in OneNote, but for some reason, using the same script structure for TranscribeSharp is not working. I checked the "Tech. Log" and it shows the following two errors:
    Error MainFormThread Error unregistering hotkeys

    Error MainFormThread Exception Details:GlobalHotkeys.GlobalHotkeyException: Hotkey failed to unregister.
    at GlobalHotkeys.GlobalHotkey.Unregister(IntPtr hWnd, Int32 Id) in c:\Users\Douglas\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\Scratch\TranscribeSharp-Preview\GlobalHotkeys\GlobalHotkey.cs:line 51
    at BigMansStuff.PracticeSharp.UI.MainForm.setGHK(Modifiers modifier, Keys key, Int32 hkID, IWin32Window window, Boolean registerImmediately) in c:\Users\Douglas\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\Scratch\TranscribeSharp-Preview\PracticeSharpApp\UI\MainForm.cs:line 65

    I would love to figure out how to fix this if possible, and I can provide the AutoHotkey script and more details about what I'm trying to do if needed. I also successfully created a script to open TranscribeSharp and Microsoft Word simultaneously using the WIN + T keyboard shortcut. Thanks for any guidance you can provide and for offering such a simple and effective transcription software for fellow researchers.

    • Doug
      Doug February 26, 2017

      Hi Tammy, unfortunately I am generally unfamiliar with AutoHotKey, and I don't currently have the time to try to ferret out the cause of this bug. Sorry.

      If anyone wants to help out with TranscribeSharp, though, I'm absolutely open to that.

      • Tammy Clemons
        Tammy Clemons April 1, 2017

        I don't have the skill to work on it directly, but would be very interested knowing if someone figures out how to customize the built-in hotkeys for playback, pause, etc. Thanks again for sharing this excellent resource! I've recommended TranscribeSharp to many of my grad school friends and colleagues and included it among a collection of software and other resources I've found useful for my own work in cultural anthropology (

  7. Greg
    Greg March 3, 2017

    I love your program. I used Express Scribe (frequently), but now will be switching over. O

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