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Tech how-to: 5 easy ways to convert audio files to text

What comes to mind when you think of the word transcription? Does this word evoke images of you leaning over your computer, headphones on, while trying to stop and start an audio recording as you type?

It’s one thing to turn written notes into typed text. Tap or click here to find out how. But transcribing audio files on your own can a huge pain, especially if you aren’t trained in the art of transcription.

You can always go the old school route of transcribing it yourself, which could take you hours, or you can opt to use a transcription app to convert your audio files to text instead. There are plenty of free or low-cost options out there to choose from — and most of them work in minutes. Here are five of the best to help you out.

The 5 best ways to convert audio files to text

1. Otter.ai

Transcription software can be pretty expensive depending on the features it offers, but if you’re looking for a free or affordable way to get the job done, check out Otter.io. It’s a real-time, cloud-based speech to text program that transcribes your audio files for you on smartphones and computers — and it’s one of the most affordable options out there.

You can use Otter to transcribe interviews, lectures or meeting recordings, or for live captioning and to collaborate between teams. If your recording has multiple speakers, each person is assigned a different ID to make it easier to understand the transcriptions. You can also use the app to organize and share your audio or text files.

What’s nice about Otter is that you can try it for free before you buy it with the basic plan. You’ll get 600 minutes of free service when you sign up for an account, and once you’re out of minutes, you can choose from the Premium plan and the Teams plan. The cost starts at about $8.50 per month for the Premium plan (when paid annually), and gives you a ton of extra features and up to 6,000 minutes of transcription.

2. Transcribe in Word

Are you a Microsoft Word user who’s looking for a transcription service? You’re in luck because Word recently rolled out a feature called Transcribe in Word that you can use to transcribe your .mp3, .wav, .m4a or .mp4 audio recordings.

The features allow you to record your conversations directly in Word for the web or upload audio files and then transcribe them automatically. It can identify different speakers within the recording and even timestamps your transcription to let you easily replay the parts of the audio file you need to edit.  

There are tons of other cool tools you can use with the transcription feature, too. Want to highlight a quote from the transcript and add it to a Word document? All you have to do is click the plus icon on the line you want and it’s inserted into your document. Or, if you want to send a full transcription of the audio file to someone else, all you have to do is click “add all to document.”

This feature is available for all Microsoft 365 subscribers and is supported in the new Microsoft Edge or Chrome browsers. Microsoft 365 personal plans start at $6.99 per month, and you’ll get up to five hours of transcription services per month with your subscription.

Related: These are the free tools companies like Google and Microsoft are offering at-home workers

3. Dragon Anywhere

If you’re looking for an excellent speech-to-text option that works with your smartphone, Dragon Anywhere is an app that offers top-notch dictation capabilities straight from your phone. This app offers continuous dictation, no word limits and claims to be 99% accurate.

Unlike some of the other options on this list, Dragon Anywhere shines because it can learn how you speak, making each transcription more accurate than the last. You can use it to transcribe interviews, spoken notes and other audio files, and you can format and edit your transcriptions quickly. You can also share them with anyone or any device via Dropbox or another cloud service.

This transcription app is built on accuracy, so if that’s your top priority, Dragon Anywhere is one of the best options around. You can try it out free for a week, but you’ll have to purchase a subscription to use Dragon Anywhere after that free trial is up. Subscriptions start at $14.99 per month.

4. Amazon Transcribe

If most of your audio files are recorded in loud public places, check out Amazon Transcribe. This cloud-based automatic speech recognition platform was built to convert audio files to text, and it works well with low-quality or noisy audio files.

While Amazon Transcribe is primarily geared toward businesses, you can still use it for your individual transcription needs. In return, you’ll get accurate, well-formatted transcriptions of the audio files you submit for transcriptions.

Amazon Transcribe automatically adds punctuation and formatting, and you’ll also get access to other features that you can use to edit and manage your transcribed texts. Your transcriptions will have time stamping, speaker identification, and even document annotation if you need it.

The nice thing about Amazon Transcribe is that you have the option to pay as you go, so if you aren’t in need of regular transcription services, you won’t have to pay monthly for them. There is also a free tier option, which gives you 60 minutes free per month for 12 months. For more information on Amazon Transcribe’s pricing, tap or click here.

5. Google Keyboard

Are you an Android user? You may already have access to a text-to-speech app right on your phone with Gboard – the Google Keyboard.

While Gboard is limited compared to some of the other options on this list, it’s still a great text-to-speech option to use for transcribing your audio files to text. All you need is an audio file to upload and Google Keyboard will convert your audio to text in minutes with about 90% accuracy.

What’s cool about Google Keyboard is that it works with a number of languages: English, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. It also works in tandem with Google Translate so you can transcribe and translate your audio files if you need to.

Even better, though? It’s free. Use Gboard to transcribe audio files with no limits and no extra cost to you.

Don’t see it on your Android phone? Tap or click here to download Gboard – the Google Keyboard. There’s also an iOS version for you iPhone users, which you can download by tapping or clicking here.

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