What comes to mind when you think of the word transcription? Does it evoke images of 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 be 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 hours. Or you can use a transcription service to convert audio files to text. There are plenty of free or low-cost options, most of which work in minutes. Here are five of the best to help you out.
Best ways to convert audio files to text
Transcription software can be pretty expensive depending on its features, 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.
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 free before buying the basic plan. You’ll get 300 minutes of free service when you sign up for an account, and once you’re out of minutes, you can choose from the Premium and Teams plans.
The cost starts at about $8.50 per month for the Pro plan (when paid annually) and gives you a ton of extra features and up to 1,200 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 has a feature called Transcribe 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 tools you can use with the transcription feature. 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 complete 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.
3. Dragon Anywhere
If you’re looking for an excellent speech-to-text option that works with your smartphone, Dragon Anywhere offers top-notch dictation capabilities straight from your phone. This app offers continuous dictation, no word limits and claims to be 99% accurate.
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 Dragon Anywhere is one of the best options if that’s your top priority. 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 noisy 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 needed.
The nice thing about Amazon Transcribe is that you can pay as you go, so if you don’t need regular transcription services, you won’t have to pay monthly for them. A free tier option gives you 60 minutes free per month for 12 months. For more information on Amazon Transcribe’s pricing, click here.
5. Google Keyboard
Are you an Android user? You may already have access to a text-to-speech app on your phone with Gboard – the Google Keyboard.
While Gboard is limited compared to some other options on this list, it’s still an excellent text-to-speech option 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 several 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.