Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Better transcription with VLC and Notepad++

Yesterday I posted about humorously bad automatic audio transcription. Turns out that's not the answer, so I turned to the manual route for the time being.

The biggest problem is that because I don't have any dedicated transcription software, I am stuck with a very awkward method of alt tabbing between VLC (the media player) and notepad++ (my text editor) along with spacebar (to play and pause) and alt+left and alt+right to skip a few seconds backward and forward. This becomes really clumsy when I don't pause before switching to notepad++ so the audio keeps playing too far, or I forget where I am and start trying to type in the VLC window. Very slow. So I set about remedying this. What follows is my solution and perhaps might help you speed up your transcription too if you can't afford to buy dedicated software. I'm sure there are some other free tools around or more elegant solutions, but I like using Notepad++ and VLC and my solution is working well for me so far. It should work with any text editor, although VLC is necessary for this system.

So if you're following along at home, get VLC and AutoHotkey and Notepad++ [optional] and Windows. Sorry, AutoHotkey is Windows only as far as I know.

I built a little script that would help me out as it's running in the background. Because I have a keyboard (Logitech G710+) with several macro keys, I was able to bind a complex hotkey to a single button that I can reach with my pinky while typing. I chose Ctrl+alt+(a number) because that wasn't bound to anything already in notepad++ and I didn't have to remember it anyway. The huge advantage is that I am able to play, pause, jump back and forward without losing focus in my text editor. I never have to take my hands off the keyboard or touch the VLC window. With the final hotkey, Ctrl+alt+5 bound to G1, I can pull the current timecode from the media file and paste it into my text editor so that I can mark the spot I'm transcribing.

Here are the keys and their functions in the order I can reach them on my keyboard:

G6: Ctrl+alt+8 - Play or pause the VLC media file, without losing focus in the text editor
G5: Ctrl+alt+9 - Jump back 3 seconds
G4: Ctrl+alt+0 - Jump forward 3 seconds
G3: Ctrl+alt+7 - Jump back 10 seconds
G2: Ctrl+alt+6 - Jump forward 10 seconds
G1: Ctrl+alt+5 - Paste the current timecode into the text

You can edit the "jump distances" by tweaking what Alt+left, right, and Ctrl+left, right do in VLC:

You can use the hotkeys even without a macro keyboard; just edit them in the .ahk file to something a little easier, like Ctrl+` or something. Some helpful documentation on that here.

Finally, you can download the script here!

Hope that helps someone, because it's saving me lots of headaches already.



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Hello, your macro to paste the timecode doesn't seem to work. I manually imitated the keystrokes to see what it actually does but id didn't help either.

    1. Where do you get stuck? Try these manually
      1) Switch to VLC
      2) Ctrl-t (does this open the Go to Time dialog)?
      3) Alt + right arrow (four times) - does this trap the cursor in the time box?
      4) Ctrl-a (select all) Ctrl-c (copy) Alt-tab (switch to notepad) Ctrl-v (paste)

  4. Thank you for the tip. I use VLC 2.2.4 and it doesn't seem to have any shortcuts for GoTo Time dialog. Yet, I found it in the dropdown menu so I will write an ahk macro for that.


  5. Thank you very much!
    It's been a really useful script, and it's saving me tons of time, even without macro keys.

    But I have a little and strange problem: from time to time, when I press Jump back 3 seconds or Jump forward 3 seconds, the video jumps back or forward 5 minutes instead of 3 seconds. It doesn't happen if I do it directly in VLC (alt+right/left), and it doesn't follow a fixed pattern that I can determine; it's pretty random.
    Do you have any idea of what can be the problem?

    In any case, thank you very much for your help!

    1. Hmm, that's strange. The only thing I can think is perhaps Ctrl is getting accidentally pressed along with the jump button, causing the long jump to be activated (Ctrl+alt+right). To see if that's the case, try disabling the long jump hotkeys in VLC or changing them to something different.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.