Free Transcription Software: When (And When Not) To Use It

By: Verbit Editorial

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If you spend time on media hosting sites or virtual communication platforms, you’re probably familiar with automatic captioning and transcription. Major players in the digital media space now recognize the critical role transcription plays in making audio and video content more accessible to diverse audiences. That’s why auto-transcription features are becoming more widespread. 

On their face, these free transcription tools seem convenient and budget-friendly, but are they really up to the task of improving accessibility? Let’s discuss when free transcription software makes sense and explore other options for making content and communications more accessible. 

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Transcription in a Nutshell  

Most simply, transcription is the process of converting audio to text. Transcription can add value to content offerings across various fields. It makes the information in an audio or video sample more accessible to anyone who needs or prefers to engage with information in a written format. For instance, audience members who are Deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and other specific learning needs, may benefit from this tool. Not only does transcription help to make audio and video content more accessible to some individuals with disabilities, but it also streamlines communication and improves a brand’s online discoverability.  

In a traditional transcription process, human transcribers listen repeatedly to an audio sample and manually type everything they hear. Manual transcription, while capable of achieving high rates of accuracy, tends to be fairly labor-intensive and time-consuming. Because of the importance of making transcription technology more accessible and efficient, software developers are devising transcription tools to help streamline this process.  

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How Does Free Transcription Software Work? 

Recent advances in artificial intelligence technology make it possible for computers to complete transcription projects in a fraction of the time it might take a human transcriber to do so manually. This time-saving solution is powered by a type of artificial intelligence known as automatic speech recognition technology, or ASR. ASR relies on highly advanced learning models to interpret and respond to human speech. This kind of technology can power virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa and is responsible for tools that allow smartphones to convert speech to text.  

The majority of free transcription software solutions currently available on the market use ASR to create transcripts of audio and video content. A few examples include Google Docs speech-to-text software, the free voice-to-text feature in Microsoft Word and a version of the Transcribe app and online editor. 

While convenient and cost-effective, it’s important to understand that the benefits of using these free and built-in transcription tools don’t always outweigh the risks. Auto-generated transcripts may be acceptable for personal use or in contexts where accuracy is not a top priority. However, in some industries, such as legal or medical, free ASR tools are just not a viable option. Additionally, for those creators and other professionals seeking transcription as an accessibility tool, it is essential to consider all available transcription options before defaulting to the easiest or cheapest solution.  

Limitations and Considerations  

Even with recent advances in artificial intelligence technology, general automatic transcription solutions can’t always provide the best results. ASR-generated transcripts often contain numerous errors. This issue can impede their ability to offer equitable experiences to audience members with disabilities. Transcription errors may seem inconsequential, and at times, they may even seem a bit humorous. However, modern accessibility standards dictate that all captions and transcripts must achieve exceptionally high accuracy rates, and auto-generated transcripts often contain too many errors to support these accessibility requirements with any degree of reliability. 

Automatic speech recognition technology is highly advanced in its own right, but it has limitations. For example, computers often fail to accurately interpret information from recordings with poor audio quality. If the recording has significant background noise, if people don’t speak at the ideal distance from a microphone or use low-quality recording equipment, ASR may produce unintelligible results. Similarly, ASR-powered transcription tools may need help to correctly transcribe recordings with multiple speakers or diverse dialects and accents. ASR is, therefore, not a great fit for many recordings.  

Data security and privacy are two other major considerations for professionals looking to utilize transcription technology. Many free transcription platforms don’t prioritize confidentiality, making these low-cost solutions ineffective for industries where privacy might be a concern, including finance, journalism, medicine and the legal sector.  

Fortunately, there are other ways to benefit from ASR technology, even for difficult recordings and sensitive information.  

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What are Some Alternatives to Free Transcription Software? 

Rather than relying upon ASR-powered free transcription tools, professionals and creators across various industries can turn to trusted transcription services like Verbit. Verbit has options that take advantage of the speed and efficiency of artificial intelligence with oversight from professionally trained human transcribers.  

In many cases, Verbit’s proprietary ASR serves specific industries because of specialized training. For instance, the training of Verbit’s Legal ASR makes this tool more accurate for transcription within the industry. However, if the quality of the recording is less than ideal or the use case requires extra attention to detail, customers can opt for transcripts that undergo professional editing.  

In these cases, when a user uploads a recording to Verbit’s platform, Verbit’s ASR produces the initial transcript. From there, one of Verbit’s human transcriptionists will perform a review and edit to provide a highly accurate final product. This process delivers final transcripts with accuracy rates that support critical accessibility standards and guidelines. Verbit can also produce transcripts in multiple languages and make those files downloadable in various formats. Users can then export their captions to major video hosting and social media platforms.  

In addition to supporting transcription of existing audio and video recordings, Verbit offers a range of live transcription options that make real-time communications more engaging and accessible. Whether you’re looking to transcribe your next Zoom meeting or provide an accurate real-time transcript of a live event or conference, Verbit’s transcription platform can help you get the job done securely, efficiently and accurately.  

Verbit Offers the Best of Both Worlds  

Some content creators may come to the conclusion that free transcription software is enough for their purposes. While it might be a quick and convenient resource for small-scale transcription projects that aren’t subject to accessibility requirements, it’s too risky for many other use cases. To support content and communications with accurate, reliable transcripts, it’s better to utilize a professional solution.  

In addition to offering highly accurate transcription of live and recorded content, Verbit’s platform also features captioning, translation and audio description further to improve the accessibility of audio and video content. Verbit’s unique approach to transcription offers the convenience and efficiency of low-cost auto-transcription solutions with added benefits like increased accuracy, multi-language capabilities and personalized transcription formats. Learn more about how Verbit can make your content more accessible and inclusive by reaching out today to explore our advanced transcription solutions.