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6 useful transcription tools for turning audio and video into text

Originally posted on fastcompany.

From Otter to oTranscribe, these services each offer something different for the transcriber-in-need.


Alice is a voice recording and transcription app made for journalists. I like that you can use it without looking; just open the app and tap the screen to start recording. Tap to bookmark an interesting comment. Or swipe right to pause the recording. To test the quality, visit aliceapp.ai and upload any audio file for free.


  • Recordings are emailed to you automatically when you end an interview
  • Recording works in the background, so you can take a picture or jot a note down without stopping the recording
  • After recording, you can access the recording transcript online
  • Start with two hours free to test it out

Pricing: $3/hour if you buy 100 hours; $5/hour if you buy 20 hours; $10/hour if you buy two hours. No subscription required, just buy however much transcription time you need. The team is small and responsive. Email alice@aliceapp.ai with questions.

Alternative: The Otter app works on both Android and iOS. It’s a good alternative for interviews or dictation, with a few standout features. It shows you the real-time transcript on screen as you talk; shows you what percentage of the conversation each speaker accounted for; shows summary keywords drawn from the conversation; and makes it easy to share the editable transcript and recording with teammates.


Otter has long been my go-to transcription app. It was actually the first tool I wrote about when I started this Wonder Tools newsletter early in the pandemic. One of the features I like is being able to highlight a section of an audio recording transcript and then publish that audio alongside its transcription.

Here’s an example of a published highlight section of an Otter audio recording and transcript. It’s an excerpt from a live online event summarized here, featuring Jennifer 8. Lee (yes, that’s her middle initial) talking about how independent journalists make money in a variety of ways.

I also like being able to record and transcribe audio through a browser, with Otter, which is useful when you need to transcribe an online meeting.

Pricing: Free for 600 transcription minutes per month, up to 30 minutes per conversation. $100/year for additional transcription time and pro features.


Sonix handles everything from Arabic, Chinese, French and German to Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. Most transcription services work only in English. I’m curious to hear how it works in your language, so please reply to let me know what you think.

Sonix has useful editing features:

  • It separates out speakers in your transcript automatically
  • You get word-by-word timestamps so you can easily find a key moment in your audio or video
  • You can export subtitles if you’re putting a video on YouTube
  • You get 30 minutes of free transcription to try it out

Pricing: $10/hour, or $5/hour if you subscribe for $22/month. For educators it’s $5/hour if you purchase a $29/year subscription. For an additional $3/hour, Sonix will translate your transcript into another language.


Backstage by Headliner is handy for recording Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces live audio sessions. All you have to do is sign in, then paste in the link to your audio session. When it’s over, you’ll find the recording and transcript ready to go. It’s free for now. I was impressed by the speed and ease with which the transcript showed up for a recent live session on Twitter Spaces.


Google Docs has an excellent and easy to use dictation function. Select Tools > Voice Typing or just hit Command-Shift-S and start talking. If your main need is to put your own thoughts onto paper, it’s fast, free and fits into your existing word processing workflow.

Bonus: Translate your transcript in GDocs by selecting Tools > Translate document. For more, here are 13 handy Google Docs features I like.


Wordcab is a terrific little site that takes an audio file, a text transcript, or even a YouTube URL and summarizes that meeting, discussion, or interview for you. Here’s an example of the summary text Wordcab provided after I interviewed former Evernote CEO Phil Libin. The service is still taking shape, so Wordcab’s design is rawer than bigger services like Otter and Sonix.

Pricing: Five free summaries each month. Then $24/month for 30 summaries, or $39 for 60 summaries.


oTranscribe is a simple and free site for typing out your own transcript while playing back an audio or video file. If you don’t want to pay to have someone else transcribe your audio, or if you’re dealing with sensitive or private material, this is a simple way to transcribe it yourself.

Just upload an audio or video file or input a YouTube URL. Type as you listen to the playback, hitting ESC to pause or Ctrl-J to add a timestamp. You can slow down the recording to make it easier to keep up. When you’re ready, you can export the transcript to Google Drive or as a text file.

Source: fastcompany