Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: spoken word audio file to text file transcription software ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: spoken word audio file to text file transcription software
Category: Computers > Software
Asked by: brainheart-ga
List Price: $11.00
Posted: 09 Oct 2002 06:40 PDT
Expires: 08 Nov 2002 05:40 PST
Question ID: 74423
I'm looking for software that will turn a spoken word audio file into
I have dozens of microcassettes full of memos and want them
transcribed. I've figured out how to transfer them to my mac, but at
the moment I'm stuck typing them out.
The contents are of a personal nature and I don't feel comfortable
sending them to an outside service (for which I've seen plenty of
I run mac os-x, red hat linux, and windows 98 at home, so software for
any of these systems would interest me.
Ideally, the software would run as a unix-style command line utility,
but I'll take what I can get.

example of how I'd like this program to run:

./transcribe memo_2002_11.aiff > memo_2002_11.txt 

Free and open source would be beautiful, but I'll take what I can get.
It would be beautiful if it could recognize new entries and delimit
them with newlines. I don't care if it's slow. I'd be happy to let it
run overnight on a 30 minute file.

If someone can tell me authoritatively that there is no such thing,
I'd be interested in hearing that too.

Thanks in advance!
Subject: Re: spoken word audio file to text file transcription software
Answered By: vinods-ga on 09 Oct 2002 08:26 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Although there are a few systems providing speech to text, the
fundamental process, that is speech recognition, is still at a stage
when the science-fiction stuff you see in the movies actually becomes
a fully viable reality!

Another issue with what you want to do is that you have your speech
recorded into micro cassette. Almost all speech recognition systems
need 'crystal-clear' sound because the technology is still at a stage
when it cannot ignore too much background noise and intonation
problems (not with the way you speak but with the way your speech is
reproduced from this media!). In fact these systems maintain that you
will need a very good microphone (they certify certain products
against others that will work with their systems) and a noise-free

Yet another issue is that most speech recognition software requires to
be 'trained' with a particular voice before it begins to recognize
words correctly. I have personally tried using the Microsoft Windows
XP speech recognition system and have come up with hilarious results!
It does have to do with my accent, but then any human voice, including
yours has an accent. After all, we cannot talk like those speaking
machines you hear in the movies with synthesized voices! Not to
mention the overall vocabulary of a doll that says "I'm hungry!"
However Apple claims its software does not need any training. (The URL
is listed below.)

I do feel that what you want to do is a tall order. One, because of
the nature of what you want to do and two, because the software
technology is not yet geared up for this.

If you want to try out any of the software options listed below, you
will have to do one thing first. You will have to transfer all your
cassettes to the hard drive and maybe spend some time 'cleaning it up'
before you can apply the speech recognition software. If you do want
to go ahead and try it out, I can run you through how you have to do
this 'clean-up' procedure. Of course, this is as big a question as
this one!



Text to Speech to Text 
I conduct interviews, which I record. Is there a program that can
translate these interviews into editable text?
In theory, yes. Your only hope is to purchase a speech recognition
system like IBM's ViaVoice or ScanSoft's Dragon NaturallySpeaking and
try to feed it audio from your handheld voice recorder. There's a
slight chance it will be clever enough to turn your interviews into
coherent text.
Whether you plug your recorder directly into your sound card or simply
hold it up to the PC's microphone, even the best speech recognition
apps will turn your recorded audio into gibberish. Trying both methods
with an analog Panasonic recorder and the latest version of ViaVoice,
we couldn't get a single word converted into text.
The problem is that a program like ViaVoice doesn't work well unless
it's been trained to understand a specific person's voice and to
compensate for a particular environment's ambient noise.
—Cade Metz, senior writer
Copyright  2002 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

------- SOME RESOURCES -------

Scansoft, a company that makes Dragon Speech recognition software has
an opinion about speech recognition... See White Papers from (requires registration)


How Dragon NaturallySpeaking works

The Speech Recognition Forum

From Your Lips To Your Printer - article by James Fallows

Speech Recognition Technology: Maximizing Efficiency in Document
Preparation and Case Management

-------- Some speech recognition programs -------


Dragon Naturally Speaking

Apple Speech Recognition

IBM VIAVOICE for Windows and Mac

*** This is an open source ***
The CMU Sphinx Group Open Source Speech Recognition Engines for
GNU/Linux, UNIX variants, and Windows NT or later 

SpeechMagic™ from Phillips

Microsoft Windows XP and Office 2002 have in-built speech recognition

warm regards
brainheart-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Not the answer I was hoping for -- but then the answer I was hoping
for wouldn't have been true. Very thoroughly and speedily answered.

Subject: Re: spoken word audio file to text file transcription software
From: vinods-ga on 09 Oct 2002 10:51 PDT
Hi brainheart, 

I think you can give Dragon or Apple software a try. Please refer back
to my point about 'cleaning up' the audio from your micro cassettes.
Of course, you will need another piece of WAV / AIFF editing software
like Soundforge to do this.

First you have to copy the audio, actually 'record' the audio from the
cassette to your hard drive and then clean it up.

I would advise you to make this trial if and only if you find a fully
operating free trial download or a money-back guarantee for the

Your comment about my answer is commendable because you understand and
realise the limitations of this process as technology stands today.

Thank you and warm regards,

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy