Focus on Audacity for speech transcription

In a FAQ we find:
“What features does Audacity have for speech transcription or speech recognition?
Audacity is not specialised transcription or speech recognition software, but has some useful features for those transcribing speech manually.
• You can use Transcription Toolbar to play audio more slowly (also lowering the pitch).
• You can add labels at the playback position using CTRL + M (or COMMAND + . on Mac) then type into the label. Use File > Export Labels… to export a tab-delimited plain text file containing the text and audio position of each label.
• Audacity has many other configurable keyboard shortcuts that can be used to control playback and editing. However as yet Audacity has no global shortcuts that work even if you have focus in another program. Some mouse gestures (not yet configurable) can also be used.
Foot pedals: Audacity has no built-in support for foot pedals, but if you can install a suitable driver so that the pedal delivers mouse clicks or key strokes, Audacity can be controlled by those. The pedal manufacturer might be able to assist, or some pedals (for example, Vpedal or X-keys) already come with software to map pedal buttons to specific keystrokes. Alternatively if your pedal is recognised by the computer as a Game Controller or Human Interface Device, you may be able to use third-party software such as AutoHotKey (Windows) to map pedal buttons to keystrokes. USB Overdrive can do the same on Mac for a USB pedal.”

My problem is: how do I get the focus on Audacity while I am writing in a Word file to make a transcription? A command like CTRL + M is read by Word and not by Audacity, so I can’t change the position in a mp3 file being played by Audacity. Is there any solution to this problem, also considering that in the real transcription job a foot pedal should be used. Thanks.

Change focus (ALT + TAB) to Audacity when you want to use a command in Audacity. You can also tile the Audacity and Word windows side-by-side (right-click in empty space in the Windows taskbar) then just click in the Audacity window to give it focus. Audacity doesn’t have shortcuts that work when you have focus in other applications.

It is a feature request to support arbitrary foot pedals. We’ll add your vote.


The idea is to use Audacity for the transcription by inserting labels during playback.
The label track will then be exported and can be formatted with. e.g. Word.

If you do not like to create labels yourself, you can use the “Sound Finder” Analyze plugin to pre-produce comfortably short chunks.
You can then use the Tab keys to move around the labels and enter the transcription.
It might also be good to reassign the keyboard shortcut for “Play/Stop” (in Preferences).
If you e.g. choose ctrl-space instead of space, you can play the audio while you’re editing a label.

I don’t know exactly what procedure claudio.bonechi was using but he was already trying to use CTRL + M which would add an Audacity label at the playback position.

If you use Audacity labels I do suggest you create labels for each sentence or short paragraph as Robert suggests because Audacity labels are not visible beyond the right edge of the project window. So you can’t see what you’re typing in very long labels. You can zoom out to see more but you want to be reasonably zoomed in to see what you are playing.


Change focus (ALT + TAB) to Audacity when you want to use a command in Audacity

I apologize for my insufficient explanation of my problem. Of course if I do ALT + TAB I get the focus on Audacity, but this is just the operation I want to avoid! A program like Express Scribe, for example, receives the commands from keyboard or pedal without the need of pressing ALT + TAB and this is exactly what is needed when you have to quickly transcribe a text from a mp3 file, because the audio can be (and actually often is) barely intelligible and you need to go back and forth (preferably using pedals) in the audio file without interrupting your typing.
Is this achievable with Audacity? The reason why we would like to use Audacity because of its better audio quality compared to Express Scribe, which makes the intelligibility much better.

I don’t know much about transcription, but from your description, it sounds like a task that would benefit greatly from a specialised program developed specifically for the task. Why have two applications open? Wouldn’t it be better if the same application had all of the playback and audio transport controls that you want to use, AND full text editing. AND speech recognition, in the same application? I doubt that Audacity will be going down that route, but Audacity is open source, so modifying it for other (open source) purposes is allowed.

Robert and I were saying what is possible now. If it is more convenient to write in Word, then I would personally resize Audacity and Word and move their windows side by side. Then you can see both windows and have the choice of mouse as well as ALT + TAB to switch focus.

As I explained, Audacity does not yet have keyboard shortcuts that work when other applications have focus. It is a popular request, which would serve a number of different purposes.

What you could do is Effect > Change Tempo… on the audio to slow down its playback (not affecting the pitch). Then you may not have to switch back to Audacity so often. You can do the same with Effect > Sliding Time Scale / Pitch Shift… . That has higher quality, but takes longer to process the audio.