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If you are looking for a transcription software that is effective and user-friendly, Express Scribe is the tool to choose. Some people prefer The FTW Transcriber but I have been using Express Scribe for the past 5 years and it hasn’t disappointed me. Not even once.

It’s easy to use, has start, stop, and rewind features and most of all, it’s free. There is a Pro version but if you are just starting out I would recommend the free version, at least until you are able to afford the paid version.

It has hotkeys that allow you to type without having to switch between MS Word and Express Scribe. If you are not familiar with it, let me help you set it up correctly today. Enjoy!

Step 1:  Installing/Running Express Scribe

  • Click here to get instant access to free Express Scribe.
  • You will be taken to a Google Drive folder that has the free version of Express Scribe.
  • That version is compatible with all media files including YouTube videos
  • Download it then run it on your computer
  • Click the Save button then agree with the license terms provided.
  • Uncheck the many boxes that will follow because they are not relevant at this stage
  • Then click Finish and Express Scribe will be successfully installed on your computer.
  • You will know this as it will play automatically after installation.

Step 2:  Selecting Hotkeys

  • Setting up your hotkeys will make your work easier and help you work faster
  • Open Express Scribe interface
  • Click on Options it will give you several buttons
  • Click on Hotkeys. Default hotkeys will be as shown below:
  • F2      –  Play Slow Speed
  • F3      –  Play Fast Speed
  • F4      –  Stop
  • F5      –  Open Express Scribe
  • F6      –  Minimize Express Scribe
  • F7      –  Rewind
  • F8      –  Fast Forward
  • F9      –  Play
  • F10    –  Play Real Speed
  • As you will notice, those keys are not easy to work with especially if you are just starting out. What I would recommend is changing them a little bit.
  • When you want to change a hot key hit on Add. A pop up box will appear. Go on Command then select Play, Stop, Rewind or whichever command that you want.
  • Next click on Change then you will be asked to press a random key. Once you hit that key it will be saved automatically.
  • This is how I changed my hotkeys to suit my transcription needs

Express scribe hotkeys

  • Left arrow key    –       Rewind
  • Right arrow key  –     Stop
  • Downward key   –     Play Slow Speed
  • Upward key         –     Forward
  • Ins                         –      Play

Note:  I chose Right Arrow and Ins as Stop and Play respectively because they are close and make work easier.

Step 3:  Setting Playback Buttons

  • In options click on Playback button.
  • A number of boxes will be displayed
  • Hover the mouse to a box that says “Auto backspace on stop (ms):”
  • The number displayed will be at zero (0). Click on it till you reach number 1500 then  stop there and click OK.
  • Now when you play the audio and stop, it will be backspaced a few words behind. This is really helpful in areas where you can’t clearly hear what the speaker is saying. You are able to quickly re-listen and catch something that you might have missed the first time.

Step 4: Loading Your First Audio

  • Click the Load button in the Express Scribe interface.
  • A pop up box will appear
  • Click File then go to Browse
  • Choose a location where you stored the files when you first downloaded them. It can be Desktop, Documents or any other area that you choose.
  • The best part is that you are allowed to save multiple files at a go.

Step 5:  Transcribing

  • After loading the files click on one of them and start typing what the speaker says using the Start, Stop, Rewind hotkeys.
  • You can increase the volume or reduce it by pressing on the green ribbon-like button shown on the right side of Express Scribe. You can also increase or reduce the speed by pressing the speed button that is right below the volume button. It is usually at (100%). Reducing it to 90 or 95% when a speaker is speaking fast is advisable.

Note:  To make your work easier click on Scribe Mini button in the Express Scribe interface and reduce its size. This way you will have it on top of the Word document and you won’t have to keep switching between the two. A really, really great time saver.



  1. Carol Mtange Reply

    This is awesome, thank you so very much, I have learned a load of superb tips here. You are the best, God bless

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  5. Great work, Virginia, you are so talented that I am your fan, I got too much from you.

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