Dictapad is an iPad app that aids in the transcription of long audio files. It’s a snappy text editor with an integrated audio player. Keyboard shortcuts make it easy to adjust playback rate, scrub back and forth, and even insert timestamps automatically.
Dictapad is $4.99 US and is available on the App Store.
Dictapad was conceived in the course of transcribing and editing interviews for The Outcomes Project. The iPad with an external keyboard was an ideal device for writing, managing releases and maintaining the database of participants, but the task of transcribing required a Mac. There had to be a better way.
The initial functionality — a text editor with a variable-rate audio player — came together within 24 hours. UI polish and additional functionality came in the weeks that followed; after extensive testing with real-world interviews from the project, it was released in August of 2011.
Dictapad uses a split view with a file list on the left and a text editor on the right. The design is clean and professional, with cool, dark toolbars and navigation bars, and a subtle pinstripe behind the file list.
The text editor uses the Optima typeface, and has subtle gray lines over an off-white background. The lower contrast and subtle lines make for supremely readable text that’s easy on the eyes.
This app was designed from the start to be best experienced with an external keyboard. Dictapad has five keyboard shortcuts, all designed to be intuitive and quick to execute.
- The accent key and the backslash key scrub back and forward, respectively. Their positions at the far left and far right of the keyboard make them natural spots for this shortcut action.
- Holding Shift when pressing these shortcuts slows down or speeds up playback.
- Pressing ‘Enter’ three times inserts the current timestamp at the playhead into the document.
Advanced Document Interaction
Dictapad is a simple tool that’s meant to fit snugly into a larger workflow. To this end, it has to be dead simple to get audio in, and get documents out.
Dictapad supports importing audio from iTunes File Sharing, from the iPad’s music library, and from any app that uses a Document Interaction Controller. This means that from the iPad’s mail app and a number of iPad voice recorders, getting audio into Dictapad is as simple as tapping your audio file and selecting “Open in Dictapad.”
Dictapad also supports getting your transcriptions out quickly and easily. Dictapad uses its own Document Interaction Controller to offer a text file to Pages, PlainText, Elements, or your favorite iPad text editor.
Printing is a natural feature for a document-based app, and Dictapad is no slouch here. Dictapad’s printouts are clean and well designed, going above and beyond what most iPad text editors offer.
Printouts include page numbers and other basic information in a header on each page. They also offer space for custom header text, such as a project name or a copyright notice — that can be changed in Settings.