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The ins and outs of audio transcription, using a Word Processor. 180 wpm is an achievable verbatim transcribing speed. Higher if you integrate speech recognition. Using a Maltron Keyboard, WordPerfect and Dragon Naturally Speaking.


Using the Word Processor Effectively

Using The Word Processor for Text Expansion

Whilst there a few pretty good text expander programs on the market, I've steered clear of these simply because they are "external" to the word processing program, and there can be clashes with native WP functions. And when I buy a new computer, I have yet another package to remember to install and "tune up".

This article covers the 2 most common word processors, MS Word (MSW) and WordPerfect (WP), both Windows (WPWIN) and 5.1 for DOS (WPDOS).

WordPerfect for Dos

In WPDOS there is nothing similar to the QuickCorrect in WPWIN or MSW's AutoCorrect. Instead I created my text expander using the macro function.

To create an abbreviation eg Your Honour the following keystrokes are needed:

Ctrl F10 to define (name) the macro.
Type "yh" [enter]
Type "your Honour"
Ctrl F10 to finish macro creation.

NOTE: In some cases a string of text may sometimes begin with a capitalised letter. In WPDOS there is no automatic "initial word" capitalisation function. If the string is likely to need this, ie it's something appears at the start of a sentence fairly frequently, for this choice I insert a single character pause. (Click on the graphic to see the whole picture.)


To execute the macro the keystrokes are Alt F10 [macro name] [Enter].

I found this to be fairly keystroke intensive, especially for a macro to insert a short word or phrase. I needed a different approach to speed things up.

I was after the same thing that QuickCorrect/AutoCorrect, and indeed the Glossary function in WP 6.1 for DOS does, type in the abbreviation and have a single keystroke executing it.

I created this macro:


What this macro (which I call "Glossary" to match it to the WPDOS 6.1 function) does is select back to the beginning of the abbreviation (eg "yh") copy it, delete the abbreviation, set the VAR0 (variable zero) to read the deleted text, then execute the macro with the name VAR0, in other words tell the program to execute the macro with the name of the abbreviation. I then attach the "Glossary" macro to whichever key I like, so what I do is type in the abbreviation eg "yh", tap the execute key and the expanded "your Honour" appears (unless I have the pause to type in a capital or lower case letter).

Before I (reluctantly) ceased using WPDOS I had created about 1500 macros and was able to type quite fluently using them.

Because these are created in DOS, each macro has a limit of 8 character for its name, which is not really a difficulty, one of the requirements for an abbreviation is ... brevity. I have 3 rules which I use:


ALAN: - the macro name must be As Long As Necessary (up to 8 characters in DOS)
ASAP: - the macro name must be As Short As Possible.
WDIM: - It must mean something to you (and only you). What Does It Mean.

NOTE: In DOS there are a couple of "reserved" words which cannot be used for macro names. The only one I've encountered is CON.

Keyboard File

WordPerfect (both DOS and Windows) has a function for altering/adding functions to keystrokes. Whilst MSW has this function, only one keyboard file per document template seems to be permitted, and I have not been able to "change keyboards" in mid-document. (I have, under certain circumstances, been able to "attach" a different document template to achieve this end, but it is rather finicky.) To be able to do this is an extremely useful function. For example, when I'm doing say a coroner's hearing, and the forensic pathologist gets into the witness box and starts reading out the post-mortem report, I can change to my medical keyboard, then when proceedings return to "normal", I go back to my "normal" keyboard.

Other differences between WPWIN and MSW are shown in the following graphic:


At the top is the WPWIN keyboard "map" and underneath is the MSW equivalent. The map shows instantly which keystrokes are free to be used, whereas the MSW only shows one function at a time.

I've found to get the best out of my package, I've had to go right back to the very basics and go through the keyboard map and strip out all the functions I don't think I'll need. (Things like going to the next open window, next open document, previous open document etc, most of which are used very little and can be achieved by mouse clicking on this odd occasion.) I can also re-assign from one key to another. In comparing MSW to WPWIN you will notice that MSW has very few functions actually attached to the F(unction) keys, whereas WPWIN has something attached to EVERY function key, with duplications eg format bold face can be Ctrl B or F6. I chose to remove the function from Ctrl B and leave it on F6.

Each F key has 8 functions.
Fx shift
Fx ctrl
Fx ctrl+shift
Fx Alt
Fx alt+ shift
Fx alt+ctrl
Fx alt+ctrl+shift

With the normal "characters" there are 6 functions. There are also other keys such as [, ], et cetera. I once calculated in total in WPWIN there were 512 keystroke functions available for the greedy operator. (In WPDOS there are not so many). MSW has a vaguely similar number, but I don't use it much.

What do I use them for?

In my "normal" keyboard my "Ctrl" (primary) functions are mostly text strings:

A - ation
B - because
C - ?---Correct.
D - don't
E - ever
F - from
G - ough
H - that
I - ing (Alt I - ight)
J - just
K - hank you
L - able
M - ment
N - n't
O - ould
P - probably
Q - question
R - This is used for capitalising the initial letter of a word. Alt R is for lowercasing an initial capital
S - sort (Alt S - ?---)
T - the
U - under
V - very
W - which
X - exhibit
Y - you
Z - (nothing)


Because I can maintain multiple keyboard files, I can have one for each case or job. You will see I've used the Ctrl functions, but hardly any Alt functions. I keep these in reserve for specific topics or cases. (My "secondary" functions.)

I can use either words, parts of words or functions. Eg if I wish to create the word "adjustment" I can key in the "ad" then hit Ctrl J and Ctrl M. "W", or "sh", or "c" followed by Ctrl O gives me "would", "should" or "could". You can probably see many other things one could do.

I use pretty much the same functions in both WPDOS and WPWIN.

Text Expansion

When I changed over to WPWIN, I found that the QuickCorrect/ QuickWords functions were not to my liking, mainly because the expansion of the abbreviations was tied to the space bar, full stop etc. I wanted to have the expansion occur when, and ONLY when I wanted it, not when the machine decided. There were a couple of reasons. I didn't want to spend my time thinking up ways of creating an abbreviation that wouldn't expand at the wrong time. My system of creating abbreviations depended upon me NOT having to remember them. (In WPWIN QuickCorrect I use in the vicinity of 6000 entries, which is a large number in anybody's language.) So I found that if I had a word or phrase that I used often enough to warrant its own abbreviation, I merely thought to myself "What would be a good one?" and tried that out. If NOTHING happened then straight away I had created a connection, and I've found that if I do the same thing again next time I come across the same word or phrase, and I do the instinctive thing, there it is, on the screen. If, however, as sometimes happens, I've already attached something to a particular abbreviation, I decide to either just make another one, or see which of the 2 expansions I use more often, and get rid of the old one if the newer one is likely to be used more often.

In this fashion, I'm using my instinct rather than memory, and it actually works very well.

In using MS Word's AutoCorrect function, bear in mind that there are limitations to the number entries/size of the file (which has an *.acl extension) in this program.

According to this Microsoft Website, many versions of MS Word are apparently limited to 64 KB of memory!! cf this to WPWIN, in which so far, my largest QuickCorrect file is 300+ KB. I've never heard of anybody finding a limit to this function.


Secondly, sometimes the most logical abbreviation couldn't be used. When I first started out, I wanted to abbreviate the days of the week and months of the year, so I thought of using the first 2 letters, but JUne and JUly undid me. A logical system with an exception was not logical or systematic. So the first 3 letters. Fine. Except that some of the abbreviations (Sat, Sun, Wed, May, Mar, etc) were "proper" words and likely to expand unexpectedly if I relied upon the space bar function. (This apparently is (or perhaps was) a fairly common problem with Stenotyping, trying to get a short form that isn't a proper word.)

To remove the expansion function from the space bar proved very easy with WPWIN, but despite a very close similarity, success in MSW has been elusive. (The actual steps are the same, but once they are put into a MSW macro, they don't work.)

Here's a look at how it will function.

To begin, in your QuickCorrect/AutoCorrect list create an abbreviation. ("Yh" for "Your Honour"). Go into the function menu, and untick the box which allows the abbreviation to replace words while you're typing.

You are now ready to go.

Type the abbreviation. "yh"

(These are the steps the macro will go through - as noted above, exactly same steps work for both WPWIN and MSW.)

Go into the QuickCorrect menu. Check the box to replace the text as you type. Go back to the document, hit the space bar (this expands the text), back into the menu, uncheck to "replace as you go" box, back to your document and delete the space after the expanded text. (I've found this to be very useful to do this, because normally when I type I have to decide when to put the space in, not when to remove it. Eg my abbreviation for "fortunate" is "fnu". If I want to make "fortunately" I would have to expand the abbreviation then remove the space before I could add the "ly", otherwise I would have "fortunate"[space]"ly".

Here is the WPWIN macro in its entirety:

Application (WordPerfect; "WordPerfect"; Default!; "EN")
QuickCorrect (State: On!)
Type (Text: " ")
QuickCorrect (State: Off!)
DeleteCharPrevious ()

NOTE: The expression "EN" may vary, depending on which language/ country you are using.

If you cut and paste this into a blank macro, then attach the macro to whichever keystroke you think is suitable (even if you have to remove the current function and re-assign it to somewhere else - eg if you attach it to the "page up" key, this function can be relocated to say Alt Page Up) you should then have the ability to simply type in the abbreviation, hit the key and have your expanded text appear when you want it to, yet be able to use the abbreviation as a proper word, or even use the abbreviation AS an abbreviation without it expanding. Eg in Australia we have the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, usually referred to as ACCC (A triple-C). However, I don't always want to have ACCC expanded into Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. So I have the choice of typing either the abbreviation (as is usually spoken) OR using the (most logical) abbreviation to expand into the full text immediately.

Note: In MS Word it seems that macros cannot be attached to all keys, only function keys.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that the spelling check option is selected to prompt before auto replace, otherwise any of your abbreviations which happen to be "proper words" will expand. (Eg for months of the year and days of the week I use the first 3 letters. May, mar, Wed, Sat, Sun etc.) This option is a "set and forget" one and doesn't need to be checked again, unless you re-install WPWIN, or move to a different computer.

As shown above there seems to be no limit to number of keyboard files I can create.

How Many Libraries?

Many of the "Text Expander" programs make great play of their ability to have more than one "library" of abbreviations, so the operator can have sets of abbreviations for different topics. How many such libraries can WPWIN have? Well, how many would you like? A cursory examination would indicate in the vicinity of 40.

Each set of QuickCorrect entries is maintained in a file tagged *.uwl, with a reference in the name to (a) the version of WPWIN and (b) the language associated. eg I have version 9 of WP and I use the OZ (English - Australian) language set, so my relevant file is entitled WT9OZ.UWL. This is stored in the "shared\writing tools\9.0\Corel user files" directory. It may be different on your machine.

Further, my very limited experience with using a shared machine indicates that every user who has their own log-in ID will have their own set of files. From memory I think the WT9 is replaced by the user's ID. So therefore logic would tell me that every user can have 40 or so *.uwl files.

So how easily can one change the QuickCorrect file? There's a bit of jiggery-pokery to initially set it up, but once that's out of the way it's literally about two-three mouse clicks or a small handful of keystrokes.

In the "Tools" menu there is an item for "Settings" which reveals that there is a "Language" setting. The menu for this shows that some 40 languages are supported by WPWIN. Each of these languages has its own *.uwl file. I'm using OZ. If I wish to create a whole bunch of blank QuickCorrect files, I insert my WPWIN installation CD and cycle through each language. Click on the language to be selected. After the program has done this open your QuickCorrect file. You should then have a dialogue box showing the installation of this language.

In some cases the QC box will be empty, in others it will have an ex-factory set of corrections. Note which language has an empty QC file. For the next step you will need to exit WPWIN and go into the Windows Explorer ("My Computer") for the directory where these files are stored. (I actually have a quick link on my desktop to this directory, because I do so much work in it.) Click on the *.uwl file of a language with an empty file, and copy the file to same directory as many times as you need to create QC's. This will give you a series of numbered copies. If you wish to create new QC for the English-UK language set, delete the existing WT9UK.uwl file and rename one of the numbered copies with this name. Congratulations. You have a blank QC file to start working with.

Assuming you need a file for medical terminology, select a new language (say CA - Catalan) and create your new entries. You can then work with the new one simply by clicking on the "Tools\ Setting\ Language" menu. You can then revert to your original language by either switching on "Reveal Codes" and deleting the "Language" code OR selecting the appropriate language. This will mean you'll have to go through your document at the end and delete these language switches, because they can cause problems sometimes with fonts and printing. I have a "clean-up" macro which I run at the end of document creation to go through my document and remove these and other little idiosyncratic codes I put in for various reasons; sometimes eg I accidentally hit Ctrl Space, which gives an unbreakable space between words. It takes about a second or so, and I just add any new "clean-up" as necessary.

QuickWords/AutoWordsTill now I've talked about the "Correct" functions, ie QuickCorrect in WPWIN or AutoCorrect in MSW, and not mentioned the QuickWords/ AutoWords functions. Being the contrarian that I am, I've actually reversed the usage of these 2 and I use the "words" function to pick up any consistent typing errors or lazinesses. Eg when I'm using speech recognition, and I have to transcribe "section 2 6 1" of a piece of legislation, it usually should be typed as "section 2(6)(i)",

(I'd speak section 2 [no space][open bracket] six [close bracket] [open bracket][lower case "i"] (or little Roman 1)[close bracket])

but I just create a QuickWords entry which automatically replaces "261" (two hundred and sixty one) with 2(6)(i). Almost anything which is the "QuickWord" list is very temporary and removed as quickly as possible, whereas my "QuickCorrect" list usually remains unchanged, except if I have a clash between an old abbreviation and a newer one.

(The only thing I have to do is make sure that the automatic formatting is switched off, in case I have to type a document in a type font which is different to that used when I created the QuickWords entry.)

Going to Another Computer

If you are a "temp" and you travel from office to office (assuming these offices use WordPerfect) or you have to reinstall WPWIN for some reason, how can you recreate your high-speed system? You really only need to transfer 3 files, or perhaps more accurately 3 TYPES of files. The QuickCorrect (*.uwl) files, which contain all your shortforms, your macros (*.wpm) and your template file (*.wpt) file(s). Template files contain your keyboard files.

I don't bother with transferring the QuickWords file, since most of the entries in there are usually job specific, and probably won't be useful doing something else.

For convenience, I keep my *.uwl files and my *.wpt files in the same directory so I can copy everything quickly. Whilst I haven't been able to reset WPWIN to recognise a *.uwl file in another directory, it is easy to define where your template is lives in your "settings\files" menu.

Make sure when you reinstall WPWIN that your "Glossary" macro is correctly attached in your keyboard file with the correct path. Otherwise you'll be back to executing your abbreviations with your space bar again.

How Effective is the Text Expanding/Hot Key Combination?

Obviously this is a very subjective measure, but have a look at the text below. This is a piece of transcript I did a couple of years ago, but the names have been changed for confidentiality reasons:


HIS WORSHIP: Yes, thank you?

MR MONITOR: May it please the court, my name is Monitor, I appear on behalf of the first and second plaintiffs.

MS FEATHERN: May it please you sir, Ms Feathern for the defendant.

HIS WORSHIP: Yes, thank you.

MR FRANKLE: May it please you your Worship, I appear for the third party.

HIS WORSHIP: Yes, thank you. Mr Monitor?

MR MONITOR: If your Worship pleases, this is a copyright case involving an action by the plaintiffs as against the defendant, Richard Keith Haute. The case arises as a consequence of the second plaintiff, Homestead Holdings Pty Ltd, otherwise trading as Anthem Homes, being a builder that designed a set of drawings for a house to be built for the defendant, a Mr Richard Keith Haute. The - - I'll call them - - instead of calling them the second plaintiff, I'll call the second plaintiff Anthem Homes, if that pleases the court, the third party, Beeswing Holdings Pty Ltd, that company trades as Machard Homes, so we have Anthem Homes and Beeswing Homes. Gregory Thomas Ching, he is the owner of the copyright, the original architectural design, of a particular design of house, and he licensed the use of that to Anthem Homes. For the purpose of these proceedings, your Worship should have an amended particulars of claim, particulars of amended defence, amended statement of claim against the third party, and a re-amended particulars of defence by the third party.

What I propose to do is take you through the particulars of claim to start with. The first plaintiff is a building designer. He will give evidence to tell the court of his background and experience. The second plaintiff is a company that is incorporated. On the amended defence there is a denial of the Anthem Homes or Homestead Holdings Pty Ltd being an incorporated company. That denial is now withdrawn.

MR FRANKLE: Can I just rise, and I do apologise to my learned friend for interrupting him, but there's a minor housekeeping matter that should be dealt with at this early stage.


MR FRANKLE: And that is for the third party. I simply seek a direction, that we haven't had one the past, although the case has been run that way, and the direction I seek is the direction that the third party's liability to the defendant be determined at this trial.


Above is the published transcript. Below is what I actually keyed in. It looks a bit of a mish-mash but I'll try and explain my "code". Where you see an asterisk "*" followed by a letter, this is a key stroke combination. Eg *t means I pressed Ctrl (Or Alt) T to get the text string "the". However where you see a text string followed by a hash "#", this is a QuickCorrect expansion. Eg Yh# means I've typed "yh" and hit my expansion key to get "Your Honour". (I haven't always been consistent and sometimes the asterisk will appear AFTER the letter, but you can refer to my keyboard file list above.)

As you can see there is a considerable saving in keystroking, an even greater saving when you take into account the "invisible" savings created by reduction in typing errors. An example is my proclivity to key the word "the" by typing t-e-h- [backspace] [backspace] h-e. So using the keystroke Ctrl T actually saves me typing more than one extra keystroke.

If this text appears to "jammed up" this is because when there is a change in speaker, the new paragraph spacing is included in the keystroke combo, as described above.


*1Yes, t*k? *3Miplc#, my name is Monitor, I ape# obhfo# *t ft# and sec# ptf#s. *4Mipl# y* sir, Ms Feathern for *t dft#.
*1Yes, t*k. *5Mipl# y* yw#, I ape4# *t 3pty#. *1Yes, t*k. Mr Monitor? *3If yw* pl*s, this is a copyright case ivog# an acn# by *t ptf#s as ais# *t dft#, Richard Keith Haute. *t case arises as a cnsq# of *t sec# ptf#, Homestead Holdings Pty Ltd, otw# trading as Anthem Homes, be*i a bldr# *h designed a set of draw*is for a house to be built for *t dft#, a Mr Richard Keith Haute. *t - - I'll call *tm - - instead of calling *tm *t sec# ptf#, I'll call *t sec# ptf# Anthem Homes, if *h pl#s *t crt#, *t 3pty#, Beeswing Holdings Pty Ltd, *h coy# trades as Machard Homes, so we hv# Anthem Homes and Beeswing Homes. Gregory Thomas Ching, he is *t owner of *t copyright, *t orgl# archtl# design, of a pt# design of house, and he lcs#d *t use of *h to Anthem Homes. For *t pu# of *tse pcdg#s, yw# sh*o hv# an amdd# pt#s of claim, pt#s of amdd# dfc#, amdd# stm# of cl# ais# *t 3pty#, and a re-amdd# pt#s of dfc# by the 3pty#. *W I pps# to do is ty# thr*g *t pt#s of cl# to start with. *t ft# ptf# is a bldg# designer. He will give ev# to tell *t crt# of his bakg# and xpc#. *t sec# ptf# is a coy# ie# inc#d. On the amd# dfc# th# is a denial of *t Anthem Homes or Homestead Holdings Pty Ltd be*i an inc#d coy#. *h denial is now wdwn#. *5Can I *j rise, and I do apols# to mlf# for interrupting him, but th#e's a minor hskpgm# *h sh*o be dtw# this early stage. *1Yes. *5And *h is for *t 3pty#. I simply seek a drn#, *h we hvn# had one *t past, alth*g *t case has been run *h way, and *t drn# I seek is *t drn# *h *t 3pty#'s lbly# to *t dft# be dtm#d at this trial.


Obviously I could have made some "case specific" abbreviations, eg Athem Holdings etc to reduce the keystroking even further.

At the very end of this blog I've published my complete word abbreviation list as at 28/9/2011.

Pedalling for Productivity

Having got this far, I've no doubt that some people may find some of my pronouncements bordering on heresy. But to be frank, MSW is a very simple program, but totally inadequate for high speed transcription. I've used both, and whilst prima facie MSW is simpler, and easier to learn, with a lot of its functions very instinctive to operate, WPWIN seems to require very tortu(r)ous thought processes to get to grips with its reliance on the function keys rather than (or as well as, in some cases) mnemonic keystrokes.

A person who is desirous of achieving an increase in productivity (ie the number of words transcribed per hour or day or whatever) can either pound the keys faster, which to me seems to be a rather pointless and indeed dangerous approach, or use the word processor as it's meant to be used - cleverly. Many (in fact most) people I talk to about increased productivity (and use MSW) are reluctant to consider changing to WPWIN because "I've already learned how to use MSW". However, what they don't seem to understand is they've only learned how to use SOME of the functions of the package, and in fact are adapting their work practices to the program rather than vice versa, adapting the program to suit them. There can be no productivity increase without "hotting up" the program, and the greater the degree of productivity increase desired, the greater the amount of tailoring of the program, until, at a certain stage, the program has been so radically altered it is no longer the MS Word (or indeed WordPerfect) that they learned initially. It's an entirely new program. So if you are going to have to learn a new program in order to achieve greater efficiency, why not use a program that has a greater capacity to be altered?

I'm an avid cyclist and I generally make the comparison between MSW and WPWIN of that to a single speed, backpedal brake iron framed bicycle and Cadel Evans' carbon framed, titanium fitted 21-speed road machine. I would find riding the single speeder very simple and comfortable, and the Evans machine a comparative nightmare. However, if I wanted to consistently get from point A to point B in as short a time as possible, a specialist bike would be required. There would be hills, long straight stretches, mountain descents at high speeds with hairpin turns. It would take skill, daring and a whole new set of reflexes, but that's the price I'd pay. No matter how many coats of paint or shiny chrome bits get stuck onto the single speed machine, it's still that - a machine with limited capability. Certainly a racing track-cycle is exactly that as well, they don't even have brakes, but they are very good at going round in a circle in one direction, which is not much good for travelling long distances under varying conditions at high speed.

"Ordinary" typing in an office would be the equivalent of riding to the shop to buy a litre of milk, whereas audio transcription is like participating in the Tour De France. Very long, hard, mentally and physically taxing, but it must be done at incredible speed and accuracy.

Many employers and agencies like to have a typing speed of 50-60 wpm over 5 minutes. For transcription work I'd be wanting someone who could peak out at better than 150 wpm. When I was working for a contractor who supplied transcript to the local courts I was expected to achieve an average speed of 23 wpm - over 8 hours. Most of the people I worked with DID achieve that speed, but only at the cost of great physical exertion, and the possibility of injury to hands and arms etc. By using my word processor (WPDOS) as a text expander I was able to achieve parity in turnaround time, but at a MUCH easier "pace", and unlike everybody else, I had sufficient time "in the bank" so to speak, to be able to rewind my recordings and do a 100% sound check, whereas others just relied on visually scanning each page.

I don't always wear my lycra shorts when I'm transcribing, but sometimes I feel like I should.



PS Some thoughts on keyboard layout, ergonomics and efficiency.

And finally, a youtube video showing the system in action, transcribing the audio.

1 comment:

transcription services said...

It's a very interesting post.

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About Me

Learned to type '67 in the Army. Took up word processing in 1979, then became court reporter in 1990 with Commonwealth Reporting Service 1996 Awarded Diploma of Teaching, (Word Processing)