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MAXQDA12 Tip of the month: Transcribing Audio

This is an updated version of the article Transcribing Audio with MAXQDA 11.

In most cases when you conduct and record interviews, you end up with an mp3 audio file that needs to be transcribed. Transcription is often done with a foot pedal, which can be attached to the usb port of your computer or notebook. If you do not have a foot pedal or just want to use your keyboard, you can use the shortcuts F4 or F5 to play and pause an audio file during transcription.

Import audio into MAXQDA

There are two easy ways to import an audio file into a MAXQDA project:

  • Select Documents > Transcribe audio/video file from the top toolbar or
  • right-click on a document group and select transcribe audio/video file from the context menu.

Select the media file, you want to transcribe and import it into MAXQDA.

If there is already an audio file in your MAXQDA project, just right-click on it and select the option transcribe audio file.

Transcription options

MAXQDA automatically creates an empty document named like the media file and conntects it with the media file. Additionally you will automatically see the Transcription mode control panel, where you can set how MAXQDA behaves during the transcription.

Playing Speed and Rewind Interval

Unless you type at an unusually high speed, it makes sense to slow down the playing speed of the audio so you can keep up with it. The 1 on the slider in the control panel indicates the original speed.

Select how many seconds you want the audio to rewind each time you pause the playback by sliding the rewind interval scale to the right or left. The default option for this setting is 2 seconds.


Before you start the transcription it might be a good idea to select if you want to add a timestamp every time you hit “enter”.

Start your transcription

Leave the Transcription mode control panel open to start your transcription.

Play and pause audio playback

Start listening to the audio by clicking the “Play/Pause” button and type your text into the document in the Document Browser. Pause the audio when you can not keep up with it anymore. To pause either lift up your foot from the foot pedal, use the keyboard shortcut F4, or click the “Play/Pause” button again.

Tip for mac users: How to use the F4 key to pause and play media with MAXQDA for Mac OS X.

Interrupt transcription and start again

If you need to interrupt your transcription for a while, just quit the transcription mode by clicking End transcription in the panel. To continue your work later on, right-click on the audio file in your Document System and select Transcribe audio file. Now you are in the transcription mode again. Click on the last timestamp, listen to the audio and continue your transcription.

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Categories: Tip of the Month

8 Responses to “MAXQDA12 Tip of the month: Transcribing Audio”

  1. Claudia Sandoval

    Hello, the “Transcription mode” window doesn’t open completely. The “rewind interval” and the check box for the timestamp are not displayed –and they were before! Have I done something to change this? Why is not there anymore. I would like to have the timestamp on enter. Thank you

  2. Julia Gerson

    Hello Claudia,
    it sounds like you are opening the settings menu from within the multimedia browser. Those are just the settings for playing audio/video. Right click on the media file in the document system and click on “transcribe audio/video file” to open up the transcription settings.
    Best regards

  3. Hello, great article. A couple of transcription questions. 1. Is there a way to specify the speaker during transcription? I see in the documentation that importing transcripts with “speakername:” at the beginning of the line will import as coded with the speaker, but I don’t see an easy way to do something like that while transcribing. 2. I have an IN-USB-2 foot pedal that works for controlling play on the Mac (though forward/reverse buttons only seem to move the media back by the rewind interval), but the pedal doesn’t appear to work on Windows. Am I missing something to better configure the pedal?

  4. Julia Gerson

    Hello Craig,

    if in your transcription each contribution is started by typing in the name of the speaker you can then – once the transcription is finished – transform your document into a focus group transcript. This feature is available since the update 12.0.3 (Jan 2016). You can find a more detailed description in the PDF Manual on page 345: http://www.maxqda.com/download/manuals/MAX12_manual_eng.pdf

    At the moment MAXQDA supports only 2 foot pedals “from the box”: the Science/Science II pedals from the company audiotranscription. But MAXQDA will also support all foot pedals that send the “key signal” F4 or F5. If your foot pedal can be programmed to send this “key signal” this may.

    Best regards,

  5. Hey,

    so I followed the above steps, however, when I open up an audio file and upload a seperate transcription word file that I already worked on, then once I start the audio tape and switch into the text file the audio stops. Am I missing something?


  6. Julia Gerson

    Hello Tim,
    is it possible that your audio file is not connected to the transcript you uploaded? If you started a transcription outside of MAXQDA, import the audio file and start transcribing as described above. Once the connected text document is open, you can however just copy and paste your already existing transcription into the (connected) empty text document. It is also possible to add timestamps into this text manually.

    Should this info not help solve the issue, please consider to get in touch with our support team instead. They will be better suited to help with technical questions (http://www.maxqda.com/help-support/onlinesupport).

    Best regards,

  7. Julia Gerson

    Hello liz,
    the media player in MAXQDA is programmed to work with either F4 or F5, so it is not important which one of the two key triggers your pedal sends. Both will play and pause your media file just the same.
    Best regards,

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