For the past couple of years I have been using Transcript by J. G. Boerema for transcribing documents. It is helpful software and I recommend it. Recently I read a comment about how MS OneNote could be used for transcriptions. I have an old copy of OneNote but, instead of dusting it off, I decided to explore other options. I prefer Open Source software whenever there is a quality program available. I remember previously using word processing software (it must have been MS Word) that could be configured for split windows — that is, a split screen showing two windows for one document. I quickly discovered that neither LibreOffice Writer, OpenOffice Writer, nor AbiWord currently have that functionality. KWord/CalibreSuite does appear to have the functionality, but it is currently only available in Unix-type environments. But, not to worry…. LibreOffice (and OpenOffice) Calc does have the capacity to split windows in a given document. And, when I used LibreOffice Calc for my first transcription, I found that it had added features that would not be as readily available in a word processing environment.
Step 1: Load the Document
Put the cursor in cell A:1. From the Menu select Insert > Picture > From File and then browse to the selected document to transcribe. I began with a photo copy of a microfilmed page of deed abstracts. The inserted document will cover a varied number of rows and columns. I chose a page of deed extracts (Columbiana County, Ohio) because it was fairly straight-forward and easy to read. Because he document to be transcribed was in columns, I discovered one of the added benefits of transcribing with a spreadsheet.
Step 2: Split the Window
Select the row immediately below the document. From the menu select Window > Split. You will see a heavy line appear immediately above the selected row. This is the place where the window is split. The document is in the upper pane and your transcription will be added to the lower pane. (Remember, both the upper pane and the lower pane are part of the same spreadsheet document.) Now, with your cursor on the heavy black line, left click and hold will allow you to shrink the upper pane to an appropriate size.
Step 3 (Optional): Re-size the Columns
I re-sized the columns so that they corresponded to the columns in the document. Because the image of the document is attached to cell A:1, resizing the columns (even column A) does not noticeably affect the upper pane.
Step 4: Transcribe
The lower pane can now be used to transcribe the information in the upper pane. Because each pane functions separately, you can scroll the image of the document in the upper pane up or down to show as much as you choose. The same can be said of the lower pane.
In the final image (below) I have shown the transcription of a page from a family Bible. In the lower pane I have included not only the transcription, but also some notes about the original and a source citation. You can choose to include whatever information might be important when you next work with the document.
When you save this spreadsheet you will have a copy of the original source, your transcription, and any additional notes you have added. It will all be there in a single document. By using separate Sheets within the spreadsheet, you might choose to include transcriptions of a number of related documents — for example, an individual’s birth certificate, marriage license, and death certificate or several documents related to a family or several grave sites in a particular cemetery or … Well, you get the idea. You can make this work for you!