How to subtitle offline

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Revision as of 09:28, 30 January 2014 by Symbolt (talk | contribs) (Added info on caveats when uploading offline drafts (subtitle number and paragraph breaks))
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SubtitleEdit is just one example of free subtitling software. In many cases, it allows advanced users to transcribe and review transcripts and translations more easily than by using the online editor. If you decide to use this software, please bear in mind that it is in no way endorsed by TED or by Amara.

Uploading a draft with different timing but the same number of subtitles does not usually cause issues. However, before you upload a draft with a different number of subtitles, make sure that you add or remove subtitles in the online editor until the total number is the same as in your offline draft. Also note that uploading an .srt file removes the paragraph breaks that are used in the transcript view at, so if you're working offline on subtitles for a TEDTalk, don't forget to add the paragraph marks before you have completed the task (using the little "paragraph" button that appears on every subtitle when you hover your mouse over it).

Using SubtitleEdit to review subtitles

Here's a quick way to break lines, do character-per-second checks and a spell check globally offline (for PC users):

1. Download and install Subtitle Edit (

2. This, you only do once: go to Options/Settings. In the "General" tab, put "42" in "Single line max. length." For "Max chars/sec" below: enter a value for your language (21.9 for most Latin-script based languages)

3. Download the subtitles (translation and original)

4. Open the translated subtitles, and pull up the original (File/Open original subtitle (translator mode))

5. Go to Tools/Fix common errors (or use Ctrl-Shift-F). Remove all selections (click "Select all," then "Inverse selection"). Tick "Break long lines." Click "Next," and click "OK" in the next window.

6. Go over the subtitles (in "List view" - i.e. simply the main window) and look for <br />. This tag marks the place where the line was broken. The lines have been broken automatically, but in some lines, you may need to fix/change the breaks (see You can edit the subtitle you highlighted in the List view in the Text box below (there are even buttons, to the right, that will Unbreak or re-Auto break the lines for you). You have the original English subtitles to the right to help you when a line needs to be rephrased just to make good breaking possible.

When you're done, you can also run a spell check. Subtitle Edit is a great tool for editing subtitles, but remember that Amara currently doesn't allow us to upload drafts with changed timing or split/merged lines. You can also edit with the video downloaded from, but remember that the timing doesn't fit - the subtitles from Amara don't allow for the TED intro. You can move the subtitles by the length of the intro (Synchronization/Adjust all times), and move them backwards later before uploading the draft. To get more out of Subtitle Edit, explore its Help section and the keyboard shortcuts used in the software.

Changing timing and subtitle structure

You can change the timing of the subtitles in SubtitleEdit and then upload them to Amara. Please only edit the timing if you are certain you know how to do it and what you want to accomplish, in order to avoid synchronization problems. However, if you change the number of subtitles (e.g. by merging or splitting them), problems can arise. Usually, you can still upload a draft with a different number of subtitles if you first delete or add subtitles in the online editor to make the number the same as in the draft you want to upload. However, sometimes even this won't work. If you do upload a draft with a different number of subtitles, please make sure to check that new revision against the previous one, and scroll down to see if the last subtitle appears in the same place as the one in the original (an easy way to check if subtitle synchronization was damaged when the draft was uploaded). In case problems arise, post a support ticket at


In order to transcribe in SubtitleEdit, after taking the task on Amara, download the TEDx video from YouTube. Then, open it in SubtitleEdit and activate the waveform view. Check SubtitleEdit's help section for many keyboard shortcuts useful in transcribing (e.g. "Shift+Left Mouse Button" in the waveform window to set the beginning (cue in) time of the current subtitle or "Ctrl+Left Mouse Button" to set the end). Also check out the global fixes available in the "Tools" menu.