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What is a Digital Foot Pedal?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 16, 2024
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A digital foot pedal is a tool most often used by transcriptionists who transcribe dictation. The digital foot pedal will connect to the computer, typically through a USB port. It will then rest under the desk, and the transcriptionist may tap the foot pedal in order to start, stop, or pause the recording, as well as to increase or decrease the speed at which it is playing. Most transcriptionists find foot pedals to be invaluable, time-saving devices.

Transcriptionists generally work with medical or legal practitioners who frequently record dictation, but do not have time to transcribe it. Instead, a transcriptionist will receive the dictation, and will be responsible for accurately typing the notes or reports. Often, transcriptionists have very short deadlines, and need the ability to work quickly. This is where a digital foot pedal becomes helpful.

Once the foot pedal is attached to the computer, it may be used with virtually any transcription software program. A transcriptionist without a foot pedal will need to use the mouse to stop the recording, to rewind it in order to listen more closely, or to slow down the pace of the recording if it is difficult to understand. Every time he or she needs to do this, she will need to take her hands off the keyboard and click the mouse, which interrupts work flow, and makes it more difficult to catch every word.

Instead, the digital foot pedal allows the transcriptionist to manipulate the recording as needed without ever needing to take her hands off the keyboard; these devices generally work by simply allowing the transcriptionist to tap different areas of the pedal for different commands. This helps to improve accuracy and save time, both of which may make the client more likely to hire the same transcriptionist again. Though some transcriptionists do work with companies, many are freelance workers, and it is especially important to consistently deliver satisfactory work, as they are often paid by the word.

In addition to a digital foot pedal, a high-quality transcription headset as well as a comfortable keyboard and well-positioned monitor are all important investments for transcriptionists. The headset prevents the transcriptionist from having to rely on the computer speakers. As someone who sits at a computer all day, it is important for a transcriptionist to be ergonomically comfortable as well, and foot pedals can assist with this. Digital food pedals may be slightly expensive, and often need to be ordered online, but many people consider them to be worth the investment.

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Discussion Comments

By allenJo — On Mar 09, 2012

@hamje32 - Well, if you’re transcribing for money, the sophistication of a digital foot pedal system is a necessity in my opinion. Many companies that hire transcriptionists have stringent guidelines that you’re expected to follow.

These guidelines include things like what to include and not to include in the transcription, how to label the moments of silence in the audio, how to label laughter or other audience responses and so forth. So you do need a sophisticated system to “scrub” the audio so that you can render it on page according to the format that the company expects.

By hamje32 — On Mar 08, 2012

@Mammmood - A transcription pedal is a good idea I suppose but it just means that you now have to “think on your feet” (pardon the pun).

These foot pedals are not just stop and go mechanisms from what I understand from this article. They are used to issue various commands. So it would take quite a bit of dexterity and some training to coordinate your transcribing with effective use of the foot pedal, all the while try to type as fast as you can.

It would take some practice, that’s for sure; but I guess that if you’re doing it full time then it would be worth it.

By Mammmood — On Mar 07, 2012

I’ve done some transcription before, mainly on a freelance basis, but I never used a digital transcription foot pedal. Still I admit that it sounds like a neat idea.

It’s perfect for hands free transcription. When I did transcription I just used software. I played the media file through the media player software and when I needed to I pressed the pause button to pause it so that I could catch up.

That’s not as handy as using the foot pedal, but like I said it wasn’t a full time job so it worked. What I like about the foot pedal is that, like so many devices nowadays, it’s plug and play – just hook it up to your USB port. That makes it easy to install and then remove when you’re done.

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