Before I could even begin to work with the documents, however, I had to organize the files. The microfilm image software that copied files to my flash drive used sequential numbering which was not helpful in identifying the file. Fortunately, at the advice of another researcher, I did copy the opening image of each roll as I started to work with the films, so I had some basis for my work.
The machine also recorded TIFF copies which are good for archiving. I found it easiest to rename the files with a useful name and then make JPG copies that I could adjust for brightness and contrast. My transcription also carries the same filename, with a different extension, .doc. This keeps the image and transcriptions together in my file folder.
To transcribe the documents I first tried the most obvious approach, open Microsoft Word and the image in MS Picture Viewer, adjust window size and get to work. I found that when I needed to adjust brightness or enlarge the document, however, I needed a more robust image viewer. I first tried Adobe Photoshop Elements 7, but quickly became frustrated by the time lag needed to open each image from the Organizer to the Edit window where I could view closer. I then tried Xnview, a freebie program that I turn to often. Using a Windows Explorer style sidebar, I could easily locate my image, magnify and adjust to my heart's content. I could also use Xnview to batch convert the image files from TIFF to JPG. With the image open in Xnview and my working transcription open in a second window with MS Word, I was quickly working through the documents.
I then compared this setup with Transcript 2.3, a great program from a Dutch software developer. It allows you to work in one window with the image at the top and the transcription below. Transcript can be configured to scroll the image any number of pixels as you type and hit the Enter key in the transcription window. This is clearly a very useful feature, and combine with Transcript's image adjustment capabilities to make it a top transcription program. In fact, the only drawback I could find was that the windows were stacked rather than side-by-side, and this can be a problem on a small or landscape-oriented screen. I searched unsuccessfully for a way to configure the window layout, but in the end resorted to smaller font size so that I could have a larger image view.
Both methods work well, with Transcript offering many special features appreciated by transcribers. If I had a portrait-oriented monitor I think it would be my first choice, but for now the landscape set-up with Xnview and MS Word are helping me to get the job done with my New England probate records.