We are delighted to announce the upcoming launch of the next generation of the Transkribus web app – an exciting development that will improve the way we interact with historical documents in Transkribus. Transkribus has always aspired to simplify the digitisation of handwritten texts, but with the new web app we are now taking this vision to a whole new level.
On August 30th, the new Transkribus web interface will officially launch and today we want to share with you everything you need to know. First, we will walk you through the changes to the user interface and the way you will be able to work with historical documents, then introduce you to exciting new technologies coming to Transkribus and finally share the next steps on the roadmap.
Transkribus Next Gen is coming: here’s everything you need to know
As you probably know, the current generation of Transkribus has two versions: The Transkribus web application and the eXpert client. The feature-rich eXpert combines a lot of different technologies, but its complex interface can make it difficult to use, especially for beginners. The goal was to put as many useful tools as possible in one user interface, mainly aimed at our internal project team, and users who were willing to learn the intricacies of this user interface. The goal of the web-based Transkribus platform is a clear design that is easy to use and that can be learned more quickly. It still lacks some key features of the full eXpert client, but we are continually adding functionality that’s not there, yet, and incorporating new features that will only be available in this next generation of Transkribus.
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to make a choice. There would simply be one version of Transkribus, combining the full range of features with an easy-to-use design. Now that vision is becoming a reality with the new Transkribus web app.
It is the latest step in our quest to make the digitisation of historical documents – especially handwritten ones – as easy as possible. Not only does it have a new and improved design for better usability and customisation, but it also comes with new powerful AI technology. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for Transkribus Next Gen.
What’s new about Transkribus Next Gen?
Probably the biggest change (certainly for some of our long-term users) is that Next Gen will be an entirely web-based platform. This means you will be able to access your documents from any computer and even mobile devices—particularly useful if you need to use Transkribus on the go. If you are a passionate eXpert client user, this may mean a certain adjustment, but one that is well worth it. If you belong to the majority of Transkribus users who already work with the web-based Transkribus platform, then the transition to the new version will be even easier.
Our new web app takes a holistic approach, integrating tools and features into a coherent framework for a streamlined user experience. We’ve reimagined the platform, categorising features into distinct, seamlessly integrated sections, making it easier to navigate. The most frequently used features in Transkribus are now housed in their own prominent spaces in the new version, improving accessibility and efficiency for users.
The first of these new areas in the user interface is called Transkribus Desk. Here, you will find a clear overview of the collections and documents you are working on. The Desk is the space where you can organise your files and work on your material every day. We can already offer you a sneak peak of Transkribus Next Gen on beta.transkribus.eu, where you can see how we combined the many features of the desktop app with the simplicity of the web app to provide our users with an easy-to- use but feature-rich platform.
In the Transkribus web app, we’ve made customising and training AI models a core feature. After all, one of Transkribus’ main selling points is that you can customise the AI for exactly your material and don’t need to make do with a standard recognition model. These options are housed in the easily accessible Models workspace, a departure from previous versions where these key functions were hidden among numerous buttons. Here, you can not only train, modify, and manage your models, but also browse through a comprehensive catalogue of public AI models to select those best suited to your materials. This streamlined accessibility ensures your trained models or the top-performing ones are merely a click away, making the process of automated transcription more efficient and intuitive.
Another big change is that creating a website for making the documents in your Transkribus collection accessible online is about to become a lot easier. In the Transkribus Sites workspace, you will be able to set up your website on your own, without a Transkribus developer having to build it for you. Transkribus Sites enables you to share your valuable work and make sources available to the general public with a few clicks. You can share your documents online and allow others to search your entire collection for the specific information they need.
Understanding the integral role our community plays in bringing Transkribus to life, we’re excited to share our plans for 2024. We aim to enhance connectivity within our community by introducing new features to the Transkribus web app. User profiles are on the horizon, enabling you to share more about yourself and your projects, helping you connect with potential project partners or supporters. Additionally, we’ll be launching the Transkribus Learn tool. This tool is designed to simplify learning to read historical handwriting, whether independently or in groups, and facilitate the creation of teams for crowdsourcing and citizen-science projects. These developments will continue to enrich our community engagement, fostering even stronger collaboration and team projects in the years to come.
With Transkribus Connect coming next year, it will also be easier than ever to connect with other users and researchers or collaborate and exchange ideas with the Transkribus community.
You said there would be some new technology?
Yes, indeed. Introducing: the Transkribus Super Models, for more powerful and versatile AI text recognition, plus improved layout recognition with Field and Table Models. Finally, we are offering the updated metagrapho API and an on-prem solution for advanced usage scenarios.
A very important development here is the implementation of Super Models, a new text recognition technology based on so-called transformer networks. Super models can recognise a much wider range of languages as well as handwritten and printed documents with a single model, making it easier to get good-quality automatic transcriptions, in many cases without any custom training at all. The first Super Model ‘Text Titan I’ is already outperforming other big models, demonstrating the potential of the new powerful AI text recognition models.
Field and Table Models
Layout recognition is also getting a major update. We’re introducing a new generation of trainable layout technology, including Field Models and Table Models, which will be much more precise and will be able to handle more complex layouts than the current P2PaLA engine, and require smaller quantities of training data. With these models you will soon be able to train models to not only recognise isolated layout elements, but also more complex layouts such as newspapers, tables and forms. With this, you will be able to label, and extract information from, all the layout elements in your documents.
Recognising the needs of large organisations and businesses, we’re developing solutions that will enable seamless use of our handwriting recognition software within their proprietary software and systems. One such solution is the metagrapho API. This application interface facilitates communication between Transkribus and external systems or applications, allowing these entities to leverage Transkribus’ powerful technology without necessitating intricate integrations. Essentially, the metagrapho API serves as an efficient conduit for utilising Transkribus’ capabilities externally, enhancing accessibility and productivity, and it is even more cost-effective than the graphical user interface.The updated version of this API will be compatible with On-Prem — the next thing we are going to talk about below — and it will accept a larger set of parameters, bringing even more functionality to solution integration.
To meet the needs of organisations unable to or barred from utilising cloud-based platforms, we have developed an on-premises solution, Transkribus On-Prem. This version allows integration with existing IT systems and local operation of the Transkribus platform. Transkribus On-Prem enables local data processing within an organisation’s own environment, ensuring data never leaves its servers. Only statistical data, essential for licensing, is communicated to Transkribus servers, even without requiring internet access, enhancing data privacy and security.
New Subscription Model
With our new subscription plans that we will roll out in the coming months, we are pleased to offer more flexibility, better value and tailored solutions to meet your individual needs. Choose from three subscription-based plans – Individual, Scholar and Organisation – designed for genealogists, researchers, collectors, archives, libraries and more. Continue to enjoy the core features for free with a monthly allowance of 100 free credits for every user. If you need advanced features for your work and/or to process more material, we have the right paid subscription plan for you. Also, you can always opt for on-demand credit packages when you need them. The option of annual billing further adds flexibility, and discounts. The move to a new pricing system ensures the long-term sustainability of Transkribus while maintaining the highest quality of service. For more information on the new pricing, please visit our information page.
When can we expect the switch to the Transkribus web app?
Since we started the development of Transkribus Next Gen this spring, we have been excited to make the Next Gen Desk available in beta for users to explore. We have already started to announce new technologies such as the Super Models and recently hosted a public webinar showcasing the new user interface of the Transkribus web app.
In August we will be sharing more information about the trainable layout models shown in the webinar, as well as the new workspaces, Transkribus Models, Transkribus Sites and Transkribus Connect. The official launch of the Transkribus web app is scheduled for 30th of August, followed by a webinar to provide a comprehensive overview of the platform and the new pricing system. In the future, Transkribus will focus its efforts on the web-based platform, with the eXpert client still available but without further updates.
We also want to hear more about what you think about Transkribus and how we can make it even better. In Next Gen, we will be continually releasing new features on our beta version, allowing you to test them out before they become part of the main platform. That way, you can let us know in advance how different features work for you in practice.
Feel free to contact us with your questions and feedback, and tell us your views on the future of Transkribus.
Let’s keep unlocking the written past together!