How To Enrich Transcribed Documents with Mark-up

How To Enrich Transcribed Documents with Mark-up

Transkribus Expert Client
Last update 1 year ago
About Transkribus

Transkribus is a comprehensive solution for the digitisation, AI-powered text recognition, transcription and searching of historical documents. Find out more about Transkribus here

Transkribus is a comprehensive solution for the digitisation, AI-powered text recognition, transcription and searching of historical documents. Find out more about Transkribus here

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

This guide will show you how to add mark-up to documents which are already transcribed in Transkribus. This gives you the opportunity to define persons, places and abbreviations. You can add customized tagging categories and search for individual tags in your documents. Additionally the tags can be exported in different formats. More information about the export of tags can be found in the How to Export Documents from Transkribus guide.


The tagging interface in Transkribus enables you to

  • Assign tags to important words or phrases in your document.
  • Search for individual tags or tag categories.
  • Export the tags you added in different file formats so that you can go on working with them outside of Transkribus.

Tagging interface

  • The tagging interface can be found by clicking the “Metadata” tab, and then the “Textual” tab.

Figure 1 The “Textual” tab

  • If you put a tick at “Show all” at the bottom of the “Textual” tab, all the predefined tags will be shown. You can start working with these right away.

Figure 2 Show all predefined tags

Figure 3 Predefined tags in Transkribus

Create your own tags

  • To create your own tag categories, click the “Customize” button in the “Tags” tab. The “Tag configuration” window will open up.

Figure 4 Create your own tags

  • With the “Create new tag” button you can add your own tags.
  • Once you have created a new tag, it will appear when you click the “Show all” button.
  • In the “Tag configuration” window predefined tags are shown in italics, customized ones are shown without italicisation.

Adding tags

  • If you want to tag a word or phrase there are three ways (at least) to do it:
    • Highlight the text in the Text Editor field and afterwards click on the green + button of the tag you want to apply.

Figure 5 Highlight the word to be tagged

Figure 6 Choosing the right tag

  • Alternatively, you can highlight the word or phrase and then make a right click with your mouse. Under “All tags” the suitable one can then be chosen.

Figure 7 Tag a word or phrase with right mouse click

  • Finally, if there are tag categories you use frequently, you can create a shortcut for them in order to speed up your work. To do so, within the “Textual” tab, click the “Customize” button in the “Tags” tab. In the “Tag Specifications” section, you can now add your preferred shortcut in the “Shortcut” column.

Figure 8 Add shortcuts for frequently used tags

  • You can also add a shortcut relating to the properties of your tags, e.g. for expanding abbreviations or adding a standardised country name to a place tag.
    • Click the “Customize” button in the “Tags” tab.
    • In the “Tag configuration” window click the desired tag. The details relating to that tag will appear in the “Properties” section.
    • Click “Add property” to add the property you would like.
    • Then click “Add tag specification”
    • Now your tag and its property (e.g. an expansion for an abbreviation) will appear in the “Tag Specification” section of the window.
    • Add the shortcut you would like to use.
    • Now you can add the tag and its property by simply highlighting the word or phrase in the Text Editor field and then pressing the short cut.

Figure 9 How to add a fixed abbreviation

  • If you tagged something by mistake you can undo it by highlighting the word or phrase again, right clicking with your mouse and then pressing the “Delete” button. The program will give you two options:
    • Delete only the highlighted tag
    • Delete all the tags for the current selection
  • Note: Tags can be applied to text on region, line, word, or even character level. To apply tags to a segmentation element, click on a text or line region in the Canvas image viewer and follow the above instructions.
  • Users can apply as many tags as necessary to the text.
  • In the “Textual” tab Transkribus will give you an overview of the tags you have put in your document.

Figure 10 Overview of tags

Historical letters and abbreviation signs

  • In modern documents the handling of abbreviations is less important, but in historical documents it is a complex and challenging task.
  • In earlier time periods words were often heavily abbreviated, in the hope of writing faster or saving paper. In some documents more than 20 or 30% of all words are abbreviated as shown in the figure below: Figure 11 Examples of typical abbreviations in Latin text of the Middle Ages
(cf. Wikipedia:

  • Again there are two main options to transcribe abbreviated text:
    • Option 1: Expand abbreviations in the usual way. Neural networks are often able to learn to recognise and reproduce expansions. E.g. Latin prefixes and suffices such as “cum”, “con” or “us” and “orum” are learned easily by the machine. This means that you just need to provide an expanded version of the text in your transcription.
    • Option 2: Keep to the rule mentioned above– as long as you can recognize the base character – transcribe the base character. This rule is especially suited to historians and people interested in the “content” of a document and those who want to provide training data for the HTR engine.
      • Note: When it comes to HTR training, tags are not relevant yet. Developments in Named Entity Recognition technology should make the automated recognition of tags possible in the future.
    • Therefore the correct transcription for the examples above would be simple:
      • pdor – qq – cus – qr
      • Note: In the future HTR engines may also learn to automatically expand these abbreviations (or to supply the correct abbreviation for an expansion) so that computer assisted transcription may be supported.
    • Option 3: If you are also interested in using Unicode characters which are near to the special graphemes of the original document, then you can transcribe the text by utilizing the full power of Unicode.
    • In this case the transcription of above could look like the following:
      • : LATIN SMALL LETTER RUM ROTUNDA. Also LATIN SMALL LETTER R ROTUNDA may be used to represent this letter.
    • Note: In real-world cases it is often hard to decide which diacritic, modifier letter or Unicode character may be the right one. You may consult the MUFI website to get more information on this issue (cf. section “References”):
    • Unicode and other special characters can be found in the “Virtual keyboards” button in the Text Editor menu.

Figure 12 “Virtual” keyboards button

Figure 13 “Virtual keyboards” window

  • Of course mixed models will often be useful. E.g. frequently occurring historical characters may be transcribed with their correct Unicode letter, whereas characters which were used just by a specific writer may be transcribed with their base character. You should note such editorial decisions in the “Editorial Declaration” in the “Document” tab, within the “Metadata” tab so that your transcription rules are transparent to other users.
    • Example: LATIN SMALL LETTER RUM ROTUNDA is regularly used in medieval and early modern texts. Therefore it might be useful to introduce this letter to an HTR model which deals exclusively with medieval documents and is dedicated to processing large amounts of such documents.

Illegible text

  • Text which cannot be transcribed since it is illegible can be marked with the tags “unclear” or “gap”.
  • If the text is unclear, highlight it in the text editor field and tag it as “unclear”.
  • If text is impossible to read, click your cursor where the text appears in the text editor field and add the “gap” tag.
  • You may also add alternatives or suggestions for the illegible word in the “Properties” section of the tag.


  • If you discover deleted text you have several options:
    • Option 1: The text which is deleted is still readable, or at least large portions are readable. In this case transcribe the text as well as possible and mark it as strike through. You can find the “strike through” button in the Text Editor menu.

Figure 14 Strike through button

    • Note: HTR engines are able to decipher strike through text and the more examples they have, the better.

Black out text

  • The “blackening” tag can be used to redact sensitive information in the export formats. Typically this is used to hide personal data in a document which is made publicly available.
  • The blackening tag is used in conjunction with the “blackening” region which must be added with the segmentation tools.
  • To blacken part of your text:
    • Use the drop down menu on the “+…” segmentation element button on the Canvas menu and select “Blackening”. Use the “Blackening” region to mark the word or section that you want to hide.
    • Note: Click the “Item visibility” button on the Main menu and select “Render blackenings” to display the blackened sections on a page.
    • Highlight the corresponding word in the Text Editor field and select the “Blackening” tag. In the export of the document the text will be replaced by: […].
    • When you export your document, make sure that “Do blackening” is selected.
    • Note: In METS and TEI files the word or phrase is blacked out but the information behind the blackened section is kept. In other file formats, the text behind the blacked out section is completely obscured.

Figure 15 Select “Do blackening” to hide image regions and text in exported files

Searching for tags

  • If you need to search for distinct tags click the binoculars button in the “Textual” tab.

Figure 16 Binoculars button for tag search

  • In the window which will open up you can define your search
    • Choose where you would like to search (current collection, current page…)
    • Line or word level
    • In the “Name” field put the name of the tag
    • In the “Text” field put the written text
    • Press the “Search!” button
    • The search results will appear at the bottom of the window.

Figure 17 “Search for..” window for tag search

  • To quickly add an expansion or another property to a word which appears several times in the text:
    • Sort the searching results by “Value”. This is done by simply clicking on “Value”.
    • Mark the similar words by clicking them while holding the “Control” button on your keyboard.
    • Then click the “Assign tag values…” button and type in the property that should be added.

Figure 18 Speeding up your work by adding properties to more words or phrases at the same time


  • We are currently supporting only a very simple description of documents since we assume that in a Digital Edition most of the metadata would reside on an external server and be linked to the document. Every document has its unique ID and can be accessed also via the REST services provided by the Transkribus platform (
  • The following fields are currently available in the “Document” tab, within the “Metadata” tab:
    • Title
    • Author
    • Uploaded
    • Genre
    • Writer
    • Language
    • Script type
    • Date of writing
    • Description

Editorial Declaration

  • Since there are always several ways to produce a correct transcript of a text it is important to be transparent about the way in which the transcription was undertaken.
  • For this purpose we have included a special feature in Transkribus, called “Editorial Declaration”. This is found in the “Document” tab, within the “Metadata” tab.
  • As with the tagging system, the “Editorial Declaration” offers a set of predefined features and options. Moreover you are able to create your own descriptions and to store them together with your document.
  • It is especially important to list special characters and their use in the Editorial Declaration using the form:
    • Character Set Extension: LATIN SMALL LETTER LONG S (U+017F)

Figure 19 Create your Editorial Declaration


We would like to thank the many users who have contributed their feedback to help improve the Transkribus software.