ELAN has several modes: Annotation Mode, Media Synchronization Mode, Transcription Mode, Segmentation Mode, Interlinearization Mode
For the most part, I use Annotation Mode, which is a waveform plus a set of tiers. In my case, the tiers are Sasi, Setswana and English. The tiers are divided into segments which ELAN calls “annotations”. Annotation Mode is great for initial transcription. As you scroll through the waveform, you play individual segments, and transcribe and translate them.
Media Synchronization Mode is used when you have separate sound files and video files and you want to synchronize them (by aligning the sound and the image of a clap). I do not use either Segmentation Mode or Interlinearization Mode.
Transcription mode arranges the information in Annotation Mode in a different way. There is a column for each tier, and the lines of text are numbered. In my work, the three columns are (from left to right) Sasi, Setswana and English. You can click on a line and ELAN will play the sound file for that line.
Transcription Mode is so useful that I usually will go back and forth between Annotation Mode and Transcription Mode several times in one session.
So why use Transcription Mode?
The lines are numbered in Transcription Mode, but not Annotation Mode. This gives you an idea of the length of a text. It also allows you to easily note the location of words, and phrases and issues that you want to investigate in the future.
Transcription Mode allows you to identify empty segments (“annotations”). Sometimes if the segment is very small, it is difficult to find it in Annotation Mode. These empty segments tend to come about when you are creating and editing the segments during transcription. Once you find an empty segment, you can delete it using “Delete Annotation”.
Transcription Mode allows you to see the text globally. For example, you can easily identify lines of text that have been transcribed, but do not yet have translations. I mark problem lines with (???). I can also scan for these lines easily in Transcription Mode.
Transcription Mode allows you to read through the English (and Setswana in my case) at the end, and check it: Are the English tenses consistent? Does the story make sense? Are there spelling errors? Does the Setswana correspond well with the English? In Annotation Mode you would have to scroll through the sound file to do this. You would not see all the text presented at once.