How to make the most of Subtitle Edit

Most translators have favorite tools that they use in their job. As audiovisual translators specialized in subtitling, we have played around with many subtitling programs. Whereas Aegisub is the overall preferred program as it works for Windows and MacOs (let us know if you want to learn Aegisub shortcuts and tools!), we do prefer Subtitle Edit.

Subtitle Edit is a free program you can install on your computer and it has the basics for subtitling. It is quite intuitive but it has some hidden gems that you might not know about:

Creating new subtitles (translator mode)

If you hate deleting and writing over source subtitles, this is for you. With translator mode, you can divide the screen (the part where the subtitles appear) to see both the original and the translation side by side

So, if you have the original subtitles with timecodes, click Tools>Make new empty translation from current subtitles. Your original subtitles will be on the right and the translation will be on the left. What is great about this is that you can also modify the original subtitles (if there are mistakes, you have doubts, you want to mark tricky parts in bold…). There is the option of saving changes on one or both of them. 

If you are revising the translation, you can open the original to check. For that, you will have to click on File>Open original subtitle (translator mode). Again, original on the right, translation on the left. This makes it easier to have the source and final text and the image up on the screen and all of them are synchronized. A lifesaver for proofreaders!


This tip is especially useful if you are creating the timecodes (spotting) or revising that the template/timecodes are correct. Most of the time, style guides and clients’ rules tell you the minimum separation between subtitles in frames, as there are different frame rates and therefore, different separations in milliseconds. For example, 2 frames in a 24 fps video is 83 milliseconds, but in a 29,97 fps video it’s only 67 milliseconds. 

By default, Subtitle Edit gives you the time code mode in milliseconds (HH:MM:SS.MS), but you can change it to frames (HH:MM:SS:FF), in which the last two numbers are the frames. To change it, go to Options>Settings>Time code mode>HH:MM:SS:FF. This way, you can easily see how many frames are in between two subtitles. For example, subtitle1 has the timecode 00:01:45:06 and subtitle2 has the timecode 00:01:45:09, there are 3 frames. You can easily adjust the duration manually or in the waveform. 

Minimum gap between subtitles

In the same settings you can set the minimum gap between subtitles, click the three dots, choose frame rate and how many frames you need and it will automatically convert the frames to milliseconds:

Then, in the waveform, you can extend the subtitle until the next one and it will automatically leave the minimum gap you have just set! No more maths!

Click here for more translation advice. Do you want a part 2? Let us know!

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