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What Is an SRT File?

SRT files are a common file format used to create subtitles. Read this to learn more about what SRT files are, how to open them, and how to create your own.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you probably produce or distribute videos. Maybe you post Q & A or commentary-style shorts on TikTok. Maybe you have long-form documentaries hosted on YouTube or on your own website. Whatever your video-making passion is, you want to make sure that your hard work reaches the widest possible audience. One of the ways that you can make engaging content is by making more accessible content. That’s where SRT files come in.

In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at what SRT files are, how they can be created and used, and the benefits they offer to creators and businesses who put out video content. Continue reading to learn all about what an SRT file is or use the links below if you’d like to jump to a specific topic:

What is an SRT file?

An SRT file, or SubRip Subtitle file, is one of the most popular subtitle file formats for video content. These plain text files include the text of the subtitles in sequence, along with the start and end timecodes. However, an SRT file does not contain any video or audio content. That’s why the file sizes are so small.

We’ll be covering the SRT format here, but it’s not your only option. Other subtitle file formats include:

  • .scc
  • .ttml
  • .qt.txt
  • .vtt
  • .cap
  • and more

Why do people use SRT files?

Viewers seek out subtitles for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes, they may have a hearing impairment and an SRT file allows them to still enjoy their favorite social media content. Families may not usually use subtitles, but like having the option when there’s a movie night with elderly relatives. Their grandparents can supplement what they are able to hear by reading the text on the screen.

People who are learning English as a second language may use subtitles paired with media like their favorite TV series. In this case, the on-screen text gives them a little extra support. It helps English language learners keep up with rapid speakers and figure out the vocabulary that their lessons haven’t yet covered.

Another major group includes people who work on a very different schedule from the rest of the household. They may watch videos muted, with the subtitles on. SRT files allow them to unwind without disturbing their sleeping family.

How to open an SRT file

Video audiences who want to open SRT files can usually do this through media player programs like VLC, Windows Media Player, KMPlayer, etc. You can queue up a downloaded SRT to play through the Subtitle > Add Subtitle File menu. Meanwhile, many social media sites such as YouTube have a toggle to enable closed captioning.

What about reading the actual file? Or creating and editing one? This can be done in any text editor. You probably already have one of these on your computer. Look for applications like:

  • Notepad
  • Notepad++
  • WordPad
  • TextEdit
  • Emacs

More comprehensive word processor programs like Microsoft Word also have text editor functionality. However, these can be more complicated to use for making SRT files. A basic program like Notepad may be more beginner-friendly.

There are also a variety of online subtitle creators and video editing programs that can be used for this, however you may need to pay to use most of these options. These tools have varying quality and reliability, and it may be harder to master them as opposed to creating a basic file in a text editor (see below). However, if you’re making a large number of subtitle files or are interested in other tools in the software package, this could be worth your time to learn.

Finally, you’ll come across subtitle auto-generation programs. These take much of the work off of your hands. However, they can add work if you need to clean up the file. These programs are only as accurate as their speech transcription, which can be an issue if you talk rapidly or have an accent.

How to create an SRT file

An SRT file isn’t hard to create, but you do need to get the details correct. Mistakes in the format or timestamps can throw off the entire sequence of subtitles when you load up your video player.

That said, creating an SRT file involves the following 4 steps.

  1. Open a plain text editor such as Notepad.
  2. Label each line of your subtitles, starting with 1.
  3. Enter the timecode to indicate how long the text should stay on the screen.
  4. Type in the text you wish to appear.

Repeat steps 2 to 4 until you’ve reached the end of the video’s content. When saving your file, make sure you’ve chosen the .SRT file extension. You may need to select this under a ‘save as’ menu. Once you hit ‘save,’ your SRT captions are ready for upload wherever you manage digital assets.

SRT file formatting example

An SRT file needs to specify the line number, subtitle content, when the text should appear on the video, and when it should disappear to make room for the next line. That may sound like a lot, but on the text document it is straightforward. Here’s an example from the famous 1940s screwball comedy, His Girl Friday:

1 00:01:17,757 --> 00:01:18,757 Copy boy!

2 00:01:20,727 --> 00:01:23,662

  • Make it snappy.
  • Where's the rest of this story?

3 00:01:23,862 --> 00:01:25,091 Morning Post.

4 00:01:25,298 --> 00:01:27,960 City desk? Just a moment and I'll connect you.

5 00:01:28,268 --> 00:01:30,998 If anybody asks for me, I'm down at the courthouse.


It’s important to note the timestamp format here of hours:minutes:seconds,milliseconds. The timestamps are also separated by a -->, and each section of text is separated by an additional space. You’ll need to follow this format exactly for each line of closed captioning.

This example also shows how to gracefully include multiple speakers on the same subtitle (as in 2), and how you can use basic HTML to create italicized (3) and bold words. Use these sparingly to add clarity to the text.

This example gets one thing wrong: several of these lines go over the 40 character ‘best practices’ limit. That’s not ideal. For a better viewer experience, you’ll probably want to split up long subtitles like those in line 5, which clocks in at 50 characters.

Benefits of creating SRT files

As a video creator, you want to reach a wide audience base. This includes viewers with hearing issues, ESL speakers, and others. SRT files let you make more inclusive and dynamic content. Your wider pool of video viewers will be enabled to really absorb and engage with your content through likes, comments, and more. A subtitle option on your videos also makes them look more polished and professionally created.

As another major benefit, many search engines’ algorithms reward more inclusive videos with higher search engine rankings. This ranking boost acts as a magnifier for the other benefits. It brings your content, message, and brand in front of more eyes.

The bottom line is that, once you understand what an SRT file is and how to create one, using SRT files can be an easy way to enhance your content and expand your audience. Through SRT files, you can produce more inclusive content, branch out to new audiences, boost engagement with your audience, and even, in some cases, improve your SEO rankings, which can lead to more traffic for your company’s website.

Final notes

An SRT file is one of the most common methods for creating closed captioning or subtitles for a video. You can write these files in any common text editor. Just make sure the timestamps are formatted correctly.

SRT files let you create more inclusive content, reaching varied audiences such as the deaf and hard of hearing communities, or people who are not fluent in English. Your wider audience may also have higher engagement. Finally, your SEO rankings can climb if the search engine’s bots detect subtitles.

However, this SEO bump isn’t your only option for getting more eyes on your video content. Mailchimp offers a full suite of marketing tools that can help you jump into video creation and start building a business or a brand platform. You can create a website, set up an email marketing campaign, and optimize your profiles and posts in major social media sites. Mailchimp streamlines the practical side of creating an online presence, freeing you up to focus on the creative work that you love.

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