Taking notes is a time honored method for capturing information. We take notes in school. We take notes in business meetings. We take notes on telephone conference calls. We take lots of notes.
How difficult would it be to take notes, record audio, record video, all at the same time, and get everything to synchronize? Pear Note does that. Almost.
I don’t know about you, but I do not like taking notes. There are two things happening at once. Listening and writing. Oh, and there’s plenty of thinking that goes on in between the two.
Class rooms and business meetings often have students, teachers, and people taking notes on their computers. Since the Mac is a good note taking machine, and it’s good at recording audio and video, wouldn’t it be great to mix all those together?
That’s what Pear Note attempts to do. It integrates traditional computer note taking with audio, video, and slides. By combining all the pieces, less effort needs to go into accurate notes.
In fact, notes really become highlights and place markers because Pear Note has a time line and lets you jump forward and backward with ease.
In other words, your Mac records the audio of a class or business meeting while you take notes. It even records video to match the audio if you have a camera on your Mac.
Note taking is straightforward. You open Pear Note to what looks like TextEdit with audio and video controls. Click the red button to begin recording. Then take notes as the recording continues.
Whatever notes you take are automatically linked to the timeline so you can go back to a specific spot to hear (or, view) the entire recorded section without having to write down every word in the meeting.
Pear Note records your note taking keystrokes, the audio, and the video. Save the “notes” as a file which contains what you typed, plus the audio or video media. Searching is easy, too.
Even easier is moving forward an backwards through your notes. Click on a word in your notes and the audio or video automatically jumps to that location.
You can also add and sync slides—PDFs, Keynote files, or PowerPoint files. Notes become linked with the audio being recorded at the time, making the notes more like place markers, chapter markers, or highlights, instead of cryptic words.
Since Pear Note records all the audio, less detail is required in the typed notes.
Using Pear Note is straightforward, though not without an adjustment. It takes time to get used to a different kind of note taking. Not everyone in a meeting wants to have the conversation recorded in audio let alone video.
There are a few other drawbacks. Recording video and audio using a camera can be troublesome. If you’re a MacBook notebook user with the built in iSight camera, how do you point the camera to the speaker in the meeting? Is an external camera a necessity?
Generally, audio quality on the Mac’s built in microphone is decent, but recorded voices in a meeting where speakers and attendees talk over one another can make the audio playback difficult to follow.
Still, recorded audio combined with context sensitive notes is a view of the future of note taking. We’re just not there. Yet.
Unobtrusive audio and video note taking will be a requirement. There’s also the issue of people within a meeting who don’t want an audio or video clip of their performance floating around, so it would be wise to consider both the legality and ethics of such before beginning a 21st century note taking session.
Mounting an external video camera seems ominous and a bit too much like Big Brother and Power to the People combined.
Mini audio recorders are inexpensive and can record hours and hours of audio, which later needs to be listened to and perhaps transcribed. Pear Note makes the organizing of audio, video, and notes much easier.
Also missing is the traditional left to right audio and video timeline, such as you’d find in the old iMovie or in Garageband. That kind of editing capability adds another degree of complexity to a 21st century tool that may be a bit cumbersome to use initially.
In my evaluation of Pear Note I found my habit of taking detailed notes was no longer a necessity. The audio recording gave me the details. Moving through the audio by clicking on the text notes was also easy to get used to; quite logical at that.
I tend to think we’ll see more of this kind of utility, though the issues of propriety—recording audio and video in a meeting—are likely to remain. Pear Note is a peak at the future, and worthy of consideration if accurate note taking is a requirement.