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Better note-taking through technology

at 12:20 PM ET, 05/16/2011


(By Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)
I was never much of a note-taker in high school. In fact, I pretty much didn’t take notes in high school, and had the crummy grades to prove it. So it was probably a poor decision to enter a profession that requires an enormous amount of note-taking, and a fair amount of note-keeping/note-categorizing. But I think I’ve found a solution. And if you already have an iPad, it’s only $4.99.

Notetaking presents five major problems, at least for me: speed, accuracy, legibility, multitasking and categorization. The perfect note-taker could keep pace with the speaker, be accurate about everything she said, write legibly enough that the notes could be easily read later, be capable of doing all this without losing the ability to listen to and process the content of the speech, and then have a filing system such that the notes could be easily found and read later. Armed with a pen and a pad of paper, I can do approximately zero of these things.

The big recent advance in note-taking was the Livescribe pen, which records audio as you take notes, and then uses a photo-recognition technology I don’t quite understand to sync your notes to your recording. Then you just point your pen at your notes, or click on a scanned version of your notes, and the program begins playing the audio it heard at that precise moment. I own a Livescribe, and love it. But there are drawbacks: My handwriting is illegible — even to me — and not nearly fast enough to keep up with the speaker. It’s also not great for categorization, as shorthand that can be interpreted when the event is fresh in your mind turns into Egyptian hieroglyphics after the context of your scribbling fades from memory.

Enter Soundnote. Like Livescribe, Soundnote syncs your notes to a recording of the event. But unlike the Livescribe pen, it’s on an iPad, so the notes are typed. For me, at least, that means they’re faster, more legible and easier to categorize/search. I wish I’d had it in high school. I’m glad I have it now. And if you’re a student or a journalist or someone else who has to take a lot of notes on a daily basis, I recommend giving it a try.

 
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