I do most of my phone interviews via Skype because the Call Recorder add-on makes it easy to record calls straight to my computer. Until recently, I would try to capture notes as best I could during the call by typing furiously into Word. But I hated going back to the recording to fill in the transcript. Even if I had jotted down a time stamp at intervals during the call, the process was fiddly and inefficient.
Then I learned about Pear Note (for Mac), which links typed notes to a recording as you go. After an interview you can click on a spot in your notes and Pear Note will jump to the corresponding spot in the recording so you can listen to what your source was saying as you typed those words. Or, if you start playing at a particular spot in the recording, Pear Note will begin highlighting the matching spot in your notes, cruising along in sync with the recording, like a karaoke machine. By following these instructions, you can easily use it with Call Recorder—with the bonus that the recording and notes are a single file. Before, all my recordings ended up in a separate folder, sorted by phone number.
Thanks to Helen Fields (bio), I had already become enamored of the Livescribe Pen for in-person interviews and field notes, but this magic pen doesn’t work over the phone. Pear Note is like a Livescribe Pen for phone interviews, and it has additional capabilities: you can add video or Power Point slides into the mix. I’m a convert.
A couple of pointers:
1) If you want to go back and fill in your notes with a more detailed transcript after an interview, click the little “unlock” icon that appears underneath the recording bar once you hit ‘play’. Then you can make changes to the notes while the recording goes along. It will integrate the new notes into the original timeline. To keep a good match between the recording and the notes, I try not to delete too much of my original typed notes.
2) If you like to make calls via a real phone, this device (if you can find it) will send the call into your computer where you can record it with Pear Note.
3) If you want to share a Pear Note file, you can make a web version that doesn’t require the recipient to have PearNote.
4) You can adjust speed of playback, which can help with transcribing.
5) Pear Note also has an app for iPad and iPhone that syncs with the Mac version. I can’t imagine taking good notes via my iPhone, but you could at least mark key parts with a few keystrokes and easily find the good parts of your recording that way.
Thanks to Christie Aschwanden for introducing me to Pear Note and to Roberta Kwok and Cassandra Willyard for useful tips on using it.