This is a transcript of a podcast discussing Writing Apps, and tips and
challenges when using note-taking applications.
Speaker Key: PB Phil Brown, DW
PB: Hi, it’s Phil Brown, and I’m here
with David Whelan. Today we are going to talk about note-taking applications
for tablets and iPads, and things like that.
DW: Lawyers like to write. We are a
profession that focuses on documents, and we are all accustomed to writing on
yellow pads or legal pads. So how do you take that note-taking information and
move it to electronic devices? Fortunately, there are some really interesting
opportunities to capture the information that you have been writing down and
stashing away in paper files, and putting them into an electronic format that
is going to be much easier to reuse in the future.
So at the outset, I want to say that we are not endorsing any particular
product. We are going to name some of the well-known ones at the beginning, but
it is really just to give lawyers and paralegals an idea that there are a bunch
of different ones out there and you should examine what’s available and find
out what’s right for you.
DW: Right, because it really can fit
exactly how you want to use technology or how you want to capture information. We
can start off with the research notebooks, which are tools where you capture
images and text and then you synchronise them and organise them online. For
example, Evernote, which you have probably heard of, or Microsoft’s OneNote. Both
are very light apps that work either through a web browser on your computer,
tablet, or phone, and allow you to record notes very quickly, synchronise them
and put them into a larger framework like a notebook.
PB: Right. As an example, Evernote, which
I use quite a bit, can make a note on my phone or computer. It is stored on the
Internet or synchronised on the Internet, and then I can access it from any of
DW: One of the challenges when you start
taking electronic notes is, are you a typist? Most devices now have an onboard
keyboard if it is not a laptop where you can actually type on the screen. Would
you rather still do handwriting? I am a handwriting person. My fingers are too
big for most of the onscreen keys, so you can still do that. Most devices will
have an option for you to handwrite on the screen. I use a Samsung tablet. And
it actually allows me to write with a little stylus that comes with the tablet,
or I can write with my fingertip. So whichever I prefer, and then whichever
note-taking tool you use, things like Evernote or OneNote, you can save the
image of your writing, just like you would save a scan of your handwriting if
you scanned in a piece of paper that you’d written on.
PB: Right. And some of them will just
take the image of your writing. Some of the apps will actually convert that
writing to text.
DW: Yes, and it is really kind of creepy
to see it happen. I don’t claim to have better writing than a typical doctor’s
scrawl, but it does a really good job of figuring out what I’ve written. And
having that converted immediately to text means that I don’t have to go back
and try to dig through information. If I’m sharing the information with
somebody else, it’s easy for them to quickly read what I’ve got and then to cut
and paste it, if necessary, into another document.
PB: Right. And then the next step up, I
suppose, if I could put it that way, are apps that you can actually record
sound and make notes at the same time. And then later on, tap on those notes
that you’ve made, and it will take you back to the recorded audio that was
playing or that was being recorded at the time.
DW: Right. This is a great alternative to
doing dictation and then having someone else type it up. You can actually
convert it into text on the spot.
PB: And now, some of those apps are
Notability, which I know is available for iPads and iPhones, and I’m not sure
what other devices it might be available for.
DW: And even apps like Evernote or the
Samsung S Note will allow you to do a recording, but they won’t do the
transcription. They will save the recording as a note though so that you have
it as part of your note-taking environment.
PB: Right. And I’m just going to mention
another one. There’s also NoteBook, which might be a little more expensive,
from a company called Circus Ponies. They have that ability as well, where you
can record audio and annotate that audio while you’re recording it and then
later on go back and click on the note you had made, and it will play the
section of audio that you were listening to.
DW: You can also have the old-school
paper experience. There’s a Papyrus app, which I believe is on iOS but is
certainly on Android. It looks and feels just like a piece of paper, and you
just keep writing on it. And unlike a lot of the notebook tools, where you have
to create a new page or you have the feeling of dealing with a notebook,
Papyrus just goes on and on and on like a very long scroll. So there are really
lots of options for making the note-taking experience be exactly the way you’re
comfortable doing it in the paper world.
PB: Sure. And we haven’t touched on a lot
of the other features that they have. You can create file folders that are
different colours for each kind of note. You can change the look of the paper
that you’re creating. It can be buff or white, or it can be legal-sized or a regular
page format; lined, unlined, grids. The options on all these apps are almost
DW: Two of the options that you might consider
looking for when choosing a note app is the ability to synchronize it, and so
things like Evernote or OneNote, Google’s Keep are all note-taking tools that
have a synchronized option where they will store copies somewhere else. Not
only can you synchronize it to another computer, you create a backup of what
your notes are. So if your device or your phone is damaged, you still have a
copy. The other option you might consider is the ability to export, so that if,
for example, I’ve been writing in my note tool and I want to share that with
someone right away, and if I don’t have the ability to export it or send it as
an email, I can actually save it as a PDF and send that PDF to someone who can
then use it.
PB: Right. And as well as exporting, a
number of them have an import function. I know that Evernote does. You can
import PDFs and things and note them up.
DW: Yes. It’s a great option.
PB: So we’ve just touched on a few of
them. There are probably hundreds of them out there, depending on whatever
platform you’re using. We just want people to know that you are not necessarily
limited to a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. That’s our look at writing
apps for various devices. Thanks, David.