Pear Note: note taking for the best of us

Though I graduated from college (Go Bears!) not so long ago, in computer years it seems like ages: notebook computers have almost completely replaced spiral-bound notebooks, and PowerPoint and Keynote are increasingly supplanting the chalkboard. The changing dynamics of teaching demand a change in the way students take notes and learn, and Useful Fruit's Pear Note (available for free trial for 30 days, or $39.99 for purchase) addresses these changing dynamics for students. It's like TiVo for note taking.

Like or hate PowerPoint/Keynote-based lectures, they're complimenting, and sometimes supplanting, the chalkboard -- and sometimes even the professor -- in the classroom. As a result, taking notes "ain't the way it used to be." Sometimes, the notes you take end up looking identical to the PowerPoint deck that your professor's lecture was based on. So, instead of jotting down everything your professor is saying verbatim, why not just jot down those things that matter most? That's where Pear Note comes in handy.

Say you arrive to class with MacBook in hand. Your professor, like many professors, is a PowerPoint fiend and posts a copy of the day's deck for students to download, often times the day of, and sometimes just prior to, the lecture.

In a Pear Note workflow, you'd first need to launch Pear Note and open the PowerPoint file that today's lecture will be based on. Said PowerPoint deck will now appear on the bottom right hand corner (re-sizable to your heart's content). When your professor begins his lecture, click "record." As your professor clicks to the next slide, so do you. All the while, you're capturing his or her audio that's accompanying the slide.

For example, let's say that my professor is lecturing on Richard Feynman today:

  • Say we're currently on slide two, and my professor reads one of Feynman's favorite quotes. Here, I'm echoing the professor's words by writing, "In short...Feynman was a hero for the physics geek..." The professor then moves onto the next slide. And as he moves forward, so do I. I click on the right arrow as he moves on to slide three.
  • Now the lecture is done after slide three (short lecture, I know). I stop recording the audio. When I play back the lecture, the slides, text and audio are all synced together. So if you missed something, you can always highlight the words you'd like to focus on, which will bring up the corroborating slides and audio -- and vice versa.

At first glance, it's tempting to compare Pear Note to Circus Ponies' Notebook, which I'm also a huge fan of. And to a degree, this comparison is warranted; that's because both are marketed as note taking apps. While Notebook is more fully featured than Pear Note, and in many ways is a note taking suite, Pear Note better accommodates a PowerPoint/Keynote-heavy lecture. If budget isn't an issue, the two apps together would provide a college student a robust note taking package.

Updated note: Pear Note supports PDF-based slides as well.

TUAW readers can receive a 20 percent discount off the original price ($39.99) of Pear Note for the next 30 days by using the "tuaw" at checkout when purchasing Pear Note.

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