Pear Note: Combining Audio, Video & Text Notes

As a student, I am well versed in the world of handwritten notes. Just like many of you out there, when taking notes you tend to miss what the professor, speaker, or person of interest is saying, as you’re concentrating on what you are writing.

What if you could combine someone’s lecture with your typed notes? When you’re reviewing, you can match your notes with their speech. Pear Note from Useful Fruit Software does just this – recording audio/video from your Mac and keeping it in time with your written notes and even presentation slides.

My Note Taking Woes

I have tried several note taking applications, from the archaic-looking-UI-revamp-needing Notebook from Circus Ponies, to the all-too-much-form-and-no-function Thoughts from Green and Slimy. Even Apple’s Pages and Microsoft’s Word 2008 (Note taking option) aren’t a close match to my favorite note taking application: OneNote.

Yes, from the days when I used Windows, I fell head over heels for this application. I have yet to find a similar program. Something that can combine lists, drawings, and multimedia into a sleek, Mac-like, user interface. While some will say I’m just being picky, I have a hard time understanding why a Windows program can be built to outsmart every application I’ve tried on the Mac!

Thanks to bundles and other online sales, I’ve seemed to have acquired most of these applications. It’s with great pleasure that I’ve added Pear Note to this arsenal.

Pear Note Does What?

When you open Pear Note, unlike other note taking applications, you’re not presented with endless toolbars and icons. Instead, of concentrating on formatting your notes, the program aims to get out of the way as quickly as possible. The white, empty box is where you’ll be entering your notes.

The Main Window

The Main Window

However, before you begin typing, you’ll want to press the record button. When you do this, your Mac will begin recording audio (and video if selected) along with your text.

Pear Note then assigns each keystroke with a timecode of the audio/video recording. So when you’re ready to review, just click a part of the text, and Pear Note will start playing the recording back. It even starts with 30 second delay to make sure you don’t miss something.



Formatting, Slides and Other Features



Don’t jump to conclusions that because of the basic interface, Pear Note does not have the necessary ‘oomph’ to add spice to your notes. It does have highlighting and bullet point options, along with basic font and color options.

To change the highlight color, option-click the icon. It has a few built in colors, but you can also select your own.

The sidebar of Pear Note gives you the option to enable audio and video recording. Also, if you need to record something recorded after the fact, just drag the audio or video file right into the main window; you can click play and start typing along with a podcast or pre-recorded lecture.

Something that I will look forward to using in class is Pear Note’s slide feature. You can load up a PDF, Powerpoint or Keynote file inside of Pear Note and follow along with it. Just click the Next button when the teacher or lecturer advances to the next slide. This way, you can have audio of a lecture, the powerpoint and your own personal notes, all kept together and in sync.

One thing many of you might ask is why have a video feature? If I just use my iSight it will only record me, not the presenter. Well, Useful Fruit recommend either using the Ecamm Huckleberry – a mirror device that snaps onto the lid of your laptop (about $30) – or using a Mac supported USB camera.

This might work better, as you can get a higher quality webcam from Logitech than the one built into the Mac. However, this might run a bit more expensive than a simple mirror solution.

Pear Note also includes a robust searching tool that spans any Pear Note created file. Thus, allowing you to search text and find exactly when you your teacher mentioned “Flux Capacitors.”



Wrapping Things Up

Pear Note is a wonderful, minimalistic program for syncing audio (and video) recordings with typed text. It is really neat to click and be able to hear exactly what the lecturer was talking about. It’s perfect for students and useful in the business world. This way you can always go back to what the client actually said and how you interpreted it.

Pear Note, due to its simplicity, does not include any file management feature. You can either manage the Pear Note files in the Finder or through another program like Yojimbo, iDocument, or DEVONthink.

I enjoyed using Pear Note, and really have a lot of hope for version 2.0 which is expected to ship in the coming months. There has also been talk about a Pear Note iPad app, which would be great for sneaky in class note-taking. However, keep note of any laws and alert someone before you begin recording them – you really don’t want to get in trouble with the authorities!

If you’re a student or are constantly taking notes for meetings, Pear Note could be an invaluable addition to your collection of productivity apps. Pear Note doesn’t exactly fill in the gaps left in my heart and writing hand by OneNote, but appears to be in its own field. I’ve yet to find another similarly priced app that is as well designed and build as Pear Note.

Let me know your thoughts, and whether there is some magical OneNote replacement for the Mac out there!


Pear Note syncs up typed notes and audio recordings, along with video and presentation slides. While it doesn’t include any organizational or heavy formatting features, the software keeps note taking simple- allowing you to concentrate on the task at hand- passing your class! (Or getting a raise!)