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!)



Add Yours
  • I could not even concentrate on the review it self, i just kept starring at the ugly UI :P

    • Hi Robin,

      I’m the developer of Pear Note, and yes, I agree that the UI is in need of a serious overhaul. Fortunately, that’s a major part of the upcoming version 2.0 Quintin mentions. So, if you find the UI is a problem for you, be sure to check back in a couple months to see the new look.

      • Ah, super! Love developers who listens to potential customers.

  • I tried Pear a while back, and found it utterly brilliant. Sadly, my requirements were a bit too heavy for it, and I switched to Circus Ponies Notebook (… which, incidentally, is just about the best app I’ve ever bought.

    I haven’t used the new OneNote, but Notebook absolutely thrashes every other note-taking organisational app I’ve tried in terms of power and flexibility.

    Having said that, Notebook *is* relatively expensive, so if you don’t have the requirements for all the extra features (and boy, are there some features), it may be redundant to spend the extra cash over such an excellent app as Pear Note.

    Additionally, all the features and settings of Notebook can actually get a bit confusing until you learn how to use it properly, whereas I found Pear very elegant and easy to use from the get-go.

  • Alternative for OneNote on Mac: Curio!
    (I tried them all because OneNotes was also my favorite and most used Windows program)
    Takes some getting used to, but now I find it even better then OneNote.

    Also: Pear Note is actually a software version of what the Pulse Smart Pen is already offering many years.

    • I second that. Curio is extremely powerful and versatile.
      And the only alternative to OneNote for me.
      (Expensive, sure but there is a license for students.)

      I just wish there was a version for my ipad though. :(

  • I still can’t believe that there isn’t something like OneNote in Macware. I love OneNote’s flexibility and willingness to let me just write/draw/paste anywhere without having to be in outline form.
    Will check out Pear Note. I’m glad to know someone else is looking for this kind of program on a Mac. I won’t go back to a PC, but I have Parallels just so I can use OneNote. Would love to find something Mac-native.

  • Been searching for an app like this last week.

    It’s really useful for me when taking notes in class on my macbook, because it’s just a fact you can’t write and listen to the teacher at the same time, especially when they go fast and say lot’s of important things. Also good to point a small webcam to the keynote :)


  • Looks to be a great idea. Can’t wait to see it with a new UI that employs clever way’s to organize the different types of media.

    Will be trying this shortly!

  • Thanks for sharing this great note taking application for Mac! Will try it!

  • Hey Admin ppl. This app really deserves a new review. The 2.+ version hardly resembles this old one (thank goodness!). It has become a favorite of mine and nearly all my classmates.

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