Pear Note: Do One Thing, Do it Well

It has been a while since we reviewed Pear Note and several readers have requested we take another look at the app. When we looked at Pear Note back in 2010 it was a 1.x version, but is now into version 3. Pear Note is not your all around note taking app, but for certain note taking uses it’s the best option available.

Read on to find out how this note taker has evolved and if it can be useful for your note taking needs.

What Pear Note Is and Is Not

Let’s actually start with what Pear Note is not. Pear Note is not a note taking / information manager app. It does not have an integrated file system and is probably not going to get the job done as an information manager / storage app like Evernote or the DEVONthink apps. Using Pear Note as a quick way to get some thoughts down is also probably not the best use of its strengths—apps like NValt or NotesTab Pro are probably better for that.

However, in certain situations Pear Note can be a go-to app. Any setting where a speaker is present and it is very important that you take accurate notes is when you should use Pear Note. So it’s great for meetings, lectures, and presentations. It also handy for taking notes on imported audio or video files.

New Goodies

One thing users undoubtedly wanted to be improved in Pear Note 1.x was the design and UI. Pear Note 2.x delivered on this front completely revamping the UI and changing the design to look more like an OS X app.

A look at Pear Note’s new interface with lecture slides in a separate window.

3.x brings Pear Note up to speed with the latest versions of OS X (Lion and Mountain Lion). Because Pear Note does not store notes in a proprietary database, notes are simply files on the hard drive and useful document features like versions, autosave, and full screen mode are available.

Those of us who require an iOS version of any note taking app we use are in luck, Pear Note now has an iPad app. The iPad app includes the most essential features from the Mac App including audio recording, syncing text with audio, and rich text editing. The iPad app also syncs with the Mac app through Dropbox.

Features Dropped From the App

I found only one feature no longer available in Pear Note: the system wide search feature. In the past, Pear Note allowed users to search all of their notes from within the app. This feature had to be dropped due to sandboxing rules.

The lack of a system wide in-app search is not as big of a deal as it seems. Notes are indexed by Spotlight and so you can use a filtered search with Alfred to quickly find the note you are looking for.

Pear Note in Action

I recently used Pear Note in two situations — during a meeting and in conjunction with a Keynote presentation — and I am very impressed with the outcome.

Meeting Notes

So you have that important meeting and you need to capture everything that’s said. The problem is meetings rarely follow a structured path, people tend to talk fast and meeting notes often end up incoherent. With Pear Note this is not a problem; just start recording and keep up as best you can. When the meeting is over, go back over your notes and clean up the parts where your notes need fixing. I was pleasantly surprised at how accurately Pear Note synced my text notes with the audio. I was taking notes all over the place and adding bullet points out of order, but it kept up just fine.

Meetings notes with a trimmed down version of the interface.

Check out the Useful Fruit website for a demonstration of how the text syncing works

Slide Presentation

Powerpoint or Keynote presentations are easily imported into Pear Note, although you have to change the format to PDF first. The PDF can live in the same window as the text editor or it can have its own window. In the Keynote presentation I took notes on, all of the bullet transitions were retained in the PDF, making it easier to follow along and take notes.

Pear Note with slides in the same window. Bullet transitions are retained in the PDF.

Final Thoughts

Our readers seem to be split on reviews of note taking apps. Some of you think “enough already”, others want the search for the perfect note app to continue. I am beginning to think that just one note app may not be enough — maybe the goal should be to find the best note taking app for different situations. I realize this creates a problem for having all of your notes centralized, but it is something to think about.

Having said that, in my opinion Pear Note is the best app  for taking notes in meetings and presentations. What do you think? Is Pear Note the best note taker for meetings and presentations? How does (could) Pear Note fit in your workflow?


Pear Note is the perfect app for taking notes in a meeting or lecture and you need precise notes.