Using Audio Notetaker to Assist in Navigating Audio Files for Presentation

A Guide To Generating A Fluid, User-Defined Catalogue Of The Contents Of An Audio Recording.

I recently purchased a copy of Audio Notetaker because I was attracted to its visual depiction of “sound bites”.  In an earlier post, I discussed the use of OneNote to generate a linked, issue-based breakdown or audio files. Whereas OneNote actually links the line of text used to catalogue the moment, Audio Notetaker requires one to actually click on a graphic depiction of the spot on the audio.

Although I still prefer OneNote for quick summary of audio or video, Audio Notetaker makes it easier to work with the audio, in my opinion. The program is very smooth, does not hang at all and feels robust. The audio starts instantly when a “sound bite” is selected.  Unlike OneNote, this program does not currently link the notes made to the audio file, and that is in my opinion an area where this software could improve.  Here is what an audio file looks like when first uploaded into Audio Notetaker…

The Appearance When A Sound File Is Uploaded…

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The user interface is similar to familiar word processing software. The shot above shows the top right 2/3 of the screen.

Adding Notes and Editing the “Sound Bites”

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There are a decent array of WYSIWYG formatting tools, just like in your word processor. You can use the font tool to change the size and colour of text and symbols in notes…

Appearance of the Notes

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The notes window by default sits to the left of the audio sound bites window. The font itself can be formatted to assist the user. The are two ways to break up the depiction of the audio file: Sections and Segments.

Sections separate collections of “sound bites” according to any criteria selected by the user. You could do a new section for every 30 seconds of audio, for example. Similarly, a new section could be created whenever the topic changes, sort of like a paragraph break.

Segments are the actual “sound bites” themselves. Each small bar, blue by default, is a length of audio during which the software identified sound. The gaps are portions where there is no audio, or presumably, the audio does not meet the threshold for recognition, in the case of minor background noise.

Appearance of the Section Window

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Sections can be quickly created through the use of a right-click and the context-sensitive menu or through the use of F12 or Format –> Insert Section Break. The sections themselves can be coloured to aid in finding specific locations, notes or topics.

Creation of a New Section

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Simply place the cursor at the split point and create a new section to see the panes split up and create a more clear break between portions of the audio and the corresponding notes.

Formatting Different Sections

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After creating a new section (you can have an apparently unlimited number of sections), you can format the entire section by colour.

Working with Segments

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A segment can be created in similar fashion to the creation of a section. The cursor should be place at a location within one of the blue bars. Clicking the “PLAY” icon or double-clicking the spot will start the audio. The playback can be paused through the “PAUSE” icon or using the “SPACE” bar. The latter method is more convenient.

The New Segment

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By splitting a segment you have created two blue bars where there was originally just one. The split is located at the location in the sound file where you have chosen to create the segment break. For use in court, one of the purposes of segment creation is to be able to identify a precise location of a sound or oral statement. This will make more sense when the colour tool is considered.

Colouring Your Segments

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It is quite easy, using the toolbar, to colour segments differently. For example, each time a witness describes a person, you may choose to highlight the sound in green. Red could be used to identify admissions or inconsistencies, and navy blue could be used to identify evidence about the nature or value of property. The choices are endless, case-specific and user-defined.

Exporting Text

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Another feature of Audio Notetaker is its ability to export the notes you make into a text document. It will carry the formatting with it, which is a nice feature. This enables the presenter to build questions around the audio recording, colour code them, categorize them and then export them to be polished and/or incorporated into a larger document.

Recommended Improvements

I should point out that I have not really used the option to insert photos in a column beside the notes. I thought about it but had no use for it at this time, but it appears that it could be useful to some users.

After using the software a few times I would prefer it if could:

i) provide a broader range of customization in the colours for section and segment formatting;

ii) enable the user to set up a second notes column;

iii) although it would represent a fundamental change to the software, the software would be greatly improved in my opinion if the user could link locations or words in the notes column to specific moments or locations in the audio segments.

Overall Opinion

This software was painlessly and quickly inserted into my trial practice with very little learning curve. I have quite enjoyed playing around with Notetaker. It is slick, smooth and does not hang up, providing instant playback when required. It is a limited to doing a few things quite well, rather than a mediocre job of many things. Highly recommended.

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