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2/3/2012
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iPad, Take A Note: PaperPort Notes Adds Speech Recognition

Unlike other note-taking apps for iOS, PaperPort Notes allows dictation and some commands by voice.

I have 14 note-taking apps on my iPad 2. Number 15 joined the group this week: PaperPort Notes.

What makes yet another note-taking app worth looking at? PaperPort Notes has been updated, by Nuance of Dragon Naturally Speaking speech-to-text fame. The 1.1 update introduces only one new feature, but it's a goodie: speech recognition for note taking. The price? Free.

Nuance acquired PaperPort Notes when it purchased Noterize in 2011. The app lets you take notes by typing, drawing (and writing, without converting to text), importing images, pasting data copied to the iPad's clipboard, or importing files from a variety of cloud sources. However, it is the speech-recognition note-taking feature that sets this app apart from the rest.

Creating text notes using your voice is simple. Just tap any empty spot on the page to launch the Tap & Speak button and start talking. Tap the button again to have your spoken words transformed into text.

There are just a couple of caveats. First, like most mobile speech recognition systems, PaperPort Notes needs Internet access so the speech recognition's heavy lifting can be done on remote servers. Also, beware of that misleading microphone icon in the row of icons in the upper right of the screen. It starts a recording of raw audio notes, not a speech recognition session.

The text output from the speech recognition process appears on the app's page in a box you've define or in a Stickie note. Any recognition errors can be corrected by using the on-screen keyboard. As with other Nuance speech recognition products, you can say words such as "comma" and "period" to place punctuation in your text.

Like other note-taking apps for the iPad, PaperPort Notes can include photos or simple line drawings. However, photos shot in landscape orientation work best. You can see a photo taken in portrait orientation in the screenshot below. Note that the app more or less forced me to use a cropped view of the photo for inclusion in the box. This, however, is generally a minor limitation.

The screenshot below illustrates a couple of note entry techniques on a single page. I created the typed text, including the text in the yellow Sticky note, using speech recognition. I drew in the arrows and hand wrote the words "Nice day". I took all the photos on the page with the iPad 2's camera and imported them from the photo album. Note that the Sticky note is tilted--PaperPort Notes lets you move or tilt boxes using gestures. PaperPort performed flawlessly; I didn't have to make a single correction to the text.

Page design options are blank, white lined, yellow lined, or graph. The insert option lets you add more pages to a "notebook," or import content from local (clipboard, photo album) and cloud (Box.net, Dropbox, web pages) sources.

PaperPort Notes does not sync with a Web-based service such as Evernote or Springpad. However, it provides a variety of ways to get your notes off of the iPad for sharing or archiving. Options include Nuance's own PaperPort Anywhere service, email, Google Docs, Box.net, or Dropbox. An entire notebook or selected pages also can be opened using supported iPad apps such as iBooks, GoodNotes, or Sundry Notes.

PaperPort Notes is a very different experience compared to other iPad note-taking apps. But people familiar with Microsoft's OneNote might see similarities in the way individual objects can be manipulated on note pages. This aspect, plus its ability to perform speech-to-text conversion, might earn it a go-to-app status for many iPad users.

Name: PaperPort Notes

Unlike the many other note taking apps for iOS, PaperPort Notes allows dictation, including the use of punctuation, by voice. It's well-implemented and clearly desirable, especially on a device limited to a soft keyboard.
Price: Free.
Pro:
  • Good speech recognition in our tests.
  • Rich tools for manipulating note objects.
  • Free.
Con:
  • Requires Internet connection for speech recognition
  • No automatic cloud sync.

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