CaptureAudio Will Make You Shout Its Praises
An iPhone should be able to double as a handy audio recorder for students and professionals -- but lame organizational features that came with the phone aren't much to call home about. The CaptureAudio app can help with customizable indexing capabilities and handy binders and folders for storing important meetings and lectures. The lack of sharing is the only drawback for an app that boosts your phone's productivity.
04/08/13 5:00 AM PT
CaptureAudio can be found at the iTunes App Store for US$1.99.
Sometimes I hang on to using the Apple-bundled iPhone apps with a maniacal fervor. Unfortunately, this means that I get into a rut with an Apple app -- despite its limitations -- and I avoid trying new apps.
Yes, this means I can keep better track of what Apple is up to. On the flip side, why should I create extra work, just so I can identify when Apple ditches the skeuomorphic microphone from its solid but utterly lifeless Voice Memos app?
Enter CaptureAudio by G8R Software LLC. Apple thankfully highlighted this as a New and Noteworthy app, and it has been hanging around the Top Ten Paid Apps in the Productivity category for good reason: CaptureAudio will help you squeeze out more productivity from your recordings than you could possibly imagine.
Saluting the Flags
The central feature that makes CaptureAudio stand out is its implementation of "flags." When you start a recording, you're treated to a useful interface -- at the top, there's a timer adding seconds, which is framed by old school equalizer bars that hop and drop as audio enters the iPhone. This lets you know that you've got an active recording on your hands.
Below that and taking up two-thirds of the entire app interface is a round "FLAG" button surrounded by a ring. Rotate the ring and you point to an icon, which presents a type of flag. Tap the FLAG button and you quickly insert a marker into the audio recording. These flags are customizable, so while the default set is for business users, a student could easily use the set for education. Both sets are customizable on the fly, or you can create your own flag group using a set of additional icons like a martini glass, dog, heart, or lightning bolt.
The common flags are labeled with core words like Urgent, Important, Listen, Decision, To Do, or Task.
For your basic quick memo at a stop light -- where you try to record your new idea for an awesome travel coffee mug that cleans itself at the end of day -- the flags aren't very compelling. However, when you get into recording meetings, the flags quickly become indispensable and you'll wonder how you ever got by without them.
I'll tell you how I used to do it: I'd start recording a meeting, lecture, presentation or interview with my old Voice Memos app, and when I came to an interesting point in an hour-long event, I'd jot down a note on paper with the time stamp of the approximate location when something was said. Then I'd painstakingly move the playback point of the recording to somewhere near that spot and fumble around until I found the interesting quote.
That old method works. Once I started using CaptureAudio, however, I realized the power in this app.
Instead of fumbling, I can add a flag to a position during a recording. If the default set of flags isn't descriptive enough, I can type in a new descriptor. For me, that might be something like "Great Quote" or "Lead Quote" or "End Quote." It could also be something like "Fact Check" or "Bullet Item."
It all depends on the things you need to record. If I were still a student studying for a test, I'd flag key points that were likely to show up on an exam.
During playback, you can listen to the recording at normal speed, 1.5x speed, or 2x speed. Because you added flags along the way, you can tap these flags while listening to a recording and jump directly to the position of the flag in the recording. It's intuitive and fast.
As if the smart use of flags weren't enough, CaptureAudio understands that people have all sorts of interests and needs. Students have different classes, workers have different projects or customers. Consequently, the app's organizational principle is based on "binders" and "notebooks." You can create binders for sets of notebooks, which go inside the binders. The audio recordings go in the notebooks.
This means your million-dollar idea for a new self-cleaning coffee mug won't get lost in all the other recordings on your iPhone. It means you can rapidly step through a project, report, or study for a final exam. In a world where so many apps either overthink organization or ignore it entirely, CaptureAudio finds the perfect powerful metaphor for audio recording management.
With all this gushing, how can there be a limitation? There is one, however, and it has to do with sharing. It's not often that I want to share a recording -- and in some cases, it might even be illegal depending on your state, country and method for which you obtained the recording, which is why it's a royal pain to record a telephone conversation with your iPhone. Still, I can imagine wanting to share a presentation or business meeting with colleagues.
Fortunately, you can share a meeting with colleagues in two formats. The first is a CaptureAudio.cafl file, which means that other CaptureAudio users can listen to your recording and see and use all of your Flags. Nice. The second is a M4A file, which lots of different audio apps can play. No flags, though.
The downside? To expose these files and make them sharable, you have to connect your iPhone to iTunes on your PC or Mac, sync, and then share the files from your PC or Mac. The good news is that most people could then throw them into a file sharing service in the cloud or upload them to a business LAN. Depending on the size, you could even email the audio files.
In a world that's becoming more mobile, this sharing method starts to feel like jumping through hoops. What would be better? A built-in connection to DropBox or method for securely uploading a file, and giving access to another person for downloading. Such a system is ripe for a long-winded end user license agreement, but as near as I can tell, the sharing method is the only weakness to CaptureAudio.
One last thing: I don't really have a million-dollar idea for a self-cleaning coffee mug. After using CaptureAudio, however, I have more time at the end of the day for cleaning my mugs by hand.