A few months ago while on break during an event I was working with several colleagues from different language combinations, we had one of those not-so-common moments when we all gather outside the booths and talked about the industry. As we were having this conversation I brought up the note taking topic saying that I had noticed that some of the interpreters were using a tablet while others were working “old-school” with pen and paper.
I have been taking advantage of the benefits of the iPad for quite some time. I love showing up for work with nothing but my tablet. No more heavy briefcases with multiple dictionaries. I now have my glossaries, dictionaries, and textbooks in my iPad; and if for some reason I need to consult other sources, I just go online with Safari. It is great to have my calendar, invoices, and even my travel apps handy at all times. Note taking for both, simultaneous and consecutive interpretation are another good reason to go to work with an iPad as well. Although I now use the Livescribe Echo Smartpen for consecutive renditions during press conferences and other non-judicial settings, because of the issue of recording in-court statements that has been raised in some courthouses, I am taking advantage of my iPad with a different application when interpreting in a courthouse, and many times when working in the booth.
There are many good efficient note taking applications for your iPad and other tablets: Paper Desk Lite, Idea Sketch, ABC Notes, Penultimate, Note Taker HD, Notes Plus, and others specific to Android or Microsoft are a good option, but in my case, I have been using TopNotes for about a year. This app has
everything I need to have in the booth and in the courtroom. It is a friendly application that takes you to your bookcase as soon as you open it. Once you
are at the book case you can either retrieve the notes of a conference or case you have been using, or you can simply create a new notepad for a brand new
event. To make it easier to identify your notepads, the program lets you name them, and then it allows you to pick a color for the cover and a paper style for the notepad. Finally, you can link or unlink your notepad to Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and Evernote, you can copy from Dropbox, Google Drive and Box, and you can protect your notes by setting a 4-digit passcode.
Once you have a notepad you can write in different ink colors: blue, purple, grey, black, red, orange, yellow and green; you can select the width of your handwriting making the lines and letters bolder or finer, and you can highlight, erase, copy, and paste your notes.
You can also choose your paper, turn on the read-only mode, change fonts, and turn on a wrist protection that allows you to write without having to worry about any marks or alterations by your hand and wrist pressing against the screen.
This app lets you switch the screen so you can see all of your notes at the same time making it easier to go back and forth without having to shuffle papers at the speed of light. Finally, with TopNotes you can email your notes, upload them to Dropbox, Google Drive, Box or Evernote, open the notes in other apps installed in your iPad, print your notes via air-print, and copy pdf files from your Dropbox and elsewhere so you can underline the text of a presentation or court file without ever touching the original documents.
I just want to end by saying that my choice of stylus for the iPad are:
Bamboo for fine handwriting. It is beautiful, its shaft is a little girthier than a Bic pen, and it is strong and durable but light enough to carry it in the shirt pocket like a regular pen; and
Boxwave from Amazon for bolder writing. It is heavier than Bamboo, its tip will not write with the fine precision of a Kensington, but it is far less expensive than Bamboo and you would not be very sad if you lose it. In my experience I found it better to have them both by my iPad and use the Bamboo stylus to write and the Boxwave to underline or to write big bold messages to my colleague in the booth.
Technology has changed the way we take notes as interpreters, and I invite those of you who have not switched to a tablet to give it a try. You will discover freedom and speed thanks to your new tool. Please tell me what apps you prefer and what stylus are more compatible with your handwriting.