Spoken Word

The other day, we summoned all the Macworld editors together to go over important new steps in producing the magazine. Despite the significance of the topic, conflicting schedules don’t always permit everyone to be in the same room at once.

What’s an assistant managing editor to do, to make sure that everyone is on the same page, whether they’re able to make the meeting or not? At the suggestion of Senior Reviews Editor Jennifer Berger, I recorded the meeting using the Notebook Layout feature in Word 2004. Here’s how it turned out.

I recorded the meeting on a 1GHz PowerBook G4. Jennifer set up the document, using Word’s default Note Recording preferences (Quality set to Medium, Audio Type set to Advanced Audio Coding [MP4], Channels set to Mono, and Sampling Rate set to 16kHz). And in the Sound preference pane, under the Input tab, she selected the internal microphone and turned the Input Volume all the way up. (You can also turn your Input Volume up in Word via the Input Volume slider on the Audio Notes toolbar [View: Toolbars: Audio Notes].)

After that, I was ready to record. I clicked on the record button on the Audio Notes toolbar, and that was it. We had our discussion, made some plans, and answered editors’ questions. I didn’t type notes during the meeting; I just recorded what was said. At the end of the meeting, I clicked on the stop button, put the laptop to sleep, and went back to my desk.

I transferred the file from the laptop to our editorial server (via an Ethernet connection), and then connected to the server from my Power Mac G5. (I didn't have a FireWire cable handy to mount the laptop as a volume on my Power Mac.)

Playing back the session was as easy as opening the file and clicking on the play icon in the toolbar. (Or you can click on the audio icon that appears when you move your cursor next to the paragraph mark where the recorded note starts.). Using a pair of old Panasonic stereo headphones to listen to the document on my G5, I thought the audio was surprisingly clear and not grating, as I had worried it might be. And although I didn’t put the laptop in the middle of the conference table, everyone’s voice was clear and even. No static, no heavy sighs, and—most important—no one’s voice was too loud or too soft.

I was interrupted while playing back the recording, and I lost my place. Thanks to the Timeline Slider, I was able to get back to the right place in the recording quickly and easily.

A 23-minute recording yielded at 3.2MB file. I used StuffIt to compress the file so that I could e-mail it to coworkers. One of the recipients said that the audio notes were clear and sounded “way good.”

Of course, there’s so much more that you can use Word 2004’s Notebook Layout feature for. But for recording short meetings in a pinch, this feature proved very useful. In fact, the only thing annoying about listening to the meeting was having to endure my faltering speech. But I doubt Word 2004 has a feature that will take care of that.

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