Audiolio, the least expensive of the apps at $1.99, lacks the paper notepad metaphor that can make some note-taking apps easier to learn. However, its brief text-with-audio tutorial quickly teaches new users how to take notes synchronized with audio.
Audiolio (shown above) and Soundnote both save audio as MPEG-4 (.MP4) files, which can be played in almost any media player software you might have on your PC or Mac.
Audiolio can share captured text and audio via email, an iTunes sync, or--the only app here that can do this--a direct deposit into your Dropbox account.
Text captured with Audiolio can be saved as plain text, a PDF file, or in Audiolio's own proprietary format. Unfortunately, the plain text option saves everything as one long hard-to-read string of text.
Like SoundNote, AudioNote offers the familiar look of a ruled notepad. However, AudioNote is the only one of the apps that highlights the word most closely associated in time with the audio being played back. Conversely, tapping any word moves to audio most closely synced to the position. This lets you easily move around both the text and audio recording.
The status bar at the top of the AudioNote screen changes from its default color of gray to red to show that the app is recording audio. You can include a drawing in your notes by tapping the pencil icon in the right end of the status bar.
AudioNotes lets you share your text and audio files via email, iTunes file sharing, or Wi-Fi. This is what the temporary Web page for Wi-Fi sharing looks like in a desktop Web browser. You can save your typed text in a plain text file or a PDF. However, the only file format you can save audio to is Apple's Core Audio File (CAF), which means Windows users must install Apple QuickTime or some other player that can handle CAF files to listen to the audio files AudioNotes creates. A version of AudioNote for Macs is also available--but the iPad and desktop apps aren't compatible.
SoundNote has a notepad look similar to AudioNote's, but it lacks AudioNote's handy timestamp and ability to highlight the nearest text to the audio being played back. SoundNote is capable, however, of moving to the part of the audio nearest a word you tap, which makes it easier to find missing parts of a speech.
Sharing SoundNote files is limited to email and Wi-Fi. However, with emailing, you do get the option of sending just the text or a combination of text and audio. The File Sharing... option seen in the screenshot above turns on a temporary Web server.
SoundNote instructs you where to go to share documents over the Web. Like AudioNote, SoundNote can export text as plain text or PDF. Like Audiolio, it conveniently saves audio files in the MPEG-4 format, which both PC and Mac users can easily listen to.
Here is SoundNote's Web-based file transfer interface. SoundNote's audio export scheme is not as cohesive as Audiolio's or AudioNote's. If you pause a recording during a note-taking session, SoundNote saves the audio segments as separate files. If your session is full of pauses, keeping track of all those separate audio files it generates could be a nuisance.