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I am thinking about getting a voice recorder to help me collect info while on jobs. I have never had one before and dont know much about what type of features the various models have.

I know some of you have or are using them. Would you mind informing me about what types of features I might want to look for in a voice recorder and any specific models you would recommend?

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I have tried to use a voice recorder in the past but I find it does not work well for me because I use a narrative report. I can jump around and add notes into different categories when they are written but the recorder is linear and would require me to jump around when writing the report. It is not efficient for me.

It will probably work for checklist type reporting systems.

The one exception is when it is raining or snowing outside, I use a digital recorder to dictate what I see and then transfer my findings into written notes when I can sit in my dry car or office.

I use a digital recorder that can easily pause as I write my notes. No tape= less moving parts= less battery usage, and most importantly, a better chance of surviving my travels.

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I use one every once in a while.

Best selection in my area is usually the Office Depot, Office Max or Staples.

I've had several digital recorders and Olympus always seems to work the best. They're durable and the software you load on your PC never messes with the system.

Look for one that you can carry in your pocket, and the buttons are large enough for gloved hands.

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I used one for a while about 5 years ago. I didn't like it. Everbody near you gets to hear what your saying. They either start asking you questions or run off and tell on you. "You know what I just heard the inspector say?"

I also felt it doubled my work having to sit down and write a list of what I had said into the dam thing. I can't think of anycase where it would have been nice to have. Not even in the crawlspace or the attic.

Instead I take pictures and make little notes.

Have you seen some of the new handheld tablet PCs. I'm a drooling over a Samsung model. I tried bringing a lap top onsite a few years ago and I hated having to manage that. But these little hand helds are different. It goes where you go.

Chris, Oregon

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I have two of them that I never use.

The second one was to use in combination with voice recognition software,so if you go that route you should be aware of which models will plug in to your computer.

Oh let me add that after the first time I erased important info I swore off them.

Take pics and you will never forget.

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Originally posted by AHI

I am thinking about getting a voice recorder to help me collect info while on jobs. I have never had one before and dont know much about what type of features the various models have.

I know some of you have or are using them. Would you mind informing me about what types of features I might want to look for in a voice recorder and any specific models you would recommend?

Get one that can survive a dunk in water without losing an inspection-full of notes.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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John--

It appears that my advice and experience (8 years) may run slightly contrary to the previous responses here. I started out writing brief notes...the sweat dripping on them posed a problem here, at least in the summer. And how do you write notes in a dark crawlspace? I quickly started using a digital voice recorder. A very quick dictated note can still give more data than a fairly long written note could convey. I tried different brands; I always come back to Olympus. And no, I own no stock in the company! I carry mine around my neck on a lanyard, so no worries about accidental dunks...unlike my cell phone. That's another story. When I get ready to record a note, I lift it up to my mouth and speak quietly. Anyone close enough to hear that has to be REAL close. If the seller is around, I have politely asked them to allow me to do my job in peace previously. As for Bob. E's comments, I don't quite follow them. I understand the value of a pic, but I don't take a pic of everything. If there's a constantly dripping faucet, or an outlet with reversed polarity, for example, I call it out by location. I don't think that needs a photo; it needs to be identified by location. A voice recorder does that perfectly, and very quickly. Others may disagree.

Maybe it's only me, but I find that the act of dictating notes into a recorder somehow burns the item into my memory better than writing it down ever did. When I sit down to enter the data, I write from memory prior to accessing the notes. I find I can remember at least 90% of the items without even accessing the voice notes. I write what I remember and then skim through the notes afterwards. Usually, I only need to add an issue or three to the report.

I've never lost or accidentally erased a file. To erase one (on Olympus, at least), takes a conscious effort.

Some types use a pocket clip. My first one did. (RIP) Bad idea for my use. Perhaps that's the origin of Jim Katen's comment about surviving a dunking. Gotta be on a lanyard. Never falls off.

Buy what brand you like, but I recommend that you look closely at the controls. The "round" thumbwheel type controls allowing quick recording and scrolling are great. Forget buttons laid out in straight lines--you have to look at those.

And as for style, I DO NOT use a checklist type report. Mine is a narrative. I don't see any downside to using the recorder unless you generate the finished report while you inspect. I don't. I like to produce a detailed report. To do so, what works best for me is to 'write' it on the computer back at the office in a comfy chair, not on the job.

As for price, there's a huge markup in these things. I buy off eBay, frequently "last year's model" but new, not refurb. Big savings possible.

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We use the Sony ICD digital voice recorder. We don't use it on-site for notes, but for dictating the entire report. It quickly downloads via USB and then the file is e-mailed to a typist. They have lasted much longer than any of the micro cassette recorders we used to use.

The only problem is the tiny pause button. If you hit stop & start, it begins a new file every time. The girls hate that.

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Randy maybe we should look into Bill letting us use his Typist.

How much Bill?

Kevin I do take pictures of all defects which I then print out to thumb nail,after which I develope a story board with little comments underneath which I use to focus on what I saw during report writing time.

Works great for me.And no they do not all go in the report.

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Well thanks everyone for the input on voice recorders. It seems as with many things the main factor is preference. In this case I wont really know my preference unless I try.

I think I will buy a less expensive model for trial purposes. If it works out good then I could step up to a better one.

I do see the point of conveying thoughts out loud. Many times you dont really want to share your thoughts at that exact moment. That could be tricky at times, but I dont see it as a reason not to give a recorder a try.

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