SayAgain - an audio bookmarking app

A few weeks ago we covered the Bookmark app, a subsystem for playing and bookmarking audio books. I was quite impressed with it, but some comments dinged it for not playing in the background when the app is closed. It also only handled audiobooks and some felt it would be more useful if it covered any audio file in your iTunes library.

SayAgain [iTunes Link] is another bookmarking app which solves both of those problems, but not nearly as well or as elegantly. It is compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch and requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later. It sells for US$1.99.

One of my pet-peeves is that many apps give you no instruction on how they work, and SayAgain is one of those. When you run it you are presented with a lined screen titled 'Annotated Media'. To the left is a + button and to the right is an edit button. Now what? Clicking on the developer link in iTunes brings you no help, only a description of what the app does. Nowhere in the app is an info button to bring some direction. But, one might say, it's intuitive. You don't need help. I say, nonsense. Everyone comes from a different level of experience and assuming intuitiveness is a bad assumption. Bookmark, on the other hand, gives full instructions and a tutorial right inside the app.

SayAgain is a generalist audio bookmarking app, allowing you to add bookmarks to any audio file in iTunes. This is quite useful since you might want to bookmark a story in podcast or even a great drum solo as well as a place in an audiobook.

There are two ways to use it. Either play something in iTunes and then run the app which will display your audio file as Now playing, along with the name of the song or file. Or you can run it without playing anything and hit the + button which brings up iTunes. Leaving the app doesn't stop the audio, a major advantage. To add a book mark you click the star (which in other apps means favorites), and you'll get a window with a keyboard and buttons to 'Set start marker' and 'Set end marker'. On top of the screen are buttons marked back and play.

Read on to see how well it worked.

To create the bookmark, press the 'Set start marker' button, then type in something descriptive for yourself. The start time is displayed. Play a bit and click the 'Set end marker' button and a ending time is displayed along with the start time. So far so good, but playing it back seems to be designed backwards. Click on play and the file will start at the right time, but it won't end regardless of your end marker. In fact you get no time progress information at all.

Hit back, though, and you'll see the time progress, but you can't play the file from that screen. You have no automatic way of stopping the file so you have to hit the back button and manually stop the file when the progress display reaches the time noted in the bookmark. If you don't manually stop it, the file will just go on playing. That's too many buttons to push when it could have been done from one screen. And if a 'Set end marker' option is present, it should do something other than look pretty.

On the Annotated media screen you have the option of jumping back and forth 10 seconds, an envelope icon that brings up email with the subject 'SayAgain' and your file name along with the start and stop time and any notes you typed in, already filled in. That can be quite useful.

The major advantage of this app is that it can run in the background since it invokes iTunes. Notes are nice and so is the ability to designate a start time. On the downside is a really poor design with no instructions and a confusing system of bouncing back and forth between two screens along with stop markers doing nothing.

The idea of SayAgain is terrific. The implementation leaves much to be desired. With a total design overhaul this could be a wonderfully useful app but in its present state it looks like a work in progress and not ready for prime-time.