The Best Line Note App Ever Made?

by David J. McGraw
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TagNotate: The best SM app not invented by a stage manager
TagNotate: The best SM app not invented by a stage manager

For the past four years, I have been searching for a better way to record and distribute line notes.  It is easily one of the most labor intensive chores for stage management and speed is a priority so that actors can learn from their mistakes before we work the scene again.  I even met with a software developer, who estimated it would only take about $7,000 to build and another $8,000 in annual royalties to other programmers to create the software needed for this job.  How many copies would we need to sell – and at what price – just to break even?  Then I found an existing little app that does everything a line-note-taker needs for just $5.99.

The app is called TagNotate (available for Mac desktop/laptop and iPad) and its genius is in its simplicity.  Here is how you can quickly adapt this app for stage management use:

1. Import a pdf of your script.  Computer users can drag the pdf onto the app; the iOS version supports Dropbox for imports.

2. Create a tag for each actor.  I color-coded my actor tags (2 clicks) to make it faster to find their names during scene work.

3. Create a tag for each line problem an actor might have with a line.  I use Added, Called Line, Changed, Dropped, Inverted, Jumped Cue, and Late on Cue.

4. Tip: Now sort tags by Name, then Color.  This way your cast appears first and then your line problem tags.

Steps 1-4 should take about 5 minutes.  Good news: you only need to create the problem tags once for use on all of your shows.

Sample Tags for a 3-Person Show
Sample Tags for a 3-Person Show

Now enjoy the beauty of the app!  When an actor makes a mistake in rehearsal, simply:

1. Highlight the problem word(s)

2. Tap on the Actor Name tag

3. Tap on the Line Problem tag

That’s it – it is recorded and ready for export!

In the top toolbar is an icon labeled Annotations.  Click on that button and the view switches from your script to just the notes, including page numbers.  Click on an actor’s name, and it will only show that actor’s notes!  Then you can either print or save those notes as a pdf to e-mail the actor.

Easy Separation of Notes by Actor/Role
Easy Export of Notes by Actor/Role

I kept expecting to encounter some problem that would require a complicated work-around, but it really works that simply.  There is an export function that would allow you to send the information as text, html, csv, or tsv files, but I think a simple pdf will be best for most individual actors.  The iPad version even saves you a step: expand the right toolbar (search window), tap on an actor’s name to show only that actor's notes, and then e-mail the notes directly without even making a pdf!

Full Disclosure: I have no connections to this app or this company.  They appear to be based in the UK.  But as soon as I publish this post, I am going to contact them to include Stage Manager under their Case Studies.

Share below if you have additional tips on using this software.