Category Archives for "Technology"

Jun 26

Livescribe: Note Taking Magic (for CPAs)

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing , Technology

Livescribe: Note taking magic. Here’s an overview of how auditors are making their lives easier using the Livescribe pen.

Have you ever interviewed a client, feverishly taking notes, and straight away forgot critical facts? You wish you had a recording of the conversation. Better yet, you wish you could touch a particular word in your notes and hear the words that were being spoken at that moment. What if I told you, “you can”?

Livescribe: Note taking magic

How? Livescribe.

Think about what you could record with such a tool:

  • CPE class lectures
  • Walkthroughs of transaction cycles
  • Board or committee or partnership meetings
  • Fraud interviews

Livescribe: Note Taking Magic

What is Livescribe? It’s an electronic pen/recorder. As you write on special coded paper, you simultaneously record the conversation (the recorder is built into the pen). Once done, you touch a particular letter in a word (with the tip of your pen) and you hear–from the pen–the words spoken at that moment. No more forgetting and not being able to retrieve what was said. And it’s efficient since you can go to any particular part of the conversation using your notes as signposts.

To start a recording, you press the tip of the pen to the “record” icon at the bottom of the page.


To stop the recording you press the “stop” icon above.

Once the recording is complete, you simply touch the tip of the pen to any letter and the audio recording will start playing–from the pen–at that point.


You can upload the pen notes and the audio to your computer desktop Livescribe software using a USB cord that connects to the pen. (See below.)


You can also play back notes from your uploaded desktop copy just as you can with your pen. Click a letter with your mouse and the recording will play.

I was surprised by the clarity of the sound from the pen and the audio capacity200 hours (for the Echo version that you see below).

There are different versions of the pen. I bought the Echo version due to the lower price. You can review the available pens on Amazon. I also bought additional Livescribe notebooks (they come in packs of four) and a portfolio (binder) to hold the notebook and pen.

My Experience with Livescribe

I have used a Livescribe pen for four years. After using to it to record hundreds of hours of audio, I consider my Livescribe pen to be one of my best audit tools. I recommend it.

What if you don’t desire to shell out the $155 for the pen? Consider using the Notability app. 

Another Option 

If you have an iPad, you can buy the Notability app for $9.99 and record conversations with your notes (with play-back similar to Livescribe). You will need a stylus (I use an Apple pen) to take notes since you write on your iPad screen. See my article about using Notability.

One More Thought

If you are performing a walkthrough of a complex transaction cycle, consider using your phone to take pictures of what you are seeing (e.g., computer screens, documents). I use the Scanbot app. Between your notes (with audio) and your pictures, you will have a good understanding of what you have seen and heard.

You might also be interested in my article Four Keys to Better Client Interviews.

The Exciting (and Scary) Future Changes in Accounting
May 21

The Exciting (and Scary) Future Changes in Accounting

By Charles Hall | Technology

Are you ready for the exciting (and scary) future changes in accounting?

I have spent the last two days talking to and listening to CPAs talk about the coming changes in accounting and auditing. What’s the cause of the changes? In a word: Technology.

The Exciting (and Scary) Future Changes in Accounting

The Coming Changes in Public Accounting

Specifically, we will see changes from artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, and audit tools. The big four have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars in developing (and embracing) these technologies.

The expectation, so I am hearing, is for CPA firms to reduce the employment of traditional positions (e.g., auditing and tax) and increase the use of other disciplines (e.g., data analytics, leveraging AI and other technologies).

When these changes occur (and yes, I believe they are coming), CPAs can get hurt. Or we can embrace the changes and continue to be profitable. Ignoring these dynamics (or saying they are overstated) will—I believe—leave one blind-sided. 

Could I be wrong? Well, yes. And it would not be the first time. But based on what I am reading and hearing, it appears we will see more change in the next five years than we have in the last twenty-five (that’s a pure guess).

Examples of Emerging Accounting and Audit Software

Firms will need to make investments in emerging technologies and new software products such as Onpoint (a compilation and review product developed by the AICPA and CaseWare).

One platform, Mindbridge, offers audit technology with artificial intelligence. (Mindbridge works with standard accounting software packages such as QuickBooks and Intaact.)

An interesting platform for bookkeeping is AutoEntry. This package automates the entry of information into QuickBooks (it works with the online and desktop versions). Hector Garcia provides a nice YouTube video demonstrating how this software works.

Onpoint, Mindbridge, and AutoEntry are examples of technologies that will transform accounting as we know it. Anybody feel like we’re watching the accounting version of the Jetsons?

Advisory Services: An Opportunity

Interestingly, one of the fastest growing areas in public accounting is advisory services. So, smaller CPA firms should expect more demand from bookkeeping clients in terms of providing business advice: strategic planning, how and when to borrow money, where to invest excess funds, etc. This makes sense. The newer technologies are providing accountants with more time. And with that time, we can become better advisors.

how to extract pages from a PDF
Mar 05

How to Extract Pages from a PDF

By Charles Hall | Technology

Your PDF has 116 pages, but you desire to send ​a single page ​to a client. So, you're wondering how to extract a page from a PDF. Below, I show you how. Then I  demonstrate how you can email the information. It only takes seconds. (I am using Adobe Acrobt DC in this demonstration.)

​More Adobe Acrobat How-To Videos

comparing financial statement numbers in a PDF
Feb 21

How to Compare Financial Statements Numbers within a PDF

By Charles Hall | Technology

Sometimes you need to compare financial statement numbers within a PDF–even though the numbers are pages apart. How can you do this without printing the PDF? Below I show you how.

Of course, a second way to compare financial statement numbers is to open a second instance of the PFD on an adjacent monitor. I do both, depending on the numbers I am trying to compare. I might use the first method (in the video) to compare rows of numbers (e.g., equity totals) and the second method to compare financial statement numbers to disclosures.

If your financial statements are in Word, you can easily convert them to a PDF.

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