Yeah, there have been a lot of changes in the past five or six years. What system to get is always a tough question. Reporters (thus, the potential work you'll find) run the gamut of all systems - some are still on their original CAT software from years ago, some have updated and/or changed systems as technology has changed. rtf (rich text format) is a means to convert files with which all current CAT vendors are *attempting* to be compatible. It's not a 100% successful conversion yet; for example, when I import an Eclipse file via RTF into my TurboCat, it loses the flags that make centered things centered, but it's easy enough for the reporter to fix that when they get the job back.

Whether or not you want a true Windows-based system might affect your choice. Eclipse and CaseCat are two that are, but again, running a DOS system can be just fine (TurboCat is DOS). The old-faithful Xscribe 2001 product (Model 2001, not year 2001) can't seem to run on anything faster than the original pentium I PC, but there has been a lot of work on 2001. (Update 5/04: Just last month I finally retired my XEC-2001 key... )

If you want to buy a new system and keep current on the technical support payments, you will be able to get all the updates to your system. Or, to save some startup money, you might want to buy a used system w/o tech support and just be able to hang your shingle out there and get started, maybe buying a new system later on.

So try to determine if you have a potential source of work, what systems reporters you know are on (who might give you work), what system(s) is/are popular in your local area, and check the scopist-wanted ads and see what people need out there. In our list's Links section (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/scopistssupportgroup/links) is a folder called Scopist & CR Sites where you can post an ad for free and also read the help-wanted ads. This might give you a starting point.

Whichever system you start with, odds are you'll be able to find some work and then decide if you'll stay with that one for a while or add a second one. I'd say most busy scopists do have more than one system.
I used to work in an agency that had 38 reporters. Most of them used either Premier Power or Catalyst. There were a few on Eclipse, a few on Aristocat, and a couple on TurboCat/Cheetah, and one on Xscribe (for whom I now scope!:) I had to use all of them daily, on a limited basis. I already knew Aristocat quite well, but I would say otherwise Case is the easiest. But I would also say that they are all basically interchangeable.

I think the suggestion of calling a few agencies is good.

If price is an issue, definitely check them all out. I really like Aristocat and it's $1,000 less than a full version of Case. I also found it easy to learn and troubleshoot.
...get on the phone and start calling agencies to find out what the reporters are using... While that may work with *some* agencies, I did that back in my early days and of the agencies here in Houston I called, they didn't know what the reporters used.

I agree this is one of *the* hardest decisions to make. Asking the CAT vendors a question like, How many new users have you had in the past year? might also help in making the decision. Eclipse and CaseCat are the two hottest kids on the block right now (RTF features, Windows based), but work can generally be found no matter what system a scopist starts out on.
IMHO, CaseCatalyst is the best. :) (See, you're going to get varying degrees of info on this question.)

Case's commands make sense, like using Ctrl-D for dictionary additions, Ctrl-J for job dictionary additions, Ctrl-R for replace, etc. They make sense (unlike Eclipse - remember, this is just MY opinion - whose commands are a jumble with no rhyme nor reason to my ordered mind). Case is extremely fast to use, manipulate, and quick to learn the commands.
So, let's hear it for other CAT programs that are easy to use. :)

Well, then Xscribe 2001 is it! (Too bad it's obsolete - but then CaseCatalyst took its place) In the defense of Eclipse and their "commands are a jumble with no rhyme nor reason," if I understand correctly, you can configure the commands to your liking. So someone like me who has used 2001 forever, I can make it emulate what I am already used to. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
Which is the best (translation: most used by reporters, so that scopists can get a lot of work) software out there?

Oh, boy. That is the No. 1 question most people ask, but I'd say the first question should be: "Where/who do I plan on getting my work from?" If she is in an area where she may begin drawing from reporters in her area, she needs to get on the phone and start calling agencies to find out what the reporters are using. That would be my best suggestion. This answer will vary greatly on region. I know when I lived out West, they favored Xscribe (now changed to CaseCatalyst) or StenoCat. I moved East and find the reporters are stenomaskers out here. "What's a CAT?" With the implementation of RTF/CRE, though not perfect, does make it easier for us scopists to be able to draw work from most anyone (if they are willing to use it).

She, too, may inquire of the CAT companies and obtain literature (and maybe a demo, if possible in her area) so she can see how they function, the look, the feel, the price . . . These pups are expensive, and she best darn like it and want to work with it for many, many hours of scoping fun.

For the best extensive list of CAT vendors, I would suggest going to www.scopists.com. They have a vendors section with links to their respective web sites. From there she can get info on each one and also their 800 numbers to obtain their literature.

I hope this helps a little. I'll be interested to see what others say.
DigitalCAT, CaseCatalyst, Eclipse, TurboCat, any of these programs, works best when scopist and reporter are working on the same system.

The RTF/CRE feature is something they began programming into any of these systems so that reporters on one system could work with a scopist on another (after much whining in the industry of why have 5 different CAT systems.)

RTF will import and export any other system that supports RTF, but . . . .it is not perfect. Some reporters won't mind the little glitches, such as all colloquy ending up being left justified or not holding other formatting features. Some do mind and won't work RTF at all.

It is completely up to you what you would like to do. DigitalCAT is a free software for a scopist working with a reporter on DigitalCAT. (You other gals were lucky not to be asked . . . I was, and luckily I did have a reporter to name who was a current user.)

Why not get it. It is free. But I would highly suggest looking into one of the other popular systems to work with, as I believe you will find more work to support it. Stenovations is relatively new. And although there are reporters on it, and it seems to be growing, if you have CaseCatalyst or Eclipse or TurboCat, you will always find a reporter.

I suggest getting literature from all of the systems. You'll find an extensive list of vendor links on scopists.com. Visit their website, call and ask for their brochure and pricing information. Be sure to ask about "specials,'' and if possible, a demonstration. Know what their support is, and cost to keep it up and penalty for not keeping it up. I also suggest that since you will be spending many hours . . . let me say, rather, many years using the software, get what you are most comfortable using. You will find that features that one person may really like a lot and not like in one system is just the thing you treasure. All personal preference. Any of the popular systems, though, you will find someone to work for. If you are interested in working locally, you might try and find out what people in your area are using. But, I tell ya, I have not worked for anyone in my own state for many moons. It really doesn't matter, with this wonderful Internet. :-)

I hope I have been of some help and not confused you further. I'm sure someone else will step in with something I may have missed. Just my 2 1/2 cents.

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