Cheetah - Captioning/Subtitling & Court Reporting

Monday, July 30, 2007

We Heard You!

Late last year we had decided that, since only about 5% of court reporters attend the NCRA conventions, we would focus our efforts on State Court Reporter Associations and reduce our spend in the JCR.

However, we got much feedback that you DO want us at the conventions as well as advertising in the JCR.

We Heard You!

We have reinstated our advertising with the JCR (you'll see it in the September Issue) and we will be in Dallas at the upcoming NCRA convention.

We are also rolling out our State Court Reporter Association program. We've begun advertising in the newsletters of a couple of state CR Associations and will be doing more as time goes on!

So, come by our booth at the NCRA Convention and we'll get you a demo of SmartCAT!

Take care,

- Greg L. Richardson
VP of Operations & Director of Marketing

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Is it Hard to Move from TurboCAT to SmartCAT?

I continue to get calls from people that ask, "I've been on TurboCAT forever. I'm sure that nobody else is left using it, but I need to move to your windows software, is it hard to make the move?!?".

Actually, we still have many many many people in just your boat! People loved TurboCAT because Cheetah has been known for its simple and reliable software for years. We have continued that trend into SmartCAT, in many ways making it much better than TurboCAT. It's no wonder that people loved TurboCAT so much that they don't want to jump. However, as time goes by and old *and reliable* laptops are becoming harder and harder to find, people find themselves at the crossroads, wondering what they'll have to give up to make the leap.

We find that it takes people about 10% of the time to learn SmartCAT that it initially took them to learn TurboCAT. It does take a little bit of time, but surprisingly little at that.

Since it is in Windows, it will be different, however, you'll notice when you get into SmartCAT that the editing is virtually identical! You still hit "n" to scan to next, "t" to text global, "g" to steno global, and the list goes on and on and on!

We've spent our lives and careers here over the last 5 years ensuring that our beloved TurboCAT users can make the transition with minimal time and effort and allowing them to go out and buy bright-and-shiny new computers and new printers without stress!

Our SIX training options, in decreasing order of self-drive:

1. The Manual! Currently weighing in at 478 pages, it's electronic in format, very very good and very user friendly, full of pictures and great for the self-directed, self-teaching sort of person! If you're a "Get-In-There-and-Figure-It-Out-Myself" sort of Court Reporter, this is for you! This is included at no additional charge with the purchase of SmartCAT and is automatically installed when you install SmartCAT (we update it with each new release too and you can always get the latest copy from the website if you're up-to-date on your maintenance contract).

2. Quick-Start-Guide! This is a 16-Pager that takes about an evening (for a technologically-oriented, self-driven court reporter) to go through. Running through this will allow you to have a very nice context for getting going most-quickly in SmartCAT. This is also included at no additional charge with the purchase of SmartCAT and is also automatically installed when you install SmartCAT.

3. Online Videos! We have a whole slew of videos on how to get going on SmartCAT. You can play them, review them, go back-and-forth, stop them to practice using what you've learned and really immerse yourself in them. Also, we find that though many of our users know how to edit like the wind, they often need help on Windows, so we also offer some videos that help there too! Online Videos are available at no additional charge for our on-maintenance customers.

4. Walk-throughs! You can schedule 2- to 2.5-hour walk-throughs with us. It works like this: we limit it to a couple of hours (because, in our estimation, the brain can only retain what the butt can handle!). Then, when we start the call with you, we ask you what you'd like to cover. If you don't know, we have a path which we can take you through. If you're a beginner, we'll walk you through your style sheet and getting started. If you're an old pro, we'll give you tips and tricks on customizing SmartCAT to kick out beautiful, accurate transcripts in less and less time. EVEN BETTER, when you finish, we can schedule a time to do another one! We will do as many walk-throughs as you like to cover all the topics you wish. Walk-throughs are available at no additional charge for our on-maintenance customers.

5. Group Trainings! We hold 15 to 20 Group Trainings all over the United States annually. While primarily focusing on our major markets (we rotate through California, Chicago and New York, going to one location monthly), we also do get around to other spots in the U.S. as customers ask for them. Not only do we do One-and-a-half-day Basic Trainings for 1.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs), we also do One-day Advanced Trainings for .8 CEUs. Basic Trainings are no additional charge for purchasers of SmartCAT within their first year and $310 for our on-maintenance customers after that first year. Advanced Trainings are $200 for on-maintenance customers. We do have a slight increase in price for last-minute enrollees. Your pricing questions can be found by clicking HERE.

6. Personal Trainings! Our SmartCAT-using, full-time-CSR, business-partner-Kelly will come to your house and work with you one-on-one until you feel comfortable! You read that right, she'll sit with you in your living room working with you and explaining in her very expert and highly personalized way how to make the most out of your SmartCAT system. Since it means putting Kelly on a plane, food and lodging expenses as well as taking her time away from knocking out expedites, we can't offer this as part of a maintenance fee. However, if you're interested, please do contact us at for a quote.

So, as you may have gathered, we are utterly dedicated to making your transition to SmartCAT as quick & easy as possible, in addition to well-suited to your level of self-direction and inquisitiveness. As always, do let us know if there is anything we can do to be of help to you.

Greg L. Richardson
VP of Operations & Director of Marketing
Cheetah International, Inc.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Software is Free?

Spend time in any college town and in time, you'll almost certainly hear of a band named "Free Beer". The trick is that when their band name is on the marquis of a local club, passersby see "Free Beer" prominently displayed and go inside, expecting to get a gratis lager but have their hopes dashed when they find only a mediocre band with a catchy name.

Nowadays, we here a lot about "Free Software". To quote the Free Software Foundation, the GNU Project, "Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer." For their full article, click here.

In the macro-sense, what happens is:
1. Someone becomes disenchanted with the price of a piece of software
2. They write (alone, with a group of friends or as an open-source community) a "free" alternative, usually in their free-time as a hobby
3. The users see that it's a decent substitute for the "pay-for" version
4. Users abandon the "pay-for" version for the "free" version (jeopardizing or destroying the financial viability for the initial "pay-for" supplier company)
5. Users have questions about usage, how to enhance it, etc....
6. They ask the software writer or community for help in getting their needs met
7. As the magnitude of questions and requests increase, it becomes burdensome and "more-than-a-hobby"
8. The person or members of the community begin to charge small amounts for the software so that they can maintain their livelihoods while making support and development a full-time function
9. Big companies adopt the software
10. Big demands is created for people who can develop and support the software
11. The size of this demand creates paid-consultants and developers for the "free software"
12. The demand for more sophisticated developers and support people leads to industry being created around the new "formerly-free" software
13. The price falls into line with the first "pay-for" software
14. Go back to step #1

We've seen this cycle happen multiple times. The two most notable examples: Linux is through this cycle, Firefox is mid-way through this cycle. The outcome is that you end up in the longer-term with the sort of bait-and-switch that was mentioned with the "Band Named Free Beer" scenario earlier in this article.

At Cheetah, we know that software is not truly free. Even if it's created to be free, the longer-term support and product development demands can only prevent it from being free. To that, we do our very best to keep our operating costs low and deliver a very good product (SmartCAT, TurboCAT for Windows) at a very good value. Did you know that we've not increased prices in 20 years since the Cheetah Systems was founded in 1987?

By maintaining our discipline and continually looking at ways to innovate and keep costs low while improving our tech support, training, testing and product development processes, we are able to ensure that we will be a stable supplier for top-notch CAT software and have brilliantly knowledgeable, friendly people here for you for a good long time.

All the best,

Greg L. Richardson
VP of Operations & Director of Marketing
Cheetah International, Inc.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cheetah and the NCRA Mid-Year Convention

Cheetah will not be attending the upcoming NCRA Mid-Year Convention and we will continue to advertise periodically in the JCR.

We have thought hard about our marketing and advertising decisions over the past half decade. We have also received some comments and observations from people that, by not attending or by advertising sporadically, that the industry might not be aware that we are in business.

We acknowledge that those speculations may be right and we could possibly be making a mistake by not being present at the mid-year NCRA event and in the national Journal of Court Reporting magazine.

We decided that we would try something different a few years ago after our conversations with some customers, reviewing what the previous owners/managers had done and surveying the changes in the media world.

Most of our customers had started to search for us on the internet – not in the JCR.

We heard a significant number of customers tell us they did not go the mid-year or annual NCRA shows, they like their state reporter association meetings better.

We also started to feel that advertising was a bit more ‘big company’ than we really wanted to be.

So we thought we would try an experiment for a while. We have spent our time and money contacting all of our customers via phone and taken great care in hiring really talented people to working in customer service and technical support. We have also spent more time working on our website and providing user forums.

Our customers have helped us understand that it is better to be small and personal, and better to have our solid technical support available 7x24x365 than to spend money advertising in a magazine that reaches only about a third of court reporters and attending an annual event that is attended by only about 5% of court reporters.

How has this been working? So far, the results look positive – we are able to incorporate more in to the products and services we offer because we talk to more customers and we are getting more referrals from customers using the new software.

We are getting out to more local state reporter events and advertising in their newsletters. Of course, we would love to be in all these places. That does take time, effort and money – we are trying to be good custodians of the funds our customers send us. This, to us anyway, means product and support first through personal contact, then advertising.

I hope this answers any concerns about our decisions to not be in the JCR and at the Mid-Year convention. I am pretty sure that we will be at the annual event this year, as we have been at them since 2000.

Again, thank you to everyone for your concern and input. If there is anything that we can do to help, please let us know.


Don Miller
Cheetah International, Inc.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

It's Out!!!

We're all extremely excited here at Cheetah for the Release of SmartCAT version 2.4. This has been a real triumph in that we have been able to incorporate a TON of new functionality as well as improvements to the old.

Also, there's a new CATChat up. You can find it here.

All the best,

- Greg L. Richardson
VP of Operations & Director of Marketing

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You'd Better Get Moving!

Hello all,

Last night, PC World announced that it will no longer sell floppy disks.

We sit here on the heels of the announcement of Windows Vista, we're seeing 64 bit computers being released and it's never been more evident that the technology industry is moving forward and letting go of it's beloved tools of the past.

Here at Cheetah, *we know* that you loved TurboCAT. *We know* that your old laptop has been a trooper and given you reliable service for many years, producing lots of transcripts and supporting your livelihood. *We know* that the prospect of buying a new computer, buying new software and taking a day and a half out of your weekend to do training is daunting at best.

SmartCAT painless and easy. Our customers report that it takes about 10% of the time to learnFor these reasons, we have worked very very hard to make your transition from TurboCAT to SmartCAT that it did for them to learn SmartCAT years ago.

Heck we even made the initial screen of SmartCAT look very much like TurboCAT did to make it easier for you to feel comfortable:

If you have questions about making the move to SmartCAT, please give us a call. We'd be happy to give you references of our delighted customers, outline a bit about our company philosophy, heck we'll even encourage you to talk with our software and product developers!

As always, we can be reached at 800.869.6986.

All the best,

Greg L. Richardson
VP of Operations & Director of Marketing

Friday, January 26, 2007

SmartCAT (TurboCAT for Windows) Maintenance, Part 2!

As a follow up to Monday's post, I forgot one key concept about paying maintenance for SmartCAT (TurboCAT for Windows) Maintenance, Part 2!

We have a bit of a conundrum.... If we excel and do a truly extraordinary job making SmartCAT exactly as our customers would like it, then you think you don't need us. When you think you don't need us, you go off maintenance, thinking, "the software does what I need and I don't call tech support". Then, since you don't pay maintenance, we don't have the resources we need to continue to do our job and stay in business. Then, we're not around to serve you when you need us!

This real-life example played out in the previous iteration of Cheetah years ago (though our customers dearly loved TurboCAT, they didn't stay on maintenance en masse and Cheetah went bankrupt!). Fortunately, we've worked really hard and created a great Windows-based replacement in SmartCAT, so let's learn from our past such that we're not condemned to repeat it!

All the best,

Greg L. Richardson
VP of Operation & Director of Marketing
Cheetah International, Inc.