Thursday, 3 February 2011

An electronic notepad. Finally!

Paper notes, notepads and hand-outs are properly annoying. It's my own fault for being disorganised, but I lose them, leave them at home and I'm convinced there's a troll under my desk who survives on a paper diet. It's the only sensible explanation for where all my handwritten notes could have been going.

I'm also a bit of a gadget fan and keep electronic files pretty well organised, so ever since my Palm Pilot was retired years ago, I've been waiting for someone to produce a working electronic notepad. Nothing as sophisticated (or expensive) as an iPad, just an electronic version of a day-book to scribble on , save the notes and email them occasionally

Microsoft looked like they were on the right lines with the Courier, but then they dumped it. Maybe everybody at Redmond is programming as fast as they can to stop Hotmail falling over again and there's no room for good ideas. Who knows?

Anyway, this week I've found the solution and it's brilliant.

For this recipe, you will need.

One Android mobile phone (free-ish.) Apparently iPhones work too.

A Google Docs account (free)

A copy of CamScanner (free)

You write your notes on anything you like - a notepad or just a scrap of A4 nicked from the printer and then use CamScanner to photograph them. It optimises the pictures, crops them, corrects the perspective if you weren't photographing the paper quite straight and then turns them into PDFs.

Now you may lose the paper, or feed it to your hungry under-desk troll.

Upload a PDF to Google Docs - straight from CamScanner - and Google will do clever things with optical character recognition (ocr) to make the content in it is searchable. Genius.

Edit: It's not actually quite that clever (yet.) You can convert to a Google Doc and Google will try to "read" your upload and re-write the text for you. Surely if you can do that then search by content and finding the original document can't be far away though. Evernote can do it.

Now you've got a Google Docs account with all of your scribbles in it, plus copies of all the bits of paper colleagues insist on giving you at meetings. All searchable and stored, safe and sound. You just have to remember your password...

CamScanner needs a copy of your Google login details to do the upload, which I wasn't entirely happy about. It promises to play nicely with them but my main Google account is pretty much indispensible and I'm not giving the login to an app store download, so I've created another one for the notes. You can always share docs between the two.

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