Collecting the Internet So You Don't Have To

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Fieldnotes, Evernote and Scanning in Written Words

Julian Moffatt
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Packet of Sunshine I freely admit that I have an unhealthy addiction to FieldNotes notebooks. Something about them makes me feel smarter when I use them. Maybe it is the fact that I fill up pages so quickly because of the small size? At any rate, I now have a rather large collection of filled notebooks. The problem with taking notes on paper, is that I have found it really hard to search via Spotlight and find anything I have written down. Damn analog vs digital.

Additionally, I’ve been hot and cold on Evernote for a couple of years now. The entire concept of dumping everything into one bucket and then searching over it seemed so alien to me after 12 years of keeping thousands of folders, with nested files, all neatly organized.

It was only with QuickSilver, and then later Spotlight in OS X 10.6, that I realized how much time I was spending organizing stuff on my computer. I was wasting time just filing things. Spotlight’s running indexes work well enough to let me forget about my need to file things.

However, I still have the problem of not being able to search paper. All those thoughts written down and immediately forgotten. Then a few days or weeks later someone calls and you know you had some information written down someplace, but where? A little googling turned up a few posts about sending notes to Evernote and leaning on the OCR abilities there.

Here are the steps I followed:

  1. Fill up a notebook and hook up the scanner.
  2. Create a scan folder for your files. I went with FN-VolNumber as the parent folder.
  3. Open up Automator and follow Ken’s automator evernote write up on making an automated task.Thanks Ken!
  4. Scan in your pages with a suitable naming convention. I went with FN-VolNum-pgNum
    TIP: Make sure to include 0 before all the single digit spreads.
  5. Rinse and repeat as often as needed.

That is it. Evernote’s OCR is working on indexing several notebooks as you read this. Results have been hit and miss with my hand writing, but if you remember to print really important bits, the OCR works well.

Of note: handwriting is important; printing works better than cursive; pen ink wins over pencil grey; images are being captured as high quality JPGs with 150dpi resolution; I’m on the free Evernote account for now; having the Evernote iPhone app means my FieldNotes are always with me.

Posted dug up by Google that helped with the writing of this post: