Going Paperless Quick Tip: Edit Scanned PDFs Directly in Evernote

I spent much of my weekend scanning nearly 1,300 pages worth of documents in the filing cabinet. The only reason I did it is because we’re getting rid of the filing cabinet to make way for some new furniture.

I scanned all of the pages using my Fujitsu Scansnap s1300i, and in all of those pages, I didn’t have a single jam or problem.

That said, some types of scans are more difficult for scanners to figure out than others. Occasionally, one page will scan in upside down, while the next page is right-side up. Then, too, if the pages are thin, even one sided pages get 2 pages in the scan because the text from one side will bleed through to the other. I used to rescan all of these documents, which was a pain. But since Evernote made it possible to edit your PDFs directly inline (in the Mac version for now), I can take care of this easily from right within the note. I figured I’d describe how I’d do it so that you can see how you can do it for yourself.

Here’s a letter I scanned from my grandpa:

Inline Edit 1

 

Note that the first page was scanned upside down, and the second page is actually the text of the first page that bled through (thin typing paper) and was interpreted by the scanner as the back of the first page.

To correct this, I clicked on the edit button on the attachment bar for the PDF:

Inline Edit 2

When you click on this, a new window opens up with all kinds of options for annotating your PDF. You can add arrows and text. You can highlight. What isn’t as obvious is the pulldown menu that allows you to rotate and delete pages. Since I wanted to rotate that first page so that it was right-side-up, I clicked on that menu, like this:

Inline Edit 3

Of course, you can press Command-R to rotate a page clockwise. I did this twice in order to get the page right-side-up:

Inline Edit 4

Next, since the “second” page was really just the first page bleeding through the thin typing paper, I could delete that page and shrink down the size of my PDF. I did this by selecting the page in question, and then clicking the menu and selecting the delete option:

Inline Edit 5

I repeated this as necessary for the pages in the letter, and the result, when I finished, was a two-page letter with both pages oriented correctly.

Inline Edit 6

This has become a standard practice for me. In addition to updating the meta-data of the note (tags, title, note date, etc.) when I scan it in, I also make sure the pages are properly oriented and unneeded pages are deleted. I’d say 1 in 50 scans I do require this type of edit to the PDF. The Scansnap s1300i is very good at scanning. But at least now, I have a way of editing the scanned document right from within Evernote without having to re-scan. Any anything that saves me time and gives me better PDFs is a win in my book.


If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: Prototype: Automatically Send Kindle Notes and Highlights to Evernote.

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Blog Stats for Q1 of 2014

I started keeping track of the stats on this blog in earnest back in late 2010. Back then, I was getting about 30-40 page views per day and as the year came to an end, I decided to see if I could get that number up to 100 page views per day by the end of 2011. That turned out to be easier than I thought. By April of 2011, I was seeing 100 page views/day and by the end of 2011, I was seeing 300 page views per day. For all of 2011, according to Google Analytics, I had about 80,000 page views. I was pleased, but came away worried that I wouldn’t be able to top it in 2012.

I needn’t have worried. In April 2012, I began my weekly Going Paperless posts and things kind of took off from there. I ended 2012 with more than 4 times the page views of 2011, about 347,000 of them! This was very close to an unheard of 1,000 page views per day. Of course, I thought, things would level out in 2013.

Well, the growth slowed, but did not stop. Last year, 2013, I had a total of about 840,000 page views, more than double what I had in 2012, and which amounts to about 2,300 page views per day. It seems that I had managed to produce content that a fair number of people liked and returned to consistently. I felt pretty good about this and one side-effect was that I became less obsessed with my blog stats.

But I didn’t forget them entirely. Yesterday, I took a look at the numbers for the first quarter of 2014 to see how they compared to 2013. So far, between January 1 and March 30, I’ve had 357,000 page views. That amounts to roughly 4,000 page views per day almost double 2013. You can see the difference in this chart:

2014 Blog Stats Q1

The blue line are the day-to-day page views for 2014. The orange line represents the page views for the same period last year. The plot is fairly spiky, and those spikes represent the days on which a new Going Paperless post comes out. (The big orange spike in early March of last year was when I was featured on Lifehacker’s “Ask an Expert” series.)

I don’t know if these numbers will hold steady for the rest of the year or not. They seem to be sinking slightly the last few weeks, but that happens sometimes. If the numbers do hold steady, I’ll come in at around 1.4 million page views for 2014. Of course, who knows. The blog audience has grown from year-to-year and it looks like that is continuing, but I imagine there is a point at which it will plateau.

All of the numbers listed above are based on data collected by Google Analytics. It does not count readers who read the blog solely via an RSS feed. I have some Feedburner numbers for this, but I take them with a grain of salt. According to Feeburner, I’ve had an additional 135,000 page views in 2014 from people who read the posts via RSS. If those numbers are right, then that bring the total page view fro Q1 to just under half a million page views.

Page views, of course, count the number of times a page is loaded. Google Analytics also counts visitors, and so far as I can tell, my unique visitors for Q1 of 2014 is also up from the same period last year:

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On Finally Cleaning Out the Filing Cabinet

Way back when I decided to go paperless, I made the decision not to go and scan everything in the filing cabinet. The reason was primarily because I never had to look for anything in the filing cabinet. It would have been a waste of time to scan in paper that I would never use. So instead I focused on new paper coming into my life. That was more than two years ago.

We have a number of projects going on around the house. We are almost done transforming our old office into a living room. We ordered some nice furniture for the room, which will be delivered on Tuesday, and in prepping the room for the furniture, we decided to move the filing cabinet out of the room. The opportunity presented itself, at last, to see if there was anything worth scanning. Turns out there, was, although I probably scanned more than I needed to. The filing cabinet is a double-wide, two-drawer cabinet, and it was full yesterday morning. It is empty now. Here is the stack of paper that I pulled and decided to scan:

Paper Stack

Before I got started, I was curious to see how much paper I’d scanned since getting my Fujitsu Scansnap s1300i (well over a year ago). Turns out, the scanner tracks this. Before I got started with my scanning yesterday, here’s what the numbers looked like:

Pages Scanned Start

In something like 1-1/2 years, I’d scanned about 1,700 pages, which tells you how little paper I actually get. It took me yesterday and this morning to scan in that stack of paper, but it is done now, and here is the result:

Pages Scanned Finished

That’s over 1,300 pages scanned, all through my trust Fujitsu s1330i, and all without a single problem. No snags, nothing caught in the scanner, nothing misscanned as far as I can tell.

Of course, this is only part of the job. I now have to go through these scans in Evernote and tag them, date them, title them, etc., but I can do that while watching TV with the family over the course of several evenings.

Bottom line is that is was much easier to scan in the paper from my filing cabinet than I thought it would be. It made me love my Fujitsu scanner that much more.

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How I Use Facebook is Changing in April

Late last year, I wrote about how I use Facebook less and less. I’ve used the last few months to figure out what works best for me and I’ve come to the conclusion that the easiest thing for me to do is divide my Facebook activity into two parts. My personal Facebook page will be for personal updates. These updates are fairly infrequent and rarely include anything about writing, reading, automation, Evernote, paperless, etc.

On the other hand, my Facebook Page is the place where the bulk of my Facebook activity happens today. This is where I post about writing, blogging, reading, automation, going paperless, and just about anything else that most people who follow my stuff seem to be interested in.

With this divide in mind, beginning in April, I’m going to begin removing people from my personal Facebook account who don’t meet one of the following categories:

  1. We are family (or extended family)
  2. We are friends outside of Facebook.
  3. We work together, either in the day job or in the science fiction world.
  4. We have met in real life.

If you don’t fall into one of these 4 categories and want to continue to follow my updates on Facebook about the kinds of things I post about here on the blog, I recommend going to my Facebook Writer Page. The updates will continue there, but I will be removing people from my personal Facebook account who don’t meet one of the four criteria listed above.

On the flip side, if you are family, a friend, a coworker, or we have met in real life, and you want to see updates about my writing, blogging, automation, Evernote, etc., then you will also want to follow my Facebook Writer Page, since my personal Facebook page will be focused on personal updates (kids, family, etc.)

The truth is that since December, I have been far more active on my Facebook Page than my personal Facebook page. It’s where the action is. For instance, notices of new blog posts here go to my Facebook Page, but not to my personal Facebook account.

These changes will start in April and I hope that by the end of April, the transition will be complete.

Bottom line, if you are not sure, and want to continue following my updates on Facebook, follow my Facebook Writer Page. That’s where the bulk of the updates will be happening.

Fighting with a Story

I have been hacking one heck of a tough time with this story that I’ve been working on. I started the story months ago. I got through about 70% of the first draft before realizing there were some serious problems.

Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly standard process for how I work on my stories, mostly by trial and error. I eventually landed on the process similar to how Stephen King works, which is to write a first draft telling myself the story, and the second draft telling the reader the story. Coming from a software development background, my story drafts all get version numbers in their file names. So, the very first cut at a first draft is version 1.0. If I need to start over taking a different approach in the first draft, it becomes 1.1. The first cut at the second draft is 2.0, and if I need to start over with a different approach there it becomes version 2.1, 2.2, etc. You get the idea.

Since I’ve been using this method, I’ve never gone beyond 1.3 in the first draft before nailing it, or giving up… until now.

Last night, I began draft version 1.7 of this story I’m trying to write. Yes, I’ve restarted the story seven times. Version 1.0 grew to about 12,000 words. That was the farthest I managed to get. Each subsequent attempt has been stalled well before reaching that point. I’ve tried lots of different approaches (well, 8, if you count the first one) and none seem to work.

In the ordinary course of events, I’d tell myself that this meant I simply wasn’t ready to tell this particular story and move on to something else. Indeed, I set this story aside to work on other things–but the idea of the story kept coming back to me. It don’t know if this makes sense to non-writers, but this story is screaming to be told.

I mention this for two reasons:

First, I don’t want to give the impression that just because I’ve figured out a way to write every day, means I write well every day. Nor does it mean that the words flow easily every day. With this story in particularly, it has been difficult to come to the keyboard each night because I’m afraid that I won’t make any progress, or that I’ll be forced to start over yet again. But I still write. I still force out the words, although it is sometimes like pulling teeth, and sometimes, even though the story isn’t working, new little facets emerge that help provide a new angle to what I’m trying to do. Perhaps the most important thing to take away here, is that, for me, even though fighting with a story like this can be frustrating, it is still fun. It’s a challenge. How am I going to pull it out in the end?

Which leads to my second reason for mentioning this. Throughout my career as a software developer, there have been numerous times when I’ve been thwarted on a problem by some thorny code or algorithm. Sometimes, I’ve just given up and looked for some other way to solve the same problem. But occasionally, I come into the office determined. I sit down in front of the computer and mutter, sometimes aloud, ”I’m not budging until I’ve solved this problem.”

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Throwback Thursday, 41 Years Ago Today

For throwback Thursday, here’s what I looked like 41 years ago today, the day on which The Godfather won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Throwback Thursday - 42

My 1st birthday.

My Favorite Fictional Battle Scenes

I‘m re-reading It by Stephen King and on Monday, read Chapter 13: The Apocalyptic Rock Fight. It’s not what one might think of as a traditional “battle scene” but I think it’s the best fictional battle scene I’ve ever read. It got me thinking about other battle scenes I’ve read and so I’ve compiled a short list of my favorite fictional battle scenes. They are:

1. “The Apocalyptic Rock Fight” in It by Stephen King. A dozen kids in the late 1958s having it out in a quarry. It’s not a dog fight or a space battle, but it is an epic battle none-the-less. The entire scene is supposed to unfold in about four minutes, and having participated in my share of rock fights as a kid1 it felt real to me. And it’s the scene where the Losers Club comes together. It’s a pivotal moment and it is execute flawlessly by Stephen King.

2. The battle of Eyebolt Canyon in Wizard and Glass by Stephen KingWizard and Glass was my favorite of all of the Dark Tower books, and the battle that takes place in Eyebolt Canyon, when Roland and his ka-tet trap their enemies there and watch them destroyed by fire and thinny was cathartic after all that they had been through. It was one of those few scenes that I could imagine as epic in scope on the big screen, and it was awesome.

3. The battle at King’s Landing in A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. That scene was just–wow! You sort of anticipate it through the whole novel and then when it comes, it is just epic. While pretty good for television, the scene on the silver screen just doesn’t do justice to that battle scene. And the addition of the Greek-fire-like substance makes it that much more epic.

4. The submarine battle in The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. Say what you will about Clancy’s writing style (which wasn’t great) that battle scene toward the end of the book is phenomenal. Much better in the book than what they did in the movie, although the movie wasn’t too bad either.

5. The battle at the Osaka Castle in Shogun by James Clavell. While the details have grown fuzzy–I read the book 9 years ago–that battle scene, which included attacking Ninja, stands out in my mind as a great one.

Honorable mention: The battle of Agincourt in Henry V by William Shakespeare. While I don’t remember the play going into a lot of detail about the battle itself (I seem to recall a before and after), I’d known about the battle before I ever read the play and I remember picturing it my mind as I read the play.

I find it interesting that, while some of the battle scenes I’ve listed are fantasy, none are science fiction. I think that’s because it is really tough to do a good science fiction battle scene and make it feel epic. But also, as we said at my Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop last summer, “Space is big, really big.” And is a place as big as space, even an epic battle can seem small.

Any favorite fictional (I’m talking written, not on the screen) battle scenes you have? Let me hear about them in the comments.

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Notes

  1. We called them “dirt bomb” fights.

No Going Paperless Post This Week, and Other Updates

Last week I posted my 100th Going Paperless post, and I think that, coupled with a cold that I am still fighting off, has earned me a week off. I hope you’ll forgive me, but things will resume next Tuesday, which just happens to be April 1.

I took a sick day from the day job today. I stayed in bed until around noon, sleeping and trying to let me body recover from this cold. I’ve found that, for me, a day of doing absolutely nothing usually does the trick. Indeed, by 1 pm, I was feeling better. I even managed to get my writing done early today, extending my streak to 246 consecutive days, and 388 out of the last 390 days since I first started trying to write every day. Moreover, I’ve beaten my daily goal for 10 straight days now, which is the first time I’ve done that in a while.

Later this week I’ll hit my Life, the Universe and Everything1 birthday milestone, but birthdays just kind of flash by now. More exciting is some new furniture we’re having delivered in a week, so that we can complete the transformation of our living room from an office to a living room. We haven’t had a real living room since we bought this house more than 4 years ago.

We are also in the process of wrapping up our evaluation of contractors to have some kitchen remodeling work done. And while we’ll likely hire a contractor in the next week or so, the work on the kitchen won’t start until mid-May. It’s not a complete overhaul, and is probably considered a “minor” remodeling, but it will including new cabinets, granite countertops, a new sink, new floors, a new pantry and some other odds and ends.

I’m working like mad to finish up the novella that I’ve struggled with on and off again because I have a big project that will follow that one–and I’ll have more to say about that in due course.

Today, however, I’m just trying to take it easy, and get through this cold.

Notes

  1. If you don’t get the reference, it shouldn’t be too hard to find online.

My Attempt to Watch Mad Men

I‘ve heard lots of good things about the show Mad Men, and so, after the kids went to bed last night, Kelly and I settled down to watch the first two episodes.  They were entertaining, maybe a little over the top, but the truth is that after two episodes, I was worn out. Two episodes into the show and there was already so much potential drama1 that, as a story teller, I could see the explosive proliferation of plot twists and struggles that would fill the rest of this season, and presumably, subsequent seasons.

Part of what spurred me to give Mad Men a try was catching a few episodes of Bewitched earlier in the week. As a kid, I remember spending summer mornings watching syndicated reruns of the show (I’m nowhere near old enough to have seen the show in first run) and it was nice to see it again. Darren is, of course, an ad man, and the show takes place in the 1960s instead of the 1950s, but memories of how much I enjoyed Bewitched made me curious about Mad Men.

The problems I have with Mad Men are the same problems I have with all television dramas today. First is that they focus on edge-cases, which is understandable, since they are easy targets for good storytelling. But it also means that the shows tend to be overly dramatic and those wear quickly on my limited patience with television.

The second–for me, more important–problem is that they are serials as opposed to series. I’ve discussed this before. I don’t watch a lot of television. When I do, I want to dip for some brain relief and entertainment, and dip out again. I always liked dramas like Magnum, P.I. because, despite being dramas, they were self-contained episodes, rarely, if ever ending in a cliff-hanger, rarely carrying an arch beyond one episode. You could watch an episode, any episode, be entertained for 50 minutes, and move on without a second thought. Not so with today’s dramas, including, it seems, Mad Men.

Let me be clear that my objections to Mad Men have nothing to do with the quality of the writing or acting. They are objections based on my own ennui with how dramas are produced today. I am not a serial TV watcher. I don’t look for a show that will last season after season. I’ve grown to despise cliff-hangers in dramas, and I hate how they chop up seasons these days. Most of all, I really dislike how you can no longer watch just one episode. Today’s dramas are made with binge-watching in mind. I’m not part of that audience so it makes sense that I don’t connect with those kind of shows.

I suspect that series (as opposed to serial) dramas are mostly a thing of the past, and this is one of those cases where like what I grew up with, and am simply not part of the serial-watching culture. That’s okay, I can deal with that. But it is disappointing when shows that sound good in principle are virtually unwatchable to me because of this.

Notes

  1. I use the term “potential” in the classical physics sense here.

A Bit Under the Weather

I‘ve been a bit under the weather these last few days, a cold that I picked up from the kids, I suspect. Not terrible, just a little lethargy, a runny nose, etc., etc. I’m trying to take it easy this weekend so things may be a little quiet here on the blog front. It’s supposed to be beautiful here today, and maybe the nice weather will help. Of course, there is snow in the forecast for Tuesday. Not much, but it’s still a spring snowfall and those are never as much fun as winter snowfalls.

I have some new projects to report on, and I’ll do that over the next week or so. In the meantime, for March Madness folks, I don’t get much into basketball, but I am taking Gonzaga1 over Arizona on Sunday. And if you have a perfect bracket so far, and think you might still take a billion dollars from Warren Buffet, you should check out what Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has to say about that.

Have a great weekend!

Notes

  1. Why Gonzaga? I’ve probably said this before, but I am a huge Bing Crosby fan, and Gonzaga was Crosby’s alma mater. I always pick Gonzaga. Which is a terrible reason to pick a team, by the way.

How I Generated the Models and Charts for My Activity/Sleep/Writing Correlations

In case anyone was curious about how I generated the models and charts in the previous post, I used Mathematica. It took only a few lines of code to calculate the models and generate the charts. Here is the code I used:

data = Import["C:/Users/rubin/Downloads/WritingWalking.xlsx"][[1]];
data2 = Import["C:/Users/rubin/Downloads/WritingWalking.xlsx"][[3]];
data3 = Import["C:/Users/rubin/Downloads/WritingWalking.xlsx"][[4]];
sleepdata =
Import["C:/Users/rubin/Downloads/WritingWalking.xlsx"][[5]];

lm = LinearModelFit[data, x, x];
lm2 = LinearModelFit[data2, x, x];
lm3 = LinearModelFit[data3, x, x];
lmsleep = LinearModelFit[sleepdata, x, x];

Show[ListPlot[data], Plot[lm[x], {x, 0, 2500}],
AxesLabel -> {"Words", "Steps"}]
Show[ListPlot[data2], Plot[lm2[x], {x, 0, 2500}],
AxesLabel -> {"Words", "Steps"}]
Show[ListPlot[data3], Plot[lm3[x], {x, 0, 800}],
AxesLabel -> {"Words", "Steps"}]
Show[ListPlot[sleepdata], Plot[lmsleep[x], {x, 0, 2000}],
AxesLabel -> {"Minutes", "Words"}]

That’s it. The data itself comes from two sources:

  1. Step and sleep data come from my FitBit device. I exported the data for the 300 days in question to an Excel spreadsheet.
  2. Word count data come from my Google Writing Tracker scripts.

How Physical Activity and Sleep Affects My Writing

Over the last 5 days or so, my writing has been going pretty well. Writers have different explanations for this phenomenon. My “muse” is alive. I’m firing on all cylinders. I’m in the zone. But these are all vague, unscientific explanations for an explosion of creative brain activity. It can be helpful to isolate patterns to see if anything external to writing itself could affect writing output or how writing “feels.” Since I capture a ton of data about my writing, my physical activity, and my sleep, I thought I’d look into this.

Does physical activity affect my writing?

Over the last week and a half or so, my walking has been up. I’ve averaged about 17,000 steps per day, well above my daily goal of 15,000 steps. These walks invigorate and energize me, and I couldn’t help but notice that when my walking was up, my writing is also up, and seems to go much more smoothly.

So I culled the last 300 days worth of data for writing and walking and looked to see if there was any correlation between them. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be.

Writing Correlations

Figure 1: 300 days of writing and walking

Figure 1 above plots the number of steps I take each day against the number of words I wrote on that day and creates a linear model fit to see if there is a correlation. Each point on the plot represents one day. The x-axis is the number words written. The y-axis is the number of steps taken. The line represents the linear model. It is almost flat, meaning there is no real correlation between these value. The slope of the line itself is slightly positive, and given its value, this would be considered a “weak positive” correlation, but when I say “weak” I mean really weak.

You can see some interesting features. On days where I write a lot, there appears to be a tendency for me to walk a lot, too. But again, it is a weak correlation.

Next, I decided to look at days where I exceed both my writing goal (500 words/day) and my walking goal (15,000 steps/day). That resulting in the following:

Writing Correlations Above Goals

Figure 2: Writing and Walking above daily goals

In Figure 2 there is a slightly negative correlation between writing and walking on days where I exceed goals for both. In other words, on these days, the more I walk, the less I write. I suppose this makes sense. I might be more physically tired. If walking takes up more time, there might be less time for writing.

Finally, I looked at days on which I was below my goal for both writing and walking.

Writing Correlations Below Goal

Figure 3: Writing and Walking below daily goals

In Figure 3 you can see this data has a much stronger positive correlation, although based on the actual slope it is just barely into the territory of a “moderate” positive correlation. On these days, the more I walk, the more I write.

How does sleep affect my writing?

I’ve been sleeping pretty well over the last 10 days and so it is naturally to look at that data as well. Here, what I did, was looked at my total minutes asleep, and how much I wrote the following day. Here is what the data looks like for the same 300 day period.

Writing Correlations with Sleep

Figure 4: Words written and minutes asleep

In Figure 4 you can see a weak positive correlation between the number of words written and the number of minutes I slept the night before. The more I slept, the more I wrote. During that time I averaged 435 minutes of sleep each night (7 hours, 15 minutes) and write 840 words/day. The weak tendency in this model is that if I slept longer (say, 8 hours) I would write more, in this case, the model predicts 863 words, only about 23 words more for 45 additional minutes of sleep. Like I said, it is a weak correlation.


In this case, the data doesn’t point to any one thing that I could change in order to get more of the really good flowing days of writing stacked up one after the other. Sleep helps a little. Walking helps a little. But in neither case do they make a significant difference. At least for me.

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Recommending readers is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a writer. If you enjoy what you read here, or you find the posts useful, tell a friend! Find me online here:

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