Tag Archives: iPhone

Cleaning Up Your Research PDF Workflow

One of the many conveniences of the digital world is to be able to have loads of research all on one device, such as a computer, tablet, and even your phone. Personally, I love the fact that I can scan copies of journal articles, book chapters, and other content into PDFs. This allows me to have all my research in one place and I am not scrambling around with hundreds of pieces of paper around my desk when writing a paper. But one of the problems of this (and it is not just limited to digital documents) is how to collate all your highlights and notes in one place. In the past I’ve done this by hand by typing out quotes and notes into Evernote.

Welcome to Highlights for Mac!

*If you just want to checkout my PDF workflow video without reading the post click here


First, one caveat. For the Highlights to work to its full potential the PDF needs to be searchable/OCR’d. Most journal articles that you download from a database are probably already searchable[1]. Articles/book portions you scan to PDF from your library are probably not searchable[2]. There are several gimmicky and “cheap” solutions out there but in my experience there are really only one excellent option: ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac[3]. At the time of writing this piece you can purchase the app for $83.99 with a student discount. This app also comes packaged with the excellent DevonThink Pro Office for slightly more money. You should really check out this program as it will transform your research[4]. The reason you need a searchable PDF will be explained below.


Ok, now we can actually look at Highlights. At the foundational level Highlights takes your highlights, notes, and images and creates a text file that is connected to the PDF and actually links to it. When you highlight a PDF then Highlights will take the text that is highlighted and copy into into the linked text file in a blockquote. Making a comment on a PDF will result in italics text. And underlining results in a reference.

You can also add notes to the PDF either from the Highlights app or any other PDF reader such as Preview. The text of the note will be added to the text document associated with the PDF.

One other helpful feature is to sort annotations by category. This allows you to set colors as a specific category and the linked noted will sort it accordingly.

There have been other workarounds for this type of functionality but most of them involved using a specific app for highlights and notes. But this will read the highlights and notes from other aps and create the linked text file. After you are all finished you have one PDF with text of your highlights and notes in one PDF without retyping. So as you are reading your PDF you are creating this document without any extra work.

I’ve put together a video below showing a soup to nuts PDF workflow using DevonThink and ABBYY FineReader to OCR, read and highlight on the iPad using PDF Expert 5, opening the PDF to create the linked text file using Highlights, and then finally exporting to Evernote to my notebook for a paper. Perfection.

Apps mentioned:

  1. Highlights for Mac
  2. ABBYY FineReader
  3. PDF Expert 5 (iPad/iPhone)
  4. DevonThink Pro Office

  1. In order to check to see if the PDF is searchable just open up your document and try to highlight the text. If you can then it is searchable if you can’t then it is not searchable.  ↩

  2. Some of you may be one of the lucky ones that the scanner OCRs the document but I would venture to guess that most out there do not.  ↩

  3. There are other OK options. If you are wanting a full-fledged PDF application that rivals Adobe Acrobat Pro I would definitely check out PDFpen Pro 7 from Smile Software. The issue I have found with this program in regards to OCRing PDFs is correctly rendering a scanned PDF that is of facing pages. For example, if you are scanning from a book it does not correctly read the text on both sides of the page. Therefore, you will have issues highlighting and searching. ABBYY FineReader is far superior in this regard. Personally, this constitutes about half my scans so it is a deal breaker for me.  ↩

  4. At some point I will write a blog series on using DevonThink similar to my Evernote for Academics series.  ↩

Evernote for Academic: Day 03 – Getting Your Stuff Into Evernote

Well you have made it to the third post in the Evernote for Academics series. Previously I gave an introduction to the series and then covered some methods of using tags and notebooks in Evernote along with some other tips. Today we are going to examine one of the beauties of the Evernote system: getting your stuff into Evernote. The app itself has many awesome ways of getting your documents and notes into Evernote such as the app itself, web clippings, screenshots, email, and more. Coupled with the hundreds of apps that allow you to send information to Evernote there is really no excuse for you not to store all your information in Evernote.

For the purpose of this post I am just going to introduce some of the default methods that Evernote provides to import your files and notes into Evernote.

Evernote App

The default method of getting your notes and files into Evernote is the app itself. From here you can create a new note and start typing in your information and you are good to go. One additional useful feature is the ability to drag and drop files into Evernote. Each file uses the name of the file for the title of the note itself. See video below for a quick demonstration of dragging one or multiple files into Evernote.

Evernote also provides a menu bar app for quickly adding notes, taking screenshots, and capturing audio without actually opening the app. You can activate this by either clicking the icon or with a keyboard shortcut. This is particularly useful when you want to capture something quickly without actually opening the app. This frees you from distraction if you are working on another project not in Evernote. It is also handy to create a quick audio file for later.

See video below for a quick demonstration of dragging one or multiple files into Evernote and using the desktop clipper.

Evernote Options

Evernote Web Clipper

This is one of the most handy functions of Evernote. You can take any webpage and import it into Evernote to read and research later. The web clipper works in all the major browsers. Click here to download the Web Clipper. I find this particularly useful for biblioblogs. I save many articles that I may find useful later in research. Often times blogs and other websites can help spark ideas for research or serve as a launching pad for further research. By having these articles in my Evernote database I can easily search them later.

Email to Evernote

Evernote provides each user with a unique email that allows you to send an email to create a new note. I use this especially for emails that I want to save or search for later. Evernote’s search functions are often times much better than email clients such as Apple Mail. When I receive an important email I just forward the email to Evernote. For more tips on using this function and for creating a memorable email address see this post.

Evernote Mobile Apps

I will cover using Evernote mobile more in depth in a later post but having a mobile device with Evernote is often the most convinient way to get your information into Evernote on the go.

See here for more information and availability for Evernote on mobile devices.

Evernote also recently bought a note taking app called Penultimate. This is a notetaking app that works well when combined with a stylus on the iPad. I personally have not looked into this yet but here is a review of using the app with a specific stylus.

Skitch

Skitch is a seperate app by Evernote. This allows you to take screenshots, annotate them quickly, and upload to Evernote. See this video that I created for a tip on using Skitch in research.

Print to Evernote

On the Mac you can use the print dialog screen to send a file directly to Evernote. It appears to me that the Mac App Store version of Evernote and the direct download from their site is slightly different. This is the result of some of Apple’s limitations it puts on developers in order to create a completely safe environment for downloading programs. Unfortunately, many times this does not allow handy features such as “Print to Evernote.”

If you download Evernote directly from their website you will have the “Print to Evernote” feature. This will allow you to send any printable file to Evernote in the form of a searchable PDF.

Third Party Apps

There are numerous third party apps that integrate with Evernote. Integration ranges from just creating a new note to being able to specify notebooks, note titles, tags, and more. Below are some of my most used third party apps.

Byword

Byword is a fantastic distraction free text editor. I prefer to write most of my documents in Markdown. At its core it is very simplified HTML. Now that might sound scary but it is really easy to get the hang of. I find it easier and quicker to write in than using an app like Microsoft Word. With apps like Byword it includes simple keyboard shortcuts for most of your formatting.

After writing your document Byword has a export option that allows you to format and send your document to Evernote.

Popclip

PopClip is a neat little app that brings up options with you highlight text with your mouse. One of their features allows you to highlight any text and send it directly to Evernote.

Drafts (iOS)

Drafts is a great little app for your iOS device. It basically allows you to start writing anything and send to a variety of apps and services. For example, let’s say that I am going to send an email to a friend. I open up the email app and begin my message but before I am finished I think it might be better sent as a text message. I would have to copy and paste the text, close the app, open the text messaging app, and send. With Drafts you start your text in one central location and then send it elsewhere after writing. This allows you to always start any text based input in one location. It integrates with a variety of apps such as Messages, Mail, Evernote, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, DayOne, and much more. Check out this LifeHacker article for a more complete overview.

See the video below on how I quickly add book, article, and audio recommendations to one running note in Evernote.

Update: In the previous video that was posted I mentioned that you need to create the note in Evernote first before prepending or appending text but this is incorrect. Drafts will automatically create a new note and then append or prepend subsequent entries. This actually makes the workflow more streamlined and less prone to error due to mislabeling the note. Thanks Greg for reaching out with that correction!

The current video below is the updated video that shows the more streamlined workflow.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. I hope this post was helpful in giving you some ideas on how to get your stuff into Evernote.

Links to the Evernote for Academics Series

If you would like to subscribe to the blog via RSS click here. If you would rather receive updates via email click here to sign up

Follow me on Twitter – @renshaw330

Evernote for Academics: Day 02 – Tagging vs. Notebooks

Introduction

If you do a quick Google search for “organizing Evernote”, “tagging vs. notebooks”, or “Evernote file management” you might be quickly overwelmed about all the “answers” and “solutions” to how to organize Evernote.

Well, I guess I have good news and bad news for you. The good news: there is no “right” answer. The bad news: it generally takes trial and error to figure out what works best for you. Below I will outline the basics of notes, notebooks, notebook stack, and tags. This series isn’t necessarily focused on an in-depth “how to” but rather to give you some basic ideas and principles on using Evernote. If you are wanting some help getting started creating any of these I will provide a link at the end of each section for you. The videos at the end of the post are not meant to rehash the text of the post but to show you some additional tips pertaining to this topic.

Click here for a basic getting started guide

Notes

Notes are the most basic component of Evernote. These can store basically any type of information ranging from just typed text to image files to PDFs. This is where you will input all your information. For my purposes most of my notes are typed text. Evernote allows you to format the text as you would in a typical word processor (i.e. Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, etc.). This means you can bold, italicize, and underline your text. Create tables, bulleted lists, and enumerated lists. You can also hyperlink text to other notes and external websites. Basically any formatting you want to add to your text you are free to do so.

One of the great aspects about notes in Evernote is that you can have multiple files within the note in addition to text. For example, if you are reading an article you can screenshot a section of the article, add it to Evernote, and then add your commentary on the related section. See video below.

Personally, I tend to keep my notes very brief and have multiple notes within a notebook. I find this organizational strategy more effective when going back to review notes.

For help creating notes click here.

Notebooks

These are a collection of notes. There are two different types of notebooks: local and synchronized. If you want your notebooks available on multiple devices choose the default, synchronized notebook. A local notebook is only store on the machine it was created on and will not synchronize to other devices. You can have unlimited notes in a single notebook.

Notebook Stacks

Notebook stacks are groups of notebooks. The one caveat to notebook stacks is they can only go down one level. For example, if you have a notebook stack called Student you can have multiple notebooks in this stack but you can’t have notebooks within those notebooks. In a traditional file system you can have as many folders within a folder as you want but Evernote limits this to one level. I used to balk at this idea because I like the hierarchal structure of a file system and having many folders within a folder but I have found that Evernote’s solution is perfect for their system because it keeps your Evernote database clean and structured. With the powerful search features of Evernote you never have to worry about digging through an endless line of notebooks to get to a file.

Go here for a short tutorial on how to create Evernote Notebook Stacks

Tags

Tags are a way to group similar notes across notebooks. Unlike notebooks you can have multiple tags on a single note (Notes can only be in one notebook at a time). For example if you have a note about the history of interpretation of Matthew you could theoretically tag it with: history of interpretation, Matthew, Gospels and include it in your Biblical Studies Notebook. If you wanted to see all your notes on Matthew you can search for the Matthew tag and it will bring up all the notes tagged “Matthew” regardless of what notebook it is in.

If you are going to use tagging I suggest these three basic tips, which are by no means unique to me:

  1. Create a standardized tagging system. Decide before hand if you will use singular or plural tags. In the above example you may tag one note Gospel but another note Gospels. This ruins the purpose of tagging because now you have to search for two seperate tags for the same idea.
  2. Keep tags broad or for very specific purposes such as individual projects. I will address this more below.
  3. Don’t be afraid to review your tagging system and modify it later. Evernote makes it very easy to edit tags for multiple notes at once.

For some helpful tips on tagging see this post.

Update: Here is another helpful post on tagging and searching in Evernote.

How I Use Tags and Notebooks

Using tags and notebooks may seem simple at first. The example I gave above with the note on the history of interpretation of Matthew seems great for a single use. But what if you have hundreds or thousands of notes with 3–4 tags each? This can be daunting and you will soon most likely lose track of what tags you have used. At one point I think I had upwards of 600 different tags in Evernote in a database around 1,000 notes. This means that my tags were either singular or plural for the same idea or too specific so I only had one note labeled with a certain tag.

A couple months ago I deleted all my tags and I am in the process of retagging my notes with a specific system. I now use many notebooks with fewer tags and specific tags. Most of my Evernote database consists of biblical studies related material so I have now created a biblical studies notebook with a more simple tagging scheme.

  • If a note pertains to one book I tag it with that book (i.e. Matthew)
  • Since sometimes my studies involve different sections of the bible I also broadly tag the grouping of that book (i.e. Matthew, Gospel). This way if I am doing research on the Gospels I can search the “Gospel” tag and see all my notes with Matthew-John in there for I can dig a little deeper and just look at notes on Matthew.
  • If a note is original language specific I either tag it with Greek or Hebrew. For example, if I have a note pertaining to grammar on Matthew I will tag it Greek, Matthew, and Gospel.
  • Finally, I use tags for specific projects. Instead of creating a seperate notebook for a project and moving my notes from one place to another I instead add a tag. For example, when I was working on a paper in my James class I just tagged everything pertaining to my research “James paper”

I don’t just have articles and notes related to biblical studies but in many other areas of theology as well. I haven’t come up with a specific tagging system yet for these types of notes so I am leaving them without tags. Evernote’s powerful search capabilities will help me find what I need regardless.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. I hope this short post will help you get organized using Evernote. To sum up, I would recommend using many Notebooks with Notebook Stacks along with a few very specific tags. But there is no right or wrong way to organize Evernote. You may find that you work better by dumping everything into one notebook and using tags for organization or you may choose not to use tags at all. My only warning though is that if you use too many tags it does tend to get overwelming and ends up not being useful.

Below I have included a couple videos in addition to the content above.

  1. How I organize my notes (using an “Inbox” notebook and some Notebook naming schemes).
  2. Using Skitch to capture a screenshot of an article, adding it to Evernote, and then adding some commentary on the note.
  3. Quickly add tags to multiple notes, create a table of contents for a notebook, and how to move notes from one notebook to the next.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please leave a comment below. I would love to interact with you and help with your Evernote organization.

Links to the Evernote for Academics Series

If you would like to subscribe to the blog via RSS click here. If you would rather receive updates via email click here to sign up

Follow me on Twitter – @renshaw330

Be More Productive on Logos for iOS with Launch Center Pro

One of the things I love figuring out is how to become more efficient on my iOS devices. One app that helps me do this is Launch Center Pro. It allows you to easily start in one location and perform actions in other apps quickly.

I recently figured out how to link this app with the Logos Bible Software iOS app by using x-callback-urls.

This allows me to start in Launch Center Pro and search for a Bible reference in whatever version I want (NIV, ESV, NA27, LXX, etc.). Another use for this is to look up Greek and Hebrew terms quickly in lexicons such as BDAG, LSJ, HALOT, and BDB. I can also look up dictionary articles in the IVP Dictionaries (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Paul and His Letters, etc). Finally, I can quickly open up a variety of Greek and Hebrew grammars that I have installed in Logos.

I created a short screencast showing how this can be accomplished. At the end of the video I explain how you can easily install the actions onto your iOS device. Update: If you want to create your own actions and not use the pre-made actions see this post

Update: I recommended downloading the resources that you want to link to on your iOS device. I have noticed hit and miss results when a resource is being pulled from the cloud on the Logos app.

Follow a link below to watch the video

(Web)(Mobile/Tablet)

or view on YouTube

Launch Center Pro is $4.99 in the App Store and is available for the iPhone and iPad.

FYI: In order to install the actions click on “Logos” at the bottom of my page on your iOS device. From there you can click the link and it will open up Launch Center Pro to install.