1.4.1 A scanner darko

You know what is even more annoying than not having anything to write about? Dealing with having written too much.

I've kinda gotten into having disorganized rooms/ hard drives but that theme also extends into where they meet - where the physical becomes digital.

Writting (sic)/ sketching in bound notebooks is one of the most convenient and seemingly organized way to go about keeping physical notes. That is until you want to scan them into your computer. If it's to back them up or to store or use elsewhere you will eventually want to digitize them and that's when you'll realize the limitations of pre-bound notebooks.

You have a couple options. One is to scan them page by page in a flat bed scanner - which is probably the best options since it keeps them bound and can be scanned at a very high quality. BUT it takes a long time. If you have one notebook it can be about 100 pages (front and back mind you) and that's not too bad. Break it up into a few chunks of scanning sessions and you are good to go. BUT if you have dozens or hundreds of these notebooks you are now looking at literally hundreds of hours of scanning and this can not only be tedious but you may have a time limit.

Now you have a couple options. You can cut them out, which is also annoying and difficult to keep track of their order. Scan them in a bulk scanner. It's 1000x's faster but the quality can be a less depending on the scanner.

There are also hand held scanners that you wave over the page like a wand- convenient for scanning a few notes but not hundreds of notebook pages. These are good for things like notes you kept in books that you dont want to cut up and are too large to place on a flat bed scanner. Also year book signatures and things like that.

Could take as long to set up as it would to scan - but may be worth it if you have a lot. 

How the pros do it - still gotta watch it in case a page sticks or it misses one. 

Another option which is getting better and better is to simply take pictures of the pages, one at a time, turn it - take another one - and bam- you just scanned your notebooks without having to cut them up, the fastest way possible, and you can literally go through hundreds of pages in a matter of minutes. The quality can also be as good as the camera, which can be higher than a bulk scanner and on par with a flatbed. The problem with this option is that you will have a to set up the camera and pages in such a way to account for lighting, angles, and focus. Which doesn't seem that it would be that difficult - but it is. The best way to go about this is to set up a camera and the lights in a standardized way that then lets you take the picture, turn the page, and then switch out the notebook or other pages. It's not something you'll want laying around since you'll want to use your camera/ cell phone for other things but then again you may only want to scan in x number of pages and then won't have to again. There are a lot of factors that go into this method and it can be a challenge even for the most computer and camera savy person and is actually a skill set in itself.

I did that method - the taking photographs of pages, once and while it was very fast and kinda fun, the results were not quite archival quality. It may be worth it just to preserve the information in that any copy is better than none and it can be done fast and easily. Then you can focus on other methods to do it better.

A flat bed scanner one page at a time at the highest resolution is the best for quality. It will take forever and you have to actively change each page and can be difficult to position the pages if they are in a notebook without cutting them out - which may something you can't do.

You also have to consider the content and reason for scanning. If it's for the notes/ writing and not the actual image of the page then you may not even have to scan it. I mean if it's for the writing - then you just want the information and the actual picture of it doesn't matter. If that's the case you can type it out or just take pictures of it to dictate later. If there are also images and designs you want to keep - then that method may also work because you just want the information and not necessarily the image of the information. But if there are drawings or you want to preserve the pages as images and not just information then you will want a higher resolution that preserves them in a high enough quality.

So be cognoscente of the content and why you are scanning them because you may use a method that takes hours for something you just needed a quick copy of that you could have done in seconds by taking pictures of the pages with your phone.

The method that i've found the best that balances all the factors is a bulk scanner. It scans a page at a time - front and back - and then automatically pulls down and scans the next - at about 10-20 pages at a time. The quality can be adjusted in the settings but for the majority of notes and drawings it's more than adequate and you can always flat-bed scan something you think is special later on. As a photo-scanner - it's insufficient and while ok for a quick back up the quality isn't enough to even post. It's better than not having the photographs at all and worth the time to scan through. But for photographs that you want to preserve you are going to have to take the time and scan them in on a flat bed scanner one session at a time. There may be better scanners that can do the same quality but they are very expensive so unless it's something you are going to have to do over and over your probably better off just taking your time and scanning them in the 'old fashion way'.

Writing in notebooks is convenient but scanning those pages - is not. You have to cut them out for bulk scanning which defeats the purpose of having them bound. You could scan two pages at a time in a flat bed - but that could take forever depending on how many you have.

So what is the best way to take, keep, and compile your hand written notes? 

There are some new devices that digitize your notes as you write them but they are not quite 'there' and dont really allow for spontaneity which is the main point of 'notes'. Ideally there would be a pen that could record what you wrote like a wacom and then also scan it in with an attached camera - but there isn't anything quite like that yet. There are things that you have to use specific notebooks with specific pages with specific paper and specific pens - might be fine for something you are going to do in a routine like a class room but for general use it makes it can be "where did i put that, is it charged' etc. I have a Wacom Inkling and I've never used it once. 

So after generating hundreds of thousands of pages of journals/notes/drawings I'll give you my method that works best for me after a lot of trials and errors and errors. You can adjust these for your own style/ paper preferences etc Since there is a way to digitize anything you may not need to consider the scanning part, you also may not want to ever scan them or they may be disposable. 

Ok. So first you have a few pre-requisites 

  • the paper 
  • the pen 
  • the surface
  • the position
Granted that the best paper/ pen is whatever is in front of you - i'm going to be referring to a standard system that you will be using for general use. If you use post-its or have a bunch of napkins or ripped paper - this is what you 'should' be using and what you could then transfer those notes into. These main themes will also be applied to original digital note-keeping but would be replaced with a device, it's stylist and the program used. 

The Paper

  • Do you want lines for writing? How many? College ruled? Or blank for drawing? Do you want multiple types for different instances? What size? How thick? What type of paper? What quality? Are you going to be using a pencil or pen? Do you want to use both sides? Is the paper bound in a notebook or perforated so you can rip it off? 

The Pen

  • Do you want it to be erasable? What color? Are you going to use multiple types? Is it re-usable and re-fill-able or one can only be used once? 

The Surface

  • Does it come with a hard backing to write on, are you going to use a desk, a book? Your hand? A single piece of paper usually can't support being written on without something behind it. Do the marks left behind or the bleeding matter for the paper behind it? Does the surface affect the writing process - is it rough or smooth etc etc. 

The Position

  • How are you going to be positioned when writing? Standing? At a desk? On the Couch? In the car? On the fridge?

One thing you may not consider is consistency. Your hand - eye - muscle coordination will adapt to writing in general and then with a specific set of circumstances. I've always been amazed with how different and terrible my handwriting is and then at other times it's the epitome of "Writing like a girl" which is a whole other subjects we best not get distracted with. I've come to realize that besides consistency in actual practice of writing by hand and mind state (quick jots, caffeinated, drunk etc) the quality and read-ability of the actual text is largely affected by these four aspects. Everytime you use a new or different pen, each time you have to adjust for a new angle or sized piece of paper, each new surface - all affects your writing. This also affects the clarity and quality of your writing and what you are writing can be affected as well. 

The solution to which is to standardize these aspects. Find your favorite pen and buy an obscene amount of them - buy one every time you go to the store even if you have enough, and put the rest (And the empty ones) in a special spot and leave the favorites strewed about so there is always one when you need it. If it's a pencil have some sharpened and ready - know where the sharpener is etc. Pencils are inferior in all aspects other than being erasable and tonal shading imo. They fade and rub off, they are more difficult to see -especially when scanning and you don't really need to erase notes - part of the process is seeing how you think on paper and crossing things lets you see your mistakes. Like 'showing your work'. For drawing the opposite is true - but that is another process and also highly subjective. Although you are best sticking to the same pencils - and paper etc . 

Always use the same paper, the same size, and write on the same surface and if at all possible - in the same position. There will always be that "Sweet spot" where you are best able to write clearly and easily and the goal is to be writing at that angle and with that perfect paper and instrument - and then with enough practice you will automatically muscle memory it and you will be able to write quickly, comfortably and eventually even beautifully like calligraphy. If you alter any of these aspects too much you have to re-adapt and it will slow you down and the quality will sufferer. The goal is to be able to write clearly and consistently not just for readability but to do so effortlessly so your hand can keep up and synk up with your mind. If you have to worry or even think about any of these things - the ideas in your head stutter and you can lose that train of thought. Just like trying to write with a new keyboard or a different sized phone screen/ keyboard and you just can't keep up or make too many errors - it's the bane of a writers existence to have something you need to write down and keep up with and know full well if you stop or have to think of something else - it disperses from your mind like a dream you are trying to hold onto. 

If I new this stuff when I first started writing and keeping hand-written notes I would have literally saved myself years of work and frustrations. 

So let me tell you my system as an example and hopefully you can extract what you want from it to use yourself. If you don't keep handwritten notes, lists, notebooks, journals, you should be. It's the #1 thing you can do to improve your life physically and mentally - a theme for another blog but at least learn the technicalities of how to write - then learn the 'what' to write another time. 

My favorite pen is a Pilot Precise V7 Fine Rolling Ball. I like how it writes, I like how it looks and feels and it has the perfect line thickness for my writing style and size and is the perfect balance between writing letters and drawings. 

My favorite type of paper is graph paper that comes together on a pad that isn't perforated but will detach from each other easily. What this does is allows me to write on the pad and then either fold it around, turn the page and continue, or easily pull it off and put it in a pile to be scanned or with other pages. I don't have to look for something to write on, it doesn't tear or leave jagged edges when removed from the pad either. It's also of sufficient thickness to not let the pen bleed too much to allow for double sided writing - although single side is always operable since you can keep track of the page order more easily. The graph lines provide a consistent and evenly placed lines to write on and also allow for guide-lines for drawing, especially designs. I've found that the graph lines actually improve my drawing and writing in the same way that when we first learn to write we write on guide lines to keep the same proportion and sizes of the letters. It also helps with perspective and when designing webpages, book pages - since I can use them to draw straight and even lines and use the # of squares as a unit of measurement. They act like training wheels in a way.

ALWAYS (i'm talking to you too Derek) date each page when you start or when you finish or anytime in between. I can't tell you how many loose pages I have that I don't even, and can't even, figure out the date or even the YEAR it was written. Even if you lose track of the actual page order that you wrote within that day - you'll at least have some idea if you have each page dated. If you add the time as well you are even better off.

 Consider one of these! Stamp the date or even go back and date other pages from previous dates quickly and easily. This also allows to not have to write the date each time as long as you stamp before or after you write.

You could/should also include the location written (geo tag) or any other pertinent information. Eg: Subjects written about. Tags. and you can even develop your own short hand/ abbreviations/ symbols/ icons for easy sorting and recognition. eg I will draw a big exclamation point if there is something I want to definitely notice later on. I will also TRY to tag each page so that, if it's not obvious, I can see what that page is about. My book (DDD) or a design idea or something for my website or a journal etc. This is very helpful later when you are trying to sort them before and after scanning. 

I'll get into how to organize them once they are on the computer another time but these are invaluable tips for hand written writers. The same themes apply to typing notes and digital note keeping as well - use the same program, always include the date (and time) tag it etc. 


(03-01-2016 413pm, desk, about writing, blog blah balhalha0)

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