Giving Evernote another try

Evernote logoI know that people rave about Evernote, for genealogy and for other aspects of life. Over the years, I keep dipping my toe and withdrawing it quickly. The user interface has just never clicked for me.

I blogged back in February of 2013 that I was exploring Evernote for genealogy. That didn’t really pan out, but late in 2013 I started using Springpad, which has a more graphical interface than Evernote. Thanks to Springpad, I became hooked on cloud-based, synching organizing and storage systems. After Springpad announced it was shutting down this month, I exported my data, including my family history research logs, to Evernote.

So now I’m ready to give it another try. I’m trying to be open minded about Evernote’s interface. I bought and read the e-book Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly, and I’m going to be checking out genealogy-specific information about Evernote. (This morning, I found this great page on Cyndi’s List with genealogy templates for Evernote.)

I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime I’m wondering whether any of you have either great tips using Evernote in genealogy or  recommendations of more resources to help me learn to use and love Evernote. If so, I’m all ears!

Learning to like my contactless scanner

At the end of 2013, I purchased the Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 contactless scanner. I blogged here about how intrigued I was by a scanner that scans from above and doesn’t need to touch the (potentially delicate) items being scanned.

It arrived, I set it up without much difficulty and almost immediately I hit a trouble spot. The first things I tried to scan had curled edges. First, there was the letter that my grandfather had written my grandmother. It had been stored for 87 years in the envelope in which it was mailed At 36 pages, the letter didn’t lie flat in the envelope, so the folds were rounded. I had hoped I could flatten the image with the included software, but gave up pretty quickly.

Here’s tdaveslettertobeapg1withoutglasshe first page of that letter. While it’s legible, the folds and curves troubled me. And it took several tries to get it to look that good.

I found myself really disappointed and even looked into returning it. But I’d waited too long and it was after the 30-day deadline imposed by the seller.

That was actually a blessing in disguise, because when I was at RootsTech in February, I had the opportunity to talk with a Fujitsu representative who gave me a great idea: Buy a piece of non-glare glass to put over the objects I want to scan that have curled edges.

It took me awhile to get that done, but in the meantime I started appreciating how great the scanner is for non-curled documents and photographs. I just lay them down on the mat and push a button. (I can even do more than one item at a pass and they’ll be saved into separate documents) The process is quite simple and I don’t have to worry about damaging the photo by putting it through my sheet-fed ScanSnap S1500M (a precursor to the current iX500). I don’t have a flat-bed scanner.

page 1 dave's letter to bea testI finally got around to buying the non-glare glass and that idea turned out to be a stroke of genius. Here’s the first page of the letter scanned through the piece of glass. It’s not perfect–the folds are still visible and a would take a little bit of effort to lift the glass for multi-page documents. But the pesky curvature is gone and the light is uniform.  It’s a simple, low-cost (under $20) solution.

I love my sheet-fed scanner, which is very fast and will scan both sides of the page simultaneously. But for delicate items and for books or magazines that can be scanned without pushing down on their spine, the SV600 is pretty swell. I haven’t experimented with scanning books yet, but for magazines, I’ve seen that it does a nice job of flattening the image so that the pages don’t slant toward the middle of a double-page spread.

I don’t know that I will use it as much as I anticipated when I purchased it–it’s unclear that my needs merit the $600 price tag. But now that I have it, I’m looking forward to getting to know it better (and appreciate it more). I know it will come in handy.

Now that I think about it, a Flip-Pal mobile scanner might have served much the same function, at much lower price point–and had the advantage of being portable. I’m tempted to purchase a Flip-Pal one of these days. (I’m turning into a scanner collector!) If so, I’ll be interested to see when I choose to use which scanner. And I’ll report here, if you’re interested too.

 

Organized genealogy workspaces in Family Tree Magazine

Organized genealogy spaces in Family Tree MagazineOne of the things I enjoy about my work as a professional organizer is seeing how people live and work. Of course, I love helping them improve their organizational systems. But I love quizzing already organized people about how they stay organized. We’re all so different and I find there’s always so much to learn.

That’s why I loved the cover story of  the May/June issue of Family Tree Magazine . The article, called Making It Work, by Denise Levenick, The Family Curator, takes a look at the workspaces of six successful genealogy professionals. Those professional are:

  • Photo Detective Maureen A. Taylor
  • Writer and editor Sunny Jane Morton
  • GeneaBlogger founder Thomas MacEntee
  • Genealogy Guys podcast co-host Drew Smith
  • Genealogy Guys podcast co-host George G. Morgan
  • Genealogy Gems podcaster Lisa Louise Cooke

We see photos and learn the inside secrets behind the workspaces–and work systems–of each of these successful genealogists. In addition, Levenick provides lots of organizing tips and suggestions from these pros.  (One of my favorites: “Take a few minutes to file or recycle papers and neaten your desk after each use. You’ll be able to start your next research session with fewer distractions.” ) She also includes a list of online resources. I’m delighted that Organize Your Family History is included in that resource list!

It’s an enjoyable read, full of good advice. A theme among all six subjects was the benefit of eliminating distracting clutter. I know from my experience that putting things away (and having a place to put them) is the key to my productivity at my desk. After reading the article, I was itching to tidy up a bit more!

Incidentally, one way I keep clutter at bay is to subscribe to digital editions of magazine. I receive Family Tree Magazine as a digital subscription. I get an email when it’s available and I download it to read on my computer or iPad. I was able to switch from the print to digital edition mid-year, by simply asking. I love that I don’t have the physical copies of the magazine lying around!

Springpad shutting down on June 25

Springpad shuts downI was so excited to partner with Springpad on the Family History Organizer custom notebook late last year and early this year. I used it for tracking my research and to-dos and when I worked with them to create it, I had no reason to think that I wouldn’t be using it for years to come.

But, alas, on Friday I was notified that Springpad is closing its doors on June 25. I don’t know why, I’m assuming it has everything to do with it being a start up, funded by venture capital. It’s surprising, though, since Springpad is a venerable start-up; it’s been around since 2008, a long time in that world.

In any case, I wanted to announce it here. If you’re using the Family History Organizer notebook, you’ll want to find a substitute. Evernote is probably the most logical choice, since so many resources are available to learn how to use it for genealogy. (I’ve dabbled with Evernote over the years, never fully clicking with its interface, but I’m giving it another try.)

I have dozens of Springpad notebooks, so I was relieved to learn that they are developing an export tool to make it easier to access my data in other apps. That is supposed to be released this week. On June 25, user data will be deleted from Springpad’s servers, so it’s important to export your data by then, or it will be lost.

I really enjoyed working with the folks at Springpad and I wish them all well. I am going to miss Springpad as a resource; it really did help me organize information and it was the first electronic task manager I was ever able to successfully use.

But now I’ll explore other options for task management. (TeuxDeux is the current frontrunner.) And I’ll let you know if I can make Evernote work for my genealogy resources.