One problem with email is keeping messages of interest beyond the confines of the email system. Short of emailing them to another account it used to be difficult to save something interesting, useful or funny and the only option was to copy and paste into a word document. I have many files of such amusements but also many printed emails of jokes and so on from previous workplaces.
Over the years I’ve tried to digitise piles of saved magazine articles and such like using a variety of desktop scanners and the one problem has been speed – the scanning process taking thirty seconds to a minute per page and then if I wanted to manipulate the text I’d have to run it through an OCR (optical character recognition) program to extract the words, taking even more time.
I’d finally decided to have another crack at the problem of a pile of funny emails stuffed in a box file and vaguely remembered seeing smartphone apps that can scan documents using the high-res main camera and save them as Adobe PDF files. I searched and downloaded Adobe’s own app and it’s again amazing how technology has moved on. As new phone cameras have improved in quality the images produced are crisp and clear so are perfect for document archiving. When you start scanning the software automatically detects the edges of the document, photographs it, straightens it and then, best of all, before giving the option of scanning more pages or saving to PDF it OCRs the text too.
The end result is a portable document, or multiple pages in one file if necessary, which even has selectable text that can be copied into a word-processor document or spreadsheet, an ideal way of digitising and making all those previously fixed words editable and searchable again. The very best thing though is it all takes a matter of seconds per page. For anything that needs a bit more precision or detail – photos for example – I’d still use my high-res flatbed scanner.
It’s another example of how smartphones are becoming ubiquitous tools, the digital Swiss army knife, used to communicate, inform and amuse, entertain, create, record and archive. All the processing power the scanning requires also underlines how far microprocessors have progressed, being able to do this in a tiny handheld box less than ten millimetres thick. All the effort of scanning over fifty pages did leave my phone a little warm admittedly, so I decided to give it a bit of a rest and write this instead – on my big desktop PC.