Use Your Point-and-Shoot Digital Camera as Document Scanner

Rosie by ((carola)) on flickrDespite the promises made by children’s cartoons and most works of science fiction we continue to endure life without personal jetpacks, flying cars, robotic housemaids named Rosie, and an exhaustive and fully digitized record of human knowledge. And while there’s not much advice I can offer to get you any closer to those first three goals, I’m pretty certain that you’ve got the tools at your disposal to digitize any document or publication you can get your hands on.

You might assume that the proper tool for this kind of work would be a flatbed scanner. For a while that was definitely true. These days, however, your digital camera can almost certainly handle the job. Yes, even that point-and-shoot camera that you bought years ago to take on vacations and photograph your cat for her very own blog. I use my camera all the time to photograph manuscript material at archives and sections of books or articles that I can’t or don’t want to lug home from libraries. Continue reading

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Mac users, try Skitch for annotating images

Sometimes you want to show someone else what you’re looking at online. You can email her a link, post it on Facebook, or share it on Twitter. But sometimes, you need to show someone exactly what you’re seeing. Why? It might be because you see an error that someone else doesn’t see. Or, you might want to call attention to just part of a website, a program on your computer, or something else on your screen.

This is a classic case where you want to take a screenshot. Screenshots allow you to show someone else what you’re seeing. A few weeks ago, Adam showed Windows users how to take simple screenshots. Today, I want to show Mac users how to take screenshots and then annotate them.

OS X has a built-in screenshot program called Grab. It can handle both snapping a photo of your entire screen as well as what ever is within any given window. But I found Grab’s TIF default file format annoying, since if I want to upload my screenshot to Flickr, I’ve saved my screenshot in the largest file size possible. And if I then want to annotate my screenshot, I have to open the TIF in Photoshop or Fireworks.

Skitch is a free app that allows you to take screenshots, annotate them, and share them via the web all within the workings of one program. Continue reading

Use Foxit Reader to Annotate PDFs

PDF IconAdobe’s PDF file format has become fairly ubiquitous. Most of the scholarly journals and databases provide download access in PDF format. And when they are available in full text, books from Google Books can also be downloaded as PDFs. All this means that there’s quite a bit of reading to be done in PDF format. Unfortunately Adobe has priced Acrobat, the full suite of editing and creating tools for PDF files, well beyond the reach of the average graduate student. Of course, Adobe has always made Acrobat Reader available to the public as a free download. And in recent years a bevy of third party programs have made it possible to view and even create your own PDF files with very little fuss. The newest versions of Microsoft Office even allow users to save files directly to PDF format.

Foxit Reader's Comments Menu

While reading PDFs and saving PDF files has never really been easier, very few of these programs allow the user to make markups or annotations to PDF files for which you are not the original author. Adobe recently added the ability to add sticky notes and highlights to PDF files using Reader. Fortunately one of the free third-party PDF readers out there has even more features. With Foxit Reader you can add notes, draw lines boxes and other shapes, type text onto the file, and add your own bookmarks.

Continue reading