6.07.2016

Point and Use

Staying abreast of new technology is a challenge for anyone who spends much of the time with his head in the clouds. So I was delighted when David Pogue in his Yahoo tech blog actually came up with a beneficial, easy-to-use improvement for writers. It works only for people who have Google Drive and Google Docs, but I think that covers most people who own computers. The big idea is: use your smart phone as a scanner. For anyone who does research for their books, this is a significant aid.

Here’s how it works: You use the Google Drive app on your phone. You hit the + button and then select Use Camera. You then take a picture of the lines on the page that you want to use, either as research notes or as a quotation from an expert author. Press Use Photo to save it. The beauty of this portable scanning comes into play when you then right-click on the item in your Google Drive file folder. When the menu pops up, you click on Open With to open a second menu, whereupon you choose Google Docs. The snippet of text that you copied on your phone will then be converted through an OCR reader into words. They can then be copied and pasted into whatever file you like.

For anyone who has spent laborious hours pressing a book onto the glass bed of a scanner, this improvement is like magic. Sure, some of the words are scanned wrong, so you have to type in gaps. But remember, you still have the photo you took, so you can read that for any garbled text. Overall, the time saved via this method is tremendous. Tech actually works for me, instead of screwing me up. I’m feeling better about myself in general: phone, scanner, OCR . . . I’m that guy who has mastered all that.

Exercise: It works in libraries and bookstores too. Say, you want to research the back-cover copy of other books on puppets, for a book on puppets you intend to publish. You go to the bookstore, snap photos of the back covers of a dozen books, and use the OCR reader to compile a file of all that ad copy. Now you don’t have to guess what PR writers think will attract readers. You have their points right at your fingertips.

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” 
—Douglas Adams

Copyright @ 2016, John Paine






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