Transported to New Heights

The accoutrements of writing can earn more fanfare than they deserve. The Find and Replace function, for example, can pare back the overuse of a certain word, but you still need to read the entire passage around the word to judge which ones to change. Using a voice-recording device can capture a certain cadence, but when used too often, your prose ends up banal, like ordinary speech. Nothing, to my mind, can replace quicksilver intuition, that feeling—often after long wrangling back and forth—that you finally nailed what you want. 

Where technology serves a writer best is at the margins. For example, a writing program like Scrivener manages drafts and research material better. Compare Documents in Word allows you to see clearly all the changes between drafts. Among these helper tools is a terrific new variation on gleaning nuggets from research: the OCR app.

Optical Character Reading programs have been around for a while. I remember all too well nights spent laboriously pressing a book flat against the glass surface of a scanner. Often I had to configure how all the text I wanted would actually be contained within the scanner window. The curve of a book’s gutter (toward its spine on the inside) would often render the imaged words indecipherable when the program spit them back out. Then I would have to keep the book open with one hand and type in the missing words with the other. 

So imagine my delight when I added two plus two. They have a phone app for everything else, so why not . . . ? Sure enough, you can use your phone camera for research. You keep the book open to the right page, line up the text block within the viewer, and presto! The text appears and you can send it to your computer in a second. Even better, there is no limit to where you can scan the text. In a library, in a bookstore, in a park—wherever you are reading, you can conduct research.

The app serves a social function as well. While everyone else in the world is frittering away their brain with some game or news outrage or product on sale, you too are intent on your phone. Only you are engaged in the pursuit of knowledge, like a veritable Plato on the streets of your town. How good is that?

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”  —Bill Gates

Copyright @ 2021 John Paine. All rights reserved. 

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Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.