Productivity Tip: Portable Scanning AND File Syncing

A client of mine, Margaret, recently acquired an iPad. After using the iPad camera, she realized that all of her magazine articles that she had clipped out over the past few months could be digitized! Eureka! And her question to me was: is using the camera the best option for this need?

I challenged her with a question as my answer. “Sure, that’s great to take a picture of the information you want. The photo will be stored within the camera roll on your iPad. Now how will you ensure that this new photo, or new electronic file, is organized in your own filing system and THEN that this file is then synced across all of your devices?” There was a pause at the other end of our Skype session.

Let’s review Margaret’s computing options for her job and personal needs. Margaret has a 4 yr old iMac, a 3 yr old Macbook, a 1 yr old iPhone, and an iPad3 that she primarily uses for personal correspondence and documents. At work she has a PC desktop for her teaching responsibilities. If Margaret is not careful in how she sets up her e-filing system, she will run the risk of creating multiple file versions and soon she will feel overwhelmed when she realizes – WHERE did I put that file and WHICH one is the one I need?! So by asking Margaret this question, Margaret quickly realized that there must be a better solution.

YES! Take Margaret’s idea one step further – use the iPad as a portable scanner and store that new file within a cloud-based synced folder. For Margaret that means we’ll make sure the file is stored within one of her Dropbox folders that is automatically synced across her devices.

So we need an app that optimizes scanning functionality and one that can be linked to an existing cloud account. There are lots of scanning apps to choose from – some free, some fee-based. Having used ScannerPro by Readdle for many months now, I highly recommend the $6.99 USD purchase price (at time of posting, and I have no affiliation other than I’m a highly satisfied customer). ScannerPro lets you share the new file by email, or by uploading to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, or another WebDAV-enabled online storage solution.

Here’s a video on how to use ScannerPro to scan a magazine article and save it in Dropbox (4:39 min) .

For those of you who like the steps documented:

1. Choose the information you want to scan.

2. Lay that information as flat as possible and try to position it in the best possible light.

3. Open ScannerPro.

4. Position the camera over the information you want to capture. Avoid shadows as much as possible and do your best to hold the iPad steady.

5. Take the picture by tapping the Camera icon.

6. Adjust the borders (tap and drag each corner until you have surrounded the information you want to retain).

7. Tap Done.

8. Tap the Sharing icon at the top right of the screen.

9. Tap “Open in…”, and choose Dropbox.

10. Log in to Dropbox if asked for a passcode (depending on your settings).

11. Name the file and select the folder location.

12. Tap Done.

Think of everything that you can do with a portable scanner – scan receipts and invoices, scan handwritten notes and sketches, scan magazine articles, etc.  For me at this time, ScannerPro is easy and reliable to use and it’s my go to app many times a week.

Have fun! Susan

Three Productivity Tips for your iPad

At work you may use your iPad for managing email (and various email accounts), taking notes, managing tasks, and doing research. The more I use my iPad, the more I find I want to do things faster with it so I thought you might be in the same situation. Here’s a video with 3 quick tips to help you use your iPad more productively (4:37 min) .

Tip #1: Quickly access special characters on your keyboard

Tap and hold certain characters to reveal other characters underneath.

For example:

Tap and hold Character underneath
, (comma) ‘ (apostrophe)
. (full stop or period) “ (quotation marks)
any vowel, for example “e” variations of that vowel in other languages, for example “é”

If you double tap one of the SHIFT keys (has the outline of a blue arrow on it, on both the left and right sides of the last row of letters on the first keyboard screen), the SHIFT keys turn dark blue. That means anything you subsequently type will be in all capital letters until you turn that off.

Tip #2: In one tap, get to the top of your browser window

Double tap the status bar at the top of your browser window. That will immediately bring you back to the top of that web page.

Tip #3: Lock screen orientation when reading

1. View your open applications (using 4 fingers, swipe from the bottom of your screen upwards, or double tap the home button).

2. Swipe from left to right once to view your Control menu.

3. Turn your iPad to the screen orientation you want, either portrait or landscape mode.

4. Tap the screen lock icon to lock the screen orientation, the last button on the far left, see:

Screen Lock Button on Control Panel

5. Go back to reading (using 4 fingers, swipe from the top of your screen downwards, or double tap the home button).

6. Check that the screen lock icon is now visible at the top right of your iPad screen, see:

Icon To Show Screen Orientation Lock

To unlock screen orientation, do steps 1 to 5 and double-check that the screen lock icon is not visible at the top of your iPad.

Have fun exploring this wonderful device, Susan

Editing PDFs Electronically

My clients are asking me how they can edit electronic forms in PDF format.

For me, the easiest and quickest solution that I’ve found is to save the PDF to my computer and open it with PDF editing software. I like PDF Pen – it works on the Mac and on the iPad and it’s been my go to pdf editing software now since August 2010. There are other PDF editing tools out there on the market but honestly, I’ve found PDF Pen to be user-friendly, reliable, EASY, and affordable. For the record, I am not affiliated with the company, Smile Software, whatsoever.

Here’s a quick video (5:30 min) to show you what I mean. In this example, I’m using an online credit history request form from Equifax (yes, it’s time to submit my annual credit history request!) and PDF Pen 3.

Hope you find this post useful. Let me know, ok? TTFN, Susan

Adding footers in Word

Scenario: You are creating a multiple page document with others. You need to let others know how many pages there are in total and you want to help your future self remember where you stored the document.

Use the header and footer functionality in Word which lets you insert repeating text on each page in your document, either at the top (the header) or at the bottom (the footer).

Here’s a quick video on how to add page numbers, file name, and storage location in the footer of your document. The video shows you the steps for Microsoft® Word 8.0 for Mac. The concepts for other version of Word on PC or Mac are similar. (video, 7:14 min): 

Have fun with footers! Once you start, you’ll find you’ll want them on most documents.

Resetting a style in Word when all else fails

Scenario: You’re trying to apply a new style to a paragraph yet the new style isn’t being applied. You’ve tried clearing the style and even that doesn’t work! Now what?

If you ever run into style issues like the one listed above, delete the paragraph marker, make a new paragraph, and then apply the new style. It works every time.

OK, so why did I tell you to do this? Here’s the trick: Word stores the formatting attributes in each paragraph marker. When you delete the paragraph marker, the style that corresponds to that paragraph will be gone. Since you’ll then have content that runs together so you’ll need to make a new paragraph before applying the new style. Otherwise you’ll have one L-O-N-G paragraph where previously there were two paragraphs.

Here are the quick steps to follow:

1. Turn on “show codes”

Click the backwards looking “P”, called a pilcrow, on the Standard toolbar – see the image below for the icon.

The pilcrow is Word’s name for a paragraph mark.

Now you will see various hidden codes in your content that Word inserts behind the scenes as you type. A pilcrow means you pressed Enter. A space (it looks like a tiny dot) means you pressed the space bar. An arrow means you pressed the Tab key.

2. Delete the problem pilcrow.

The style you didn’t want is now gone.

3. Make a paragraph

Go to the end of the sentence that used to be the end of the first paragraph and press Enter. You’ll see a new pilcrow appear.

4. Position your cursor somewhere in that paragraph and apply the new style.

5. Turn off “show codes”.

Click the pilcrow on the Standard toolbar a second time to turn it off.

That’s it, you’ve done it! Onward, ho.

What To Do If You Get A Word Document With Messed Up Styles Throughout

Scenario: Your boss comes to you with a Word document and you are asked to make the content look professional in a short amount of time. Someone else has written the content, and, when you look at the document, you see that the author has inconsistent styles throughout the file. Or one section has styles applied and another section has specific words highlighted on a case-by-case basis. Ugh.  

Going forward, you and your boss need a document that has consistent styles. There’s not much time until the end product is due. What’s the fastest way for you to fix this up?

Here’s the easiest and quickest solution that I’ve found:

1. Show the existing styles in the Word document.

Turn on the style pane and make the style pane at least 1” wide. Go to your Word settings and enable the option to view the style pane, set the width as 1″ (or wider), and save your settings. Then go back to the document and switch the view to Draft View.

Why? At a glance you’ll be able to see which style has been attributed to each paragraph in the document. Otherwise you’d have to click on each paragraph or heading and check which style has been attributed.

2. Change your view to Draft view and print out a copy of the document with the style pane visible.

Why? At a glance you’ll be able to see which paragraphs need style help and it’s much quicker than trying to compare documents side by side electronically. I’ve tried the electronic method to avoid making hard copies and wasting paper but I’ve always ended up having to make a printout in the end anyways after wasting precious time.

3. Make a new electronic copy of the Word document, save it with a new name, and strip out all the styles.

Don’t work within the original file. Leave it alone and as is.

In the new renamed file, select all the content (CTRL+A on PCs, Command+A on Macs) and apply the “clear formatting” option. This resets all the content to the Normal style. Now you’re starting from scratch on the styles front and you have the printout to help guide you. Save the file.

4. Apply the correct styles to headings and paragraphs. Save the new file often!

Put on your headphones and listen to some great tunes as you start to apply the styles. Use your printout as a guide and watch how fast you build a professional looking document. It’s actually fun when you get into a groove. Save often – I can’t stress that enough. You’ll find a pattern of saving that works for you – whether it’s after each new heading or at the end of every page. Just save, save, save.

5. Review your work and fix any issues.

I use Print Preview, turning on the multiple pages at a glance option, to do this task quickly. Glaring issues pop out at me. I also have the printout from the original file to refer back to (mostly to see how it’s NOT supposed to look like, LOL).

6. Save the file, keep a copy for your own records, and pass the file onwards. 

You may be thinking that I’m making more work for you with these steps. Nope. You’ll find it’s the fastest, simplest way to get the styles to be consistent and make the document look professional. And believe me, I’ve had to do this on 300+ page documents in less than 2 hours. No problem!