How I Capture My Notebooks In Evernote

How I Capture My Notebooks In Evernote

Recently I was in Phoenix for a business event, and while at dinner with my friends Rebecca and Adam, I did something so unexpected and so shocking that they had to take a picture:

Brooks Writing In A Notebook
Brooks Writing In A Notebook

Yep, that is me writing something down in a paper notebook. For someone who gets introduced as “this is Paperless Brooks”, this can throw people for a loop.

The fact is, I resisted carrying around a notebook for ages. I am a digital guy, and it seemed like a step backwards. However, I kept hearing from people that you can’t beat a notebook for on-the-go capture, so after finally being convinced by the Home Work Podcast, I picked up some Field Notes books and gave it a go.

What can I say? It is great. I still capture most things digitally, but having a notebook always on me can come in very handy.

Of course, the question then becomes: what do you do with the information when you are done? Some people just file the notebook away. Some people trash them, some people scan them.

I am sure you can guess which camp I fall into. I want to have the information archived digitally, but I want it to be searchable as well – something not easy to do with a handwritten notebook. I decided to do accomplish this with a combination of a scanning app and Evernote.

Scanning The Notebook

There are many iOS document scanning apps, but due to reasons I get into in my Evernote handwritten workflow post, I want to be able to export to Evernote in JPG format.

The best combination of these requirements and capture speed that I have found is TurboScan.

First, I use TurboScan to take a picture of a page. Often it will detect the page correctly, but if it doesn’t, I just use my finger to make sure it is just capturing one page.

TurboScan Adjust Page
TurboScan Adjust Page

Then I hit Next, and then hit the + button in the bottom-right of the screen. This will let me add a page to the document.

TurboScan Add A Page
TurboScan Add A Page

Then, I repeat for each page in the notebook. That might sound like a lot of work, but once you get going it is pretty fast.

When I am done, I hit the Share button in the bottom left and then instead of exporting a PDF, which is what I would normally do, I choose Email as JPEG image(s).

TurboScan Email JPG
TurboScan Email JPG

This will create a very large e-mail with a large number of files attached. I then send it to my Evernote e-mail address. Obviously, whatever e-mail server you use will need to be able to send a message this large.

Archiving In Evernote

When I e-mail the JPGs to Evernote, the service will import the images as one big note, which is what I want. I can then view my notebook on any device or computer that I have.

Field Notes
Field Notes

I personally put a little note to myself at the top of the note with any major events that this notebook covers so that I can tell when I am eyeballing it (it is also helpful for searching later).

Speaking of searching, part of the reason that I do all of this is that I find Evernote’s handwriting recognition to be surprisingly good. It is not perfect by any means, and my printing is so terrible that no computer (or human) could read all of it, but I am often amazed by what it can pick up.

Evernote Search
Evernote Search

So, that is how I capture my notebooks. Many people don’t bother, but I like having them digital and searchable. If you do something similar, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

(Photo by Rebecca Mullen)

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 8 comments

The Paperless Conference - August 12, 2014 Reply

[…] used paper notebooks for a while and captured them with my phone. Then I got a bit more advanced and used the ScanSnap […]

On The Term Paperless | Tips To Learn How To Go Paperless | DocumentSnap Paperless Blog - January 29, 2013 Reply

[…] Myself, I like to work as digitally as possible, but I have recently started using paper notebooks more. […]

Beatriz Alemar - November 25, 2012 Reply

Oh WOW! I just learned something new about Evernote. I also capture a few things on pen and paper still (although mostly everything is digital). I finally know how to easily upload them all to my favorite file system! High fives and hugs! This little tidbit just made my geeky day! 🙂

Allen - November 14, 2012 Reply

The Moleskine Smart Notebook and Evernote's Page Camera feature–introduced earlier this fall–was designed for the task you've just described: capturing notebook pages and importing them into Evernote.

shefi - November 11, 2012 Reply

Why use TurboScan when you can just take a photo of your doc with your iPhone camera?

    Brooks Duncan - November 12, 2012 Reply

    You can definitely do that, no problem at all. The reason I use an app (in my case TurboScan) is because it will detect the page dimensions and let me cut out everything except the actual page. It will also do some adjustments to make the image come out a little better, and let me have it in B&W or whatever. It just makes the scan a little smaller.

    But, yes you can just use the iPhone camera too. That works well.

rebecca - November 6, 2012 Reply

Brooks, dinner with you was a delight! Even if you totally blew your cover by pulling out a paper notebook. You've completely redeemed yourself as Mr. Digital, however with this explanation. My notebook for jotting ideas? Most of those ideas get abandoned.

Now you've given me a way to capture them. You're the best. If I can one day "search" like you, I will know I have arrived.

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