Friday, May 17, 2013

Reducing Some of My Paper

Those who know me well know that one of my mantras is, "I don't do Paper!" Paper overwhelms and consumes so much of my life that I am in an ongoing process of digitizing as much as possible - for genealogy as well as other aspects of life.

If you are like me, you attend conferences, classes and workshops. You always get a syllabus, handout or program and probably take a few (or a lot of) notes. Since getting a net book in 2010 and an iPad last fall, I always take my conference notes on one of my devices.

Within a couple days of the conference, I review my notes while the information is fresh, format my notes, with session headers in bold, add bullets for talking points and make sure the URLs for web sites are valid.

My next step is to scan the syllabus - one image per page. Using Adobe Acrobat Professional, I assemble the images into a PDF file. What I absolutely love about this Adobe product is the ability to run OCR text recognition on the document and make my own annotations within the file. Once the OCR text recognition is finished, I save the digital file in a computer folder for that conference, along with the document of my typed notes. Next step: the paper pages go into the recycling bin.

Conference File Folders
What is nice about converting the paper files to digital is the ability to search for information later. If I put the syllabus in a file drawer labeled "Omaha conference 2012" it will probably just stay there and I won't bother looking at it again. But with the ability to search, I might recall something a speaker mentioned and I can search my digital files for a topic, phrase, location - whatever - and actually be able to retrieve that information quickly. In fact, the computer will search for the information while I'm busy doing something else.

Think about all of those conference handouts you have in a file drawer. When was the last time you looked at them? Consider going digital and using that file drawer space for something else.


  1. Excellent idea, Susan! You are right, I have rarely gone back and looked at the paper copies (except NGS). Sigh, another thing to add to my digitizing to-do list, but well worth the effort.

  2. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing how you handle your conference handouts and syllabi!

  3. We need to know that in 100 years our posterity will be able to read through our genealogy. Although reducing the amount of paperwork is a terrific idea by digitalizing it, in 100 years will the computer we are working on today even be around, and will those digitized images still available. Every work we do should be in a form that can be read in 100 years, or it is all for naught! We need paper files that will still be able to be read in that next 100 years. They should be well organized that anyone can read them. In 100 years they may have come so far, that the "on" button on our computers now will be totally obsolete.

  4. I agree that technology has come a long way to making a genealogist's life easier and more organized. I use the computer everyday and own a Kobo Arc tablet, although I do not type on the tablet very much as I find it difficult to use the small keys whether by finger touch or a pen. I, unfortunately, can not afford an ipad. Genealogy does not pay well. I still keep a lot of written records. Old school, I guess. I would love to attend all of those conferences, but I can not figure out for the life of me how people can afford it. Most are out of my province and air fares are so expensive, as well as the fees to these things. Don't get me wrong, genealogy is a passion for me, but conferences and lectures are a real luxury that I have yet to be able to indulge in.

    1. Most of the conferences I attend are within 50 miles, or even in my own city. So the expense is minimal. And they are something I feel are essential to improving my skills and knowledge as a genealogist.

      For those on a budget, there is a wealth of free webinars and YouTube videos available on line. These are excellent and available at no cost.