Archiving The Web Via PDFs and Dropbox

Hi, my name is Martha and I am a data hoarder. No really. I love to clip and save and organize the cool stuff I find on the web. Perhaps it comes from my professional background as a researcher – you never know when you are going to need that great bit of information in the future.

I also am a fan of PDFs and I love to work with them on my iPad. My favorite PDF app is iAnnotate, but there are other great ones, like the venerable GoodReader which has been around about as long as the iPad has. I also love Dropbox, the web storage / syncing / sharing application that is pretty much everywhere these days.

So, when MacStories published this great hack, I was all ears. Imagine using a web bookmarklet to save a webpage or URL as a PDF and store in your Dropbox so you can edit and sync across devices and access from anywhere? Federico Viticci has a great means of doing just that using the Instapaper Text Bookmarklet, available on the Instapaper web site (scroll down to the bottom of the page) and a command line Mac HTML converter called wkpdf.  Sure, its geeky. But it works great. Mac only, though, so sorry all you Windows users.

Hit the link above for the very explicit details. Viticci offers a couple of ways of getting the job done, but the end result is stored PDFs of sites with active links and images, with the crap stripped out for easy reading. I particularly like the option to use IFTTT by sending a Mail message with the URL, which then appends the body of the message to a text file. Takes a little bit of tweaking and a few apps to set the system up, but once it is up and going, you will be an automated URL / HTML to PDF machine! Thanks Federico!


Remarks: An iOS PDF Mark-up App With Something Different

I usually save the mobile apps for my Mobile App of The Day blog, but this one seems particularly useful for attorneys and worth a mention here in the Studio. Remarks is a new PDF app designed for the iPad from the fine folks at Readdle who know a thing or two about annotation and PDFs on the mobile screen. It is a fully featured PDF annotating application, with a variety of tools to fine-tune your marks. You can highlight, underline, strikeout text, draw upon the documents – that means pretty much anything you can do with the document on paper. But what sets Remarks apart from other apps, like another fav of mine iAnnotate and the like, is the extremely simple view / interface. It drops the complex layers and just gives you the WYSIWYG experience. Combine that with an able note-taking interface and it seems Remarks might be a replacement for more than few apps on your iPad. Notes become PDFs, which can then be easily viewed, printed and edited on your computer. Share notes with others for their perusal and comments. From the iTunes description, here are a list of features:

★ Make notes

Write everything you think is important on a meeting, lecture or presentation.
★ Sketch new ideas
Draw the plan to take over the world. Maybe even two, just in case.

★ Type in text notes
Prefer typing text to handwriting? We have a tool for that.

★ Annotate PDFs
Mark important things in books, journals or documents that you need to review.

★ Draw with your finger
Use it to make remarks in scanned books or simply draw something beautiful.

★ Co-edit notes with friends
You can edit notes made by any other Remarks user and vice versa.

What else Remarks lets you do:

✓ Add Notes Quickly
Only one tap is needed to start new a note, no matter where in the application are you located at the moment.

✓ Exchange documents with your computer
Use a USB cable and iTunes File Sharing to transfer notes and PDFs between your iPad and your computer.

✓ Edit your notes on the Mac or PC
You can make changes into your notes using any PDF editing application like Preview on the Mac or Adobe Reader on the PC

✓ Annotate Email Attachments
Open PDF attachments directly from the Mail app to annotate them.

✓ Share Notes With Your Friends
Email your notes to any other person with Remarks and they will be able to edit it like their own.

✓ Import PDFs from Dropbox, Box.Net, Safari and other applications.
Use “Open In” to transfer documents for note-taking or annotation from any popular cloud storage or iPad app.


You can get Remarks for $4.99 in the app store – a small price to pay if it becomes your favorite note-taking, PDF annotating, document collaboration app on the go.



Create PDFs from an RSS Feed

If you need to pull Web content into PDF form, and would like to tailor how much of the site’s subscription you want to “freeze”, consider this simple tool: feed2PDF. Just enter the feed URL in the box on feed2PDF’s page, select the number of items you wish to include in the PDF, and hit “retrieve.” feed2PDF will generate a PDF of the items that you can download. Simple? Yes, simple.

Build Your PDF Library As You Browse Google Reader

Now that I have an iPad, with lots of great PDF reader applications, including iBooks, I am a lot more interested in collecting PDFs to read on that fantastic facilitator of information consumption. Joliprint (link here) has made the process of making web content, particularly Google Reader more readable, by dropping it into your PDF reader with the ease of a bookmarklet.

All you have to do is grab the bookmarklet via the link above. Then, while you are browsing through Google Reader, select the desired post, hit the bookmarklet in your Favorites bar and voila! Instant PDF. Great for printing and reading. Once you have it, simply email it to yourself, open the attachment on your iPad and select the reader you want your PDF sent to.

That’s easy!

From eBook to iBook

With an iPad equipped with iBooks (or iPhone with iOS4), I have wondered – how do I get run-of-the-mill variety PDFs and eBooks into iBooks. MakeUseOf has answered my unspoken call to action. Check out their primer (link here) on how to drop or convert ePub and PDF eBooks into an iBook-friendly format. They cover the topic beautifully with screenshots, so that even a dummy like me can do it. Points of interest from the article:

  • If you already have lots of ebooks or PDF formatted material already, you can drag and drop them into the Books tab in the left column of iTunes.
  • You can convert your other digital literature materials into ePub or PDF so that you can put them in the library.
  • Buy books from the iBooks store (see the “store” link in iBooks on your iDevice). Find free ones by typing “free” into the search box in the store.
  • Load PDFs attached to emails into iBooks by tapping on the PDF attachment, selecting “open in iBooks” along the top of the open attachment, and view it there.

Great tips to get you started on your iBookshelf.

More Free OCR Fun

Last week, I posted about a free Web utility that would allow you to upload scanned documents and apply OCR treatment. Now Google Docs has trotted out a free OCR feature available for on-line docs, per the Google Operating System Blog (link here).

The option appears during the uploading process: Docs users are presented with a clickable link that will run an OCR scan of docs uploaded into user accounts. Those familiar with OCR know that the process extracts characters and inserts them into a new text document. PDFs apparently do better with the process and simply black text on white background yields the best result. 

As far as those results, users report some formatting loss and less than perfect end product. And, you will need to separately load and save the PDF if you want both the original and the OCR’d version of the doc. Still, while it may not be the power tool you are looking for, it does offer a free option for simple scans and searchable saves of images, business cards or simple records.

Search PDFs & eBooks via Live PDF (and Google & Bing)

With new content consumption devices popping up faster than you can spell “i-P-a-d”, you surely will need some content to consume. How about a search engine for PDFs and eBooks. Live PDF (link here) lets you query Google or Bing (although not at the same time) via a single search interface for PDFs and eBooks on any topic. Your results will take you straight to the downloadable content, where you can whisk it from the ether into your internet-enabled reading device.

There are no filters, categories, sorting options or any other form of data / search manipulation tools on the page, but you can view the last 10 searches! Here is to hoping that one of the previous ten visitors was looking up stuff on the semantic Web!

Thanks, MakeUseOf!

A Search Engine For Documents

Latest PDF File Icon
Image via Wikipedia

Now this is an interesting find: a search engine for PDFs, DOCs and PPTs. Hat tip to Simon Fodden over at Slaw for this gem, called Osun Document SearchThe stipped-down, Google-like search page has a search box with buttons for PDFs, DOCs and PPTs. Results pages also look suspiciously similar to a Google page, except that they are populated exclusively with documents. Popular “hot docs” are listed on the right.

Mr. Fodden has devoted some time and energy into getting the back story on Osun and believes that it may be relying on Google’s own document search capabilities, and then merely re-packaging them into a document-only results format. In any event, the site is of value even if only for its format of cutting out the websites when you are only interested in documents.

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Mobile PDF Manipulation

Zosh IconAnother tip for the mobile warriors – pull PDF’s into an iPhone application that allows you to annotate the document with text and to even sign it. Handy stuff for PDF forms. The app is called Zosh and requires that you sign up with a free account. The account permits you to email the PDF to Zosh’s servers so that it can be sent back to you in an editable form. You have control over colors, fonts and text treatments, like bold and italic. When done, either request that the finished form be sent back to you or forwarded to someone else. Sign on the iPhone screen itself to create an electronic signature via the app’s ingenious scrolling function.

I can’t count how many times I have been sent a PDF that I first opened on my iPhone, which I then tabled for later attention because I could not deal with the PDF at that time. For $2.99, Zosh seems a pretty bargain and a decent add to your business tool kit.

Hat tip to iPhone J.D., and hit the link here for a comprehensive review, screenshots and demo video.

Zosh Screen Shot

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Et Cetera

First a word from our sponsor. Well, I guess that’s me. I have been quite busy over the last week on matters other than writing for the Studio. I wrote some guest blog posts that were published on other sites. I had much money-making work to do. And I have been trying to tweak and tighten my information gathering, organizing and sharing system to an even greater degree than it already was wrapped and wound. More on this latter effort in future posts – I want to get as much information as possible on these new systems before passing the information on to you.

I am expecting a call this week from the fine people at SkyGrid. They identified me as a feedback-oriented user and have asked for a little bit more of my time to pick my brain further on what I like and what I don’t like about the service.  Once again, I find myself impressed with SkyGrid – they are clearly more than casually interested in what their users think, to the point that they actively solicit feedback above and beyond the normal “suggestion box” black hole that you find in most venues.

Finally, a cool iPhone app alert: Good Reader is a PDF storage and viewing application for the iPhone. While large PDFs are its specialty, it also can hold and show MS Office, text, audio and video files. The app allows you to search and scan the documents for information. iPhone Alley reviews the application favorably here. There are some limitations, as would be expected in a .99 cent application, but for storing, viewing and searching on your phone, the price is well worth it.