Over a year ago, I posted about some new digital research tools I’d been trying out, and which of them had worked/not worked for me. I’ve been meaning to write an update to this for a while because, actually, I’ve changed my mind quite a bit since then. So here’s New Digital Research Tools 2 – the Update.
A 180: OneNote vs Evernote
I said in the previous post that I didn’t get on with Evernote but loved Microsoft’s OneNote. This would probably still be true, had OneNote not got more and more insistent on my updating to a new version. The new version, I felt, totally ruined the programme’s look and made a lot of things much more annoying to find. It also required you to have a Microsoft account and sign in, ruining the way I’d saved my previous files (which I synced using Dropbox). The various versions wouldn’t talk to each other, and the whole thing felt like so much effort. I couldn’t seem to fix the mess that had been created my the new version.
So, for some reason, I gave Evernote another go.
I’ve now decided that Evernote is actually great – but only for taking notes. I generally only use it for a quick note-to-self, or to save a page of a book by taking a quick picture, or to save a picture or article I’ve just seen on Twitter for later, or to copy-and-paste bits of text I know I’ll need multiple times. So, for digital note-taking, essentially. Because I take almost all of my notes by hand, I didn’t previously have a sensible system for storing the few notes I did store digitally.
I think the reason I didn’t like it last year was because I had grand plans of annotating all my photographs using Evernote, but I just don’t think it’s practical for that kind of large databasing. I have had to pay for Evernote, though, as you hit the free limit pretty quickly (and frankly, long before you can figure out whether it’s going to work for you). But I’m glad I have paid for it, as I think it fills a genuine hole in my research process.
I still miss OneNote’s OCR capabilities though. If only OneNote had let me continue using ON 2010…
FileMaker vs EpiDoc
I’m still glad I took the time to put all of my inscriptions into FileMaker. I can search the text and find my photographs way faster than I could before. It was worth the money for what I wanted to do at the time, and it’s still a useful tool that I use semi-regularly.
But since working with Jonathan Prag on the I.Sicily project and meeting some of the wider Digital Humanities community, I am a huge EpiDoc convert. Programmes like FileMaker really limit how well you can update, share and reuse data. EpiDoc completely changes all that – by using it, you can make a real commitment to open source data, and you can do much more powerful things with the information you have. It’s more flexible, more open, you can involve more people more easily – basically, it’s everything we should be aiming to do with our research.
One day, if I ever get my big digital project off the ground, EpiDoc is definitely the system I’d use. But, for now, while it’s just me, FileMaker is fine. It’s just not necessarily the decision I’d make if I was starting from scratch.
New discoveries: CamScanner
CamScanner is a very new discovery I made approximately a week ago, but it seems amazing. I think Ellie Mackin might have mentioned it on her vlog somewhere. It’s a really great way to turn photographs into PDF scans – it fixes the contrast and wonkiness that you get with photos so that you can print out the pages easily too. I’m still experimenting, but it’s one to check out if you spend a lot of time frustrated with unreliable library scanners.
Still trying to figure out whether to pay for this one, but it might make the cut. If I can turn old photographs into high-quality scans, I’m sold.
New discoveries: Going analogue with Bullet Journaling
Though I love technology and cool digital tools, I am essentially an analogue kind of person. When I read, I prefer to read hard copies. When I take notes, whether from reading or in meetings or while I’m working out ideas, I prefer pen and paper. The current trend for Bullet Journals has given me some great ideas about how to take notes more efficiently, how to index my work, and how to set monthly research goals for myself. Many thanks to Ellie and many others keen instagrammers/pinteresters for providing so much inspiration on making my analogue methods work as well as my digital ones.
My notebooks are not as fancy as some, but I love them anyway.