Research With Notes

Well yeah! Researchers need notes to document what they know and what they need to find. Everybody knows that.

There are all kinds of notes management services and apps with many that do amazing things to keep us organized, find what we need fast and capture new information easily. Services like Evernote and One Note are quite impressive. If you are a serious researcher, the time and money needed to get the most from these services is well worth it.

For Mac, iPad and iPhone users, there is the free Notes app. At first glance it looks rather simplistic but it won’t take long to realize how sophisticated it really is. In addition to the basic text note, you can also create checklists and tables. Use Siri to create a new note then dictate your content. You can even add attachments – photos, scanned documents and videos – to your notes.

Research notes tend to grow quickly. Fortunately Notes lets you create folders to help organize all that research goodness. You can easily move a note from one folder to another. There is a sort feature making it easy to sort by date edited, date created or title.

Sample research folder in Notes

As your research notes grow, you will find your device’s search feature very handy. Even better, just ask Siri to find it for you. As you can see in this example, I include hash tags (#Levy #Texas #military) in my notes to make searching even easier. Anytime I want to see all my notes on my Levy family, all I have to do is search for #Levy and Notes delivers. My standard hashtags include family name, location and type of record.

Going to the library to do some research? Take your iPhone or iPad with you and use Notes to scan the documents you find there. All you do is open a note in Notes then tap the plus sign icon at the top of the keyboard. Choose the Scan Document option then position your iPad over the document page. Your device will automatically capture the page and add it to the note.

If you are using iCloud for storage, your notes will automatically synch to each of your iOS devices – and your Mac desktop too. There is also a collaboration feature that takes advantage of iCloud so you can share a note and all your collaborators can view, and or change the content of that note. Your collaborators must be signed into iCloud before they can edit a note.

This is just the beginning. Notes has a lot more goodness to put to good use with your research. You will find detailed instructions for making the most of your Notes app in the iPad User Guide for iOS 12 (there is also an iPhone user guide). You can download either guide in the Books app on your device. These guides are free.

Evernote Formatting Updates

Evernote just released a new update that includes easier formatting options for iOS devices. Open the Evernote app, then go to Account > Settings > Notes and you will find an Advanced Editing option. On that screen, you will find five advanced editing options you can turn on or off – Lists, Checkbox, Divider, Code Block and Table. Each option includes instructions on how to create that formatting feature. For example, with the Divider option turned on all you need to do to create a divider is type three asterisks *** or equal signs === on a new line. The newest addition to these formatting options is the table. To create a table use square braces [] to identify a cell. If you want a table with four cells in each row, type four sets of braces [][][][]. To define how many rows, add an x and the number of rows to create. Setting up a table with four cells and five rows will look like this [][][][]x5. It’s that easy.

Evernote account settings

Cruise the Internet Archive With Documents

Did you know that the amazing Documents app [iOS – free] has a built-in browser? Not only that, but it’s the perfect browser to use when you are wandering through the Internet Archive looking for books, documents and other publications. Why? Because using the Documents browser, you can quickly and easily find, download, organize and read all kinds of historical publications. Here’s how.
Documents browserFrom the main screen, look at the tools in the left sidebar and you will see the Browser icon. Tap it to open the browser.

Notice the toolbar at the top of the browser. Tap the three bar icon on the toolbar’s left to display the Documents sidebar at any time. The arrow icons will move you forward and backward as you browse the web. On the right are the bookmark, download and share icons. I’ve typed in the address of the Internet Archive and here’s what the home screen looks like in the Documents browser

Did you notice the SIGN IN item on the site’s toolbar. Internet Archive has a number of useful tools but you will need a free user account in order to use them. Click on the SIGN IN icon to get started. Provide an email address and password to create your account. Once this is done, any documents, books or other items you “favorite” will be added to your My Library page. Tap your user icon in the toolbar and choose My Library to view your personal collection.

Take advantage of the bookmarks feature to easily return to the collections you frequently use. Here you see I’ve bookmarked the American Libraries collection inside the archive and I also have bookmarks to take me to the Genealogy Gophers and my Moultrie Creek Gazette blog. To set a bookmark, go to the screen you want to bookmark, tap the bookmark icon on the browser toolbar then tap the Add to Bookmarks button at the bottom of the panel. When the bookmark panel is displayed, you can use the Edit command at the top right of the panel to reorganize your bookmarks list, delete bookmarks and edit bookmark titles.

In the American Libraries, I used the search box on the left of the screen to look for things related to the area I’m researching – St. Augustine, Florida. I’ve got 106 hits. Not bad! The first four items are visible in this screen. Notice that the item on the far right is a fairly recent – and copyrighted – publication. Because of that I can’t download a copy, but I can “borrow” it to read. A user account is required to borrow things and at times it may mean you can only read it in your browser.

Here is the book I selected to view. In the black space to the right of the book you see two icons. The four arrows icon will enlarge the book so it fits your screen. Use the magnifying glass icon to start a search inside the book. Below the book viewer is the metadata and download area. The three box icons you see on the right just above DOWNLOAD OPTIONS make it possible to favorite, share or flag this document. Remember, when you favorite an item, it is saved to your My Library area.

As you scroll down into the metadata area, you will see the download options available. Since the Documents app can read ePub, text and PDF files, you can choose the one you prefer. Here I have tapped the PDF option. Once I did that the tiny download icon appeared next to it. Tap that icon to begin the download. The Documents app takes over from here.

The strange red thing you see here is the cover to this book. The next step is to tap the download icon in the browser’s toolbar. When the Downloads panel appears, tap the Save Page button at the bottom of the panel.

The Save File panel appears showing the file name of the item and the default download folder. Internet Archive has its own naming conventions, but they seldom make sense to me so I usually rename the file. Just tap the name field then remove and replace the text you want. To move your download to a different folder, tap the arrow icon to the right of the folder line and select the folder you want.

Since there is a limited amount of space on my mobile devices, I keep most of my documents, books and journals in cloud storage. As you see here, I have connected Documents to my iCloud, Dropbox and Google Drive accounts. The publications you see in this example are stored in the eLibrary folder in my iCloud account. All I have to do now is tap the item I want to read.

One other little goodie. The Documents reader component can also search the text. Tap the magnifying glass icon at the top of the reading screen and it will turn into a text box so you can enter the appropriate search terms. Tap Done and a panel containing the results list appears. The number to the right of the page number shows how many times your search term is found on that page. Tap any text item and you are taken right to it.

Documents’ find/capture/organize/read capability works with more than just Internet Archive. Genealogy Gophers is another great site for finding historical books and publications. I’ve downloaded several of Ancestry’s state research guides using Documents along with speaker notes posted on my genealogy society’s website.

This is just one of many useful and time-saving things you can do with Documents. It is a must-have app for researchers both on the road and at home.

Documents – The App of All Trades

If you have an iPhone or iPad, there’s one app you absolutely must have – Documents [iOS – free]. This is the Swiss Army knife of apps. With Documents, you can read Office and iWork documents, PDF documents and ePub books. You can listen to music and even watch movies. But that’s not all. Documents also includes an impressive file manager too. You can sync with Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive and more. There is a built-in browser making it possible to save web pages as HTML or PDF files, save bookmarks and download files to Documents.

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Opening Screen in Documents

When you first open Documents, you will notice several folders – iPod Library, iTunes Files, Photos and Downloads. You can create additional folders as needed. The sidebar on the left displays tools and cloud storage services. The Documents item at the top of the sidebar returns you to this screen. You can access your iCloud folders from here and there is even a built-in browser. Readdle offers a number of useful apps like Scanner Pro, PDF Expert and PDF Converter. When installed on your iPad, they are easily accessible by tapping Add-ons.

It only takes a minute to set up the cloud storage services you use so you can access files you have stored there. Tap the +Add command and follow the prompts. In this example, I have connected to my Dropbox and Google Drive accounts.

A good place to start is opening the Documents Guide. It’s short, but it covers all the bases and you will be soon on your way to putting Documents to work.

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Using the share sheet to copy a PDF file to Documents

You can use your browser to download documents from the Web. This example shows a PDF newsletter displayed in the Safari browser. First, you must add Documents to Safari’s share sheet. Tap the Share icon in Safari’s toolbar. If you don’t see the Documents icon, keep scrolling to the right until you see the More icon. Tap it and scroll through the options until you find Documents and activate it. Now all you have to do open the share sheet and tap the Documents icon to save the file.

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The Documents Web Browser

Documents includes its own web browser. It doesn’t have all the features a “big” browser does, but it’s got what you need. In this example, I have a blog page open in the browser and I want to save it to Documents. Tapping the share icon makes it possible to bookmark this page, save the page or email it to someone. After choosing the save option I am presented with an options panel. I can save this page as an HTML document, PDF document or a Web Archive file. By default the browser will save the file into the Downloads folder but that can be changed in the options panel. After making your selections, tap the Done button.

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The Save File options panel

Once you’ve got your documents where Documents can access them, you are ready for a very enjoyable reading experience. Below you see a page from a National Park Services guide that was downloaded as a PDF.

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The Documents Reader

This example shows the current page. Swipe left or right to move through the document. Tap anywhere on the page to display the reader’s tools.

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The Reader’s tools

Looking for something specific within a document? Tap the search icon and enter your search string. The tiny black box at the bottom of the screen is the slider. Drag it left or right to quickly move through the file. You can also bookmark pages within a document and highlight text.

Documents isn’t just for reading either. It offers some impressive collaboration tools too. As you see, there’s an impressive collection of annotation tools – great if your team is working on a writing project. Documents supports files created in Pages, Word, Excel, Numbers and more.

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Documents file management tools

To make all this document collection and collaboration possible, the app has an impressive file management capability. It starts by tapping the Edit icon at the top right corner of the screen. The documents on that screen are now selectable and the sidebar displays the menu. Select the menu option you need and it will prompt you through that process. The Edit icon changes to a Done button so you can complete the operation.

This is just a taste of what Documents can do. And best of all . . . it is free!