Digitise your Business Card Collection with Evernote

The problem: I had stacks of business cards in my desk drawer that I’d been given over the past two years in Tokyo. I’d typically collected them in batches at events, and for the vast majority I’d never made the time to sit down and transfer all the the contact info into my address book.

About 8 weeks ago I quit my full time job and went freelance. As a result of this I’ve been a lot more communicative with my local network, and have found myself shuffling through hundreds of cards to find various key people whom I now see opportunities to work with.

I’m also a digital media storage junkie, wanting all my data backed up and searchable wherever I am. I like physical business cards and don’t want to see the end of them, but I also want the information contained on them in a digital format.

However, I also know that I will probably only ever use the contact details on a small proportion of all of those cards, so I don’t want to spend hours digitising them, and am not too fussed if they’re in separate database instead of my Address Book.

If I only had a few cards I would try Cardsnap Lite Business Card Scanner for the iPhone (what I will probably use from now on following meetings etc for non-Japanese cards) which can be used to get info directly into your Addressbook within 24 hours or so.

Evernote fits the bill perfectly for the task at hand. Using a standard Epson flatbed scanner and Epson Scan (or Image Capture), I can scan about 12 cards at once. I lay them out in position, do an initial Overview scan, set the scan areas (one image per card) and then just replace the cards and scan again.

I set the destination for the image files as the Evernote app (in which I have a ‘Business Card’ notebook). The cards then pop up as new notes one-by-one; there’s just enough time between cards to add tags such as ‘Media’ ‘Publishing’, Met at Twitter Tweetup’ etc.

Evernote’s OCR engine takes care of the rest, reading all the text in both English and Japanese, making them all searchable. (Note that OCR does not take place locally – you need to sync to the Evernote server where the images are processed and then data sent back to your local app, read here for more info). The accuracy of the OCR in both languages is pretty incredible – and quite fast too. I don’t bother rename the notes (which are named  ‘scan 1.jpg, scan2.jpg etc by the scanner), as the names on the cards are all searchable.

I’m delighted by the speed with which I was able to digitise several hundred cards. Having the pro-version of Evernote I’m able to keep a local copy of the database on my iPhone too (although you can still search notes with a free account, then download the note you need).

Basically, this was a quick, affordable (i.e. just a few hours of my time) method of dealing with a chore that has been hanging over me for many months.

Hurrah for Evernote – proving to be well worth the cost of the pro version (which I actually only bought because I wanted to support the company… the free account would be perfectly adequate for most people I would imagine).


p.s. There is a business card app that has Evernote integration – Business Card Manager – but to be honest it’s a waste of money as you have to manually enter all the contact info yourself – might as well just use the iPhone’s Addressbook or send a photo of the card via email to your Evernote account.


@jonnyli has pointed out that Evernote has a partnership deal with Shoeboxed for scanning business cards etc. Unfortunately it’ll cost you – from $9.95 per month for 50 cards (so not what you need if you want to make digital copies of an existing pile of cards). Also note that Shoeboxed does not support Japanese OCR.

Tagging and my Photo workflow

This year I’ve started keywording my photos. Until now, I’ve simply renamed them upon import, but you can’t describe all that much with a filename alone. 

This month I finally broke through the 20,000 photo barrier – that’s 20,000 photos that actually mean something to me and are not blurred / underexposed / of nothing in particular. With such a large collection I’ve grown increasingly aware of how important it is to label them as accurately as possible. For example, a shot of *twinkle* may be called ‘twinkle_in_london-1243.jpg’ – but it also fits into categories such as ‘people’ ‘family’ ‘holidays’ ‘2008’. Unless I assign those keywords to it I’ll only ever be able to find it with ‘twinkle’ or ‘London’.

Until now it’s not really been an issue; I’d either search by filename or simply remember which directory it was in, but as I start to do more with my photos so finding what I’m looking for becomes more difficult – thus my adoption of photo libraries (Lightroom for RAW images, iPhoto for JPEGS) and the adoption of keywording / tagging. 
It was only last autumn that I switched from shooting in JPEG to shooting in RAW, and this of course necessitated a new workflow. It took quite a bit of fine-tuning but I’ve got it sorted now. It goes like this:
1) Download RAW files from camera using Image Capture. These are kept in their own directory separate from all JPEGS.
2) Rename all RAW files with the excellent Renamer4Mac: I use search and replace, replacing ‘DSC’ with a name that describes each batch (this means that every photo maintains its original unique number whilst having a descriptive name)
3) Import in batches into Adobe Lightroom. This is the stage at which I assign keywords.
4) Adjust levels etc in Lightroom
5) Export full size JPEGS to iPhoto library
6) Export small JPEGS with watermark for upload to website via FTP, and to Flickr using the amazing Photonic
I really enjoy this process. I love organising, and I love adjusting the levels in Lightroom, (something that any camera that shoots in JPEG does on your behalf).
I’ve also discovered that when uploading to Flickr, Photonic will automatically convert your keywords into Flickr tags – very handy (except when you inadvertently assign some cat photos the keyword catering). Not only that, but Coppermine (the photo-album database that I use for this website) can also read those tags …and of course, iPhoto picks them up too. 
I then back up my photos to two external drives and an FTP server (talk about anal…), before formatting the memory card in the camera (not the computer); this helps prevent corruption of future photo files.
This evening when musing over photo tagging, I started to think about how I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find blog posts. With about 750 mumbles in the blogger database, the only tool I have is Google – and that’s a bit hit-and-miss. Thus, I’ve finally decided to start using Blogger’s built-in-labels. I’ve not used them before now as they are not so user friendly when you’re publishing on your own FTP server (each label becomes a unique html file which has to be republished every time you use that label, thus one blog could result in (for example) 10 files being published).
So far I’ve only had time to label this month’s mumbles, and I may not bother do the other 700. We’ll see.
Oh, and I’ve re-admitted non-registered commenters to the fold – a review of past comments has showed that the vast majority of anonymous commenters have actually left a lot of very helpful comments, rather than just banging on about how boring the mumble is. 
Anyway, I’d best be off to bed. It’s been a long day.


As fresh as a Greek daisy. One of the first ever flower-shots I took, back in 1996

I’m glad I don’t usually have a car. Two parking tickets, a blow-out, and now today a section of the front bumper missing after someone reversed into me in the car park. I really am glad that on the whole, cars don’t excite me.

It’s been a pretty full-on few days. I was a photographer at a business seminar down south on Saturday – that was in-between the trouser-patch sewing, which incidentally when very well, although when I got home I realised that one of the patches was unintentionally shaped and positioned to look like a big testicle…

Having had the major Sheffield Graduate Award deadline on Friday, I’d spent much of the week getting my portfolio together. Thus, it was only on Sunday that I dared to finally re-open my to-do database.

Gulp. It was rather full.

One major to-do is my dissertation; I’ve got a deadline of Wednesday lunchtime to get the next section in, but it’s not going to happen. I felt very weary on Sunday, and it soon became apparent that I wasn’t going to do any work on it, as I was too busy hoovering, tidying up the noticeboard etc. Realising that this wasn’t a good situation to be in, I gave myself permission to procrastinate for the rest of the day – provided I procrastinated by doing stuff that was on my to-do list (but required less emotional input). That turned out to be a good decision, as I managed to deal with a whole bunch of emails that demanded responses, I wrote a journal article (1 down, 3 to go!), sorted out some wedding stuff, spoke to *Twinkle*, processed some outstanding RAW images, changed the wheel on the car again, and dealt with the huge bunch of paperwork that has been gathering on my table with the legs sawn off.

At the end of the day I felt quite happy with how I’d turned it around.

Today is the first day in the past week that I’ve not taken a potent cocktail consisting of a large dose of Vitamin B and Caffeine to keep me going. As a result of this, my body has finally had a chance to reassert itself, by sending me to sleep in the library at lunchtime. To be fair though, I was up at 6am again today for the usual (if temporary) morning routine: This involves picking up food from a community centre with a scary alarm, delivering it to the university shop, processing returns, picking up the catering trailer from up the hill, setting that up on campus, and fetching water. I love challenging myself to apply Lean Production tecniques to cut down the amount of time it takes me to get this done. I’ve now got it down from 2.5 hours to 90 minutes. I like looking out of the window when I’m back home at 8am, seeing the traffic queues and thinking, “wasn’t like that when I got up!”

With these temporary responsibilities I’ve ‘not had time’ for my daily exercise: the negative impact this loss has upon my energy levels is staggering.

Today has been semi-productive. I was in the library for about 8 hours, reading books when I wasn’t dozing off. But I have felt under considerable pressure.

Indeed, tonight it did all get to be a bit too much for me. Absolute exhaustion, and a desire to say ‘sod it all’. To ease things, I went and bought a big tub of ice cream, a bar of chocolate, and some stationary. I now feel somewhat better, and very fat.

More helpful than the consumption of 3 million calories though has been the recollection of a fundamental truth,

It Doesn’t Matter.

None of it does. Journals will still be published without my input, life will carry on without my emails, I will graduate (with a 2:1) even if I only get 40% on all my modules. Just pass, that’s enough.

As a treat, I gave myself an hour off my dissertation today and used it to look for jobs. That’s something else that has been on my to-do list. It wasn’t all that positive really, just tonnes of teaching jobs, but I’m not worried. I have a strong feeling that everything is going to work out for the best. I trust that when the time comes for me to act, I will know it.

I realised today that it’s actually going to be another 4 months before I see *Twinkle*. That brought me down a bit. I’ve been missing her so much recently, probably partly due to the fact that she would really benefit from my support at the moment. I miss being very much in touch with how she is feeling today, emotionally, and I miss her physical warmth.

Hmm, still, the way things are going these four months will fly by, and before you know it we’ll be back off to Japan. I am so looking forward to living with her again.

Well, it’s now 10pm, and time for me to go to sleep. Tomorrow will be another long day, bu a productive and enjoyable one too, and thus I look forward to it.

My affinity with rubber

As enormous relief as the first five weeks of my final semester come to an end, and we begin three weeks of Easter Holiday. The break will give me a chance to catch up on the many tasks that have been put to one side, victims of the constant onslaught of daily homework. Things like funding applications, newsletter articles, competition entries, wedding planning, video editing. Oh, and that dissertation.

The catch up starts today then. I’ll be spending about 4 hours in a car – this really troubled me at first as I dislike being unproductive when I have a lot on, and much of what I need to do necessitates use of my laptop, which makes me feel very sick when travelling.

Then, this morning whilst out for my morning jog, it struck me – Jeans Repair! My patchwork jeans have needed attention for a couple of months now, but I haven’t felt able to justify putting time into sewing up the holes, an activity I enjoy to a ridiculous extent.

Yesterday I came across a photo taken 6 years ago in my cell in Asagaya, Tokyo, showing the same jeans as they were originally.

Does my bum look big in these?

This week’s car fun continues with a blow-out. Fortunately, I was travelling very slowly at the time and thus was able to pull over without a problem.

The ‘funny thing’ was, I’d been thinking about this puncture for a few days. That is, the few days leading up to its dramatic popping occurrence. I’d consciously thought through what I was going to do when it happened, where the car jack was etc. Thus, when it did happen, right outside the tyre-specialist’s forecourt, I wasn’t so much surprised as grateful that it had finally blown – and just in the right place too!

Psychic connections with tyres …whatever next? Would anyone else like some of these drugs?