DTTG: adding a multi-picture document

In Devonthink To Go, I would like to be able to import a document that is created by taking several pictures from my device’s camera. When I am taking notes from a book, sometimes it is easier to just take a picture of the relevant paragraphs. But, if the paragraphs are on the front and back of the same page, I need to take two pictures and I’d like to have those grouped automatically. Is there a way to do this?

Korm, thanks for the suggestion. But, this seems like something that should be built into Devonthink.

  1. It’s a very logical use case for Devonthink users. Academics and researchers would use this feature extensively. It’s a natural way to extend the device-as-scanner approach to digitizing research.

  2. This feature is in a competitor’s product. Evernote does enable you to take multiple pictures and merges them into a single document in their mobile app.

Evernote has what I consider a nasty habit of modifying the filetypes of documents. DEVONthink doesn’t do that.

Most image filetypes in OS X are produce single documents. An exception is multiple image TIFFs. Another exception is multiple page PDFs.

In the past I’ve taken camera images of book or journal pages, sometimes wanting multiple page results. I’ve then performed OCR on the image files, resulting in a multipage PDF that’s searchable. As I use DEVONthink Pro Office, that’s easy to do. It’s also easy to do with a number of other OCR apps. The page images were saved as JPEGs. Until OCRed, I stored them in page order within a folder, which is also very logical.

Nowadays I get much better results using the tiny Xcanex portable book and document scanner, which is USB powered by my MacBook Pro and can be carried to a library. It allows taking up to 500 pages in sequence, making it easy to copy a chapter or more by flipping pages. The downside is that, because a Mac version of the software isn’t yet available, I had to install Windows 7 under Boot Camp, using some of my SSD space to do that. (I hate Windows.)

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your response. Can you elaborate on the OCR process you used? Did you OCR the images to text and then merge the text, or is there a way to “join” the images so that the paragraphs of the same idea can be kept together? How can I do these things within DTPO?

I do want to comment briefly on your remark that Evernote has a nasty habit of changing file formats. From the perspective of a tech guy, I can see your point, but from the perspective of a customer, adherence to file formats is less important than being able to use the items as it makes sense in a workflow. If the type of image matters–for instance, if I’m doing graphics research–then by all means preserve the format. But if the user is asking to join images because they represent logical pieces of information that should be grouped together, then the user’s priority is transforming raw data into something usable, not adherence to a format. I’d strongly suggest adding the ability to merge images into a multi-page PDF or something similar for cases like this, because (again) it is a very plausible use case for your customers, and it’s a feature that your competitors offer.

DEVONthink does this now. Make a selection of images, right-click and select merge and you will get a PDF of all images. Works with multiple formats also (images and PDF documents).

I had not noticed this, very useful to know. However, I still stick to my usual mantra: Farm things out to other apps that can do this much better. In this specific case, I’ve been using FasterScan HD. It has become my de-facto copy machine on the iPhone and iPad. It lets you assemble multiple pictures into a single document, which you can then send over to DTTG or email. Here are the advantages of this app over a necessarily simplistic DTTG/Photos routine:

  • Within FSHD, choose Photos libarary or live camera as source
  • Crop and adjust the color right away; for example, if you take photos of documents (i.e. typically white paper) on a darker surface, it can automatically give you de-skewed, properly cropped, pages, making it the perfect copy machine for written documents.
  • choose export format (pdf vs jpg)
  • additional editing tools

It is very unlikely that any import routine in DTTG could match this kind of sophistication (and in my view, that would be a very poor allocation of resources for the DTTG devs). You might argue that this additional step through another app is cumbersome, but after a while, it felt completely fluid to me. Plus, I can use this technique to export to any application, not just DTTG.

With the sandboxing, iOS apps were kind of forced to adopt this “piping around information” philosophy of UNIX: “Do one thing and do it well”. There is someone out there who spends countless hours on optimizing the best possible copy machine app. And there are people who focus completely on making the best info management app, DTTG.

Having said that, the direct multi-page import certainly can’t hurt and is welcome.