Author: Ruud Hein

Adding Files to Evernote Using Adobe Acrobat

Adding Files to Evernote Using Adobe Acrobat

I don’t know if Evernote is indispensable as I don’t remember working without it. It’s installed on each of my computers and every reinstall of Windows since 2005…

Evernote3 has only made life easier, simpler, with syncing in the cloud. It’s the goodness of never having to chose between storing stuff on this computer, that computer, on your Flash drive or in the cloud: it’s and, not or. And Evernote does the transparent heavy lifting of all that synced goodness.

Evernote can store images (and yes, index and search text in those images…) and PDF files (which, again, it can index and search too). So I didn’t take out my notetaker walllet to copy down the addition to the opening times of the nearby swimming pool; I snapped a photo with the low-res CMOS camera built-in to most cellphones today and emailed it to my Evernote account.

French image OCR in Evernote

Likewise my copy of Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done has been drag-and-dropped into Evernote and is thus available to me anywhere at any time.


However, as it goes with these kind of improvements, they make you long for more. That longing rises quickly when you attempt to drag a non-image, non-PDF into Evernote.

Unsupported or unrecognized Evernote file

Can’t be done.

Adobe Acrobat to the Rescue

Having been on the fence whether to continue to use a patchwork of alternative solutions or buy Adobe Acrobat, I interpreted the recently-ish release of Acrobat 9.0 as a sign that I should buy a copy.

Adobe Acrobat on ObjectDock

Ever since I’ve been playing around with the program, liking my new software toy very much — thank you — and turning just about anything into PDF’s. Our Husky now scurries away when he sees me approach.

One of the things I came across is the ability to create a PDF Portfolio. A PDF Portfilio is a PDF-ish file that can contain other files: images, Word files, Excel, video, etc. etc. …

You see where this is going to go, right?

Create a PDF Portfolio

Except for the reader-only version, obviously, any edition of Adobe Acrobat 9.0 can create PDF Portfolio’s.

Open your copy and go for Create -> Assemble a PDF Portfolio.

Create PDF Portfolio

Grab a file and drag-and-drop it to the PDF Portfolio screen.

Drag file to PDF Portfolio

If you want you click on the file name to change that. Or click under the file name to add a description to that file.

File dropped in PDF Portfolio Add description to PDF Portfolio file

You can switch to the esthetically more pleasing list view too. Adobe Acrobat Pro and Pro Extended can also apply templates to how these PDF Portfolio’s look and behave. Brian S. Friedlander’s Assistive Technology has a good entry on creating PDF Portfolio’s in Adobe Acrobat Pro (Extended).

The created PDF Portfolio, containing your files, can be dropped into Evernote and will be synced with and through the cloud.

Even when (if?) Evernote adds native file sharing, using PDF Portfolio’s in a very elegant way to move and share files which should be kept together.

Gmail To Evernote Information Management Workflow

Gmail To Evernote Information Management Workflow

Capturing information has to be as low-key, as easy as it can be. Smooth, is the word I’m looking for, I think.

My favorite capture tool since 2005-ish has been Evernote. Highlight, CTRL + C, CTRL + ALT + V to create a new pasted note from anywhere within Windows.

But back then Evernote was a local installation application only. Bugged me as I switch between my desktop and a laptop provided by Canada’s SEO company.

Enter Gmail [hat tip: Turn Gmail Into Your Personal Nerve Center].

Gmail Capture Process

  • Get the Google toolbar.
  • Highlight info on a page, click Send To, choose Gmail.

    Google toobar Send to Gmail menu

  • In the subject line I use a pipe followed by keywords/tags.

    Delete Sent Using Google Toolbar text

    use keywords in the subject line as tags

    Those keywords allow you to do “tag” searches by doing a subject search in Gmail.

…to Evernote Workflow

To send information into my Gmail database I, of course, use a special + email address as in Gmail you can do youremail+anything@.

In Gmail I’ve setup a filter which will label any email to this specific address with DB, short for database (why not database in full? simple, in a search it is faster to restrict to label:db or l:db than using the word “database” spelled out in full….).

The address is also filtered to automatically forward to my special Evernote email address. Minutes after the note arrives in Gmail it’s available in Evernote too.

Once every 1-3 days I go into my “InBox” notebook in Evernote and go through the incoming notes. This is a fast, short job. Give it one “real” Evernote tag, usually. Very high level too. Then drag it into one of the handful of notebooks I keep (again very high level. Any complete web page capture goes into Web Archive, for example).


The Benefits

  1. Future proof: Evernote might disappear, email won’t
  2. Automatic backup
  3. Both available from anywhere with Gmail being just a tad better available even
  4. Keywords (“tags”) in the subject/title of the note allow for subject searches in Gmail and intitle searches in Evernote
  5. Searches in both Evernote and Gmail are fast while each has its own strengths
  6. Since a little while Evernote has removed the inline Goto Source to a tiny button, making note export with URL a royal pain. Gmail includes the source link.

    Send to Gmail with clear source link

The only time I clip directly into Evernote is when images/graphics are of importance to me: Gmail stores a link to the images, not the images themselves. And yes, in that case I often email the note to Gmail :)

Small Town America Between Our Ears

Small Town America Between Our Ears

“We haven’t been a nation of small towns for nearly a century. […] She embodies the most basic American myth — Jefferson’s yeoman farmer, the fantasia of rural righteousness […]

[…] the patina of cultural homogeneity that camouflaged 1950s suburbia has vanished. We have become more obviously multiracial. There are lifestyle choices that were nearly unimaginable in 1960 […]

With the advent of television, these changes became inescapable. They intruded upon the most traditional families in the smallest towns.
Sarah Palin’s Myth of America , Time

Whether you live in the USA or not — I don’t — you’ll recognize these themes, these ideas, as they’re true for most developed countries: small town simplicity, small town life, small town morality is a) gone and b) was never really here to begin with. In its place there’s a bunch of people happening to live between the same borders but with desires, ideas and values so widely apart that coming to a new cultural agreement we never had anyway will never ever happen. Ever.

It’s a view of our society that leaves you and many others like you feeling cut off from the rest of the country, your country. Usually just a little bit, just before you harden yourself again and become realistic in a global economy type of way.

By having our idea, our desire, posed as an anachronism we’re being denied not only the target of our desire but the desire itself. The same mechanism prevents anything from having to change or be improved upon, prevents a Vision, a Goal, because, remember, there’s nothing to work towards to. We’re all just a bunch of scattered random sets of values.

And that’s a shame because this desire for some kind of richer life through simplicity, honesty and righteousness, this desire to go back to what we know once was, seems to me to be a major unifying factor.

A Small Town Desire

Small town patterns and desires are part of our everyday life.

We may live in a megacity like New York, a universe in its own right, yet we move in small, predictable ways, usually moving no more than 10 km (about 6 miles) max.

Big city, small town.

6%, and growing, of the USA’s households live in gated communities. We’re not talking rich, powerful and exclusive here either. Renters are 2 1/2 times more likely than buyers to be living in a gated community. Nor is it a white affair: Hispanics are more likely to live in a gated community than blacks or whites.

And what is it they’re looking for there? Apart from a sense of security they’re looking for a sense of togetherness, a place where “everybody knows your name”.

A Small Town Life

If you don’t have a physical place to belong, one where everybody knows your name, we still have the Internet where small communities of a handful of people interacting socially are now Big Word Labeled “social networks”.

Sounds good but what they are is Cheers, a town meeting, it’s “hidyho, neighbor!“.

Updating your status on Facebook is not just convenient; it’s wanting people to know you and what you’re doing.

That’s small town in a big way.

Between The Ears

Small Town USA is a desire, and by and large a destination, between our ears.

It’s a desire for scalability and scale itself. A desire to be connected, interconnected, recognized and acknowledged. To see not just cars pass by but life.

I think that this desire is so broadly shared its fulfillment could be a goal, an ideology in itself. Should be. To use our diversity as a culture, a species, as an excuse to not fulfill our dreams because we might disagree about the ways we fulfill them would be a waste. An error. Our shared desire is the very homogeneity we’re looking for.

Intention Deficit

Intention Deficit

If you feel it’s all just too much information and you don’t experience the stream of information available to you as something great and laid back then you might be suffering from Intention Deficit.

Intention Drives Actions

Normally we intent to do something with something at a specific time and place. Thus we find ourselves in the supermarket with the intention to buy groceries.

Removing intention from the equation is frustrating.

Loss of intention makes your actions meaningless and impossible.

Ever stood up to go to the kitchen only to find yourself thinking; “Why am I here?” That’s loss of intention for you right there…

Intention Deficit Kills Information Joy

If you don’t have a clear intention for each piece of information you expose yourself to soon that information will become a source of distraction and frustration.

You open your feedreader, see “1000+ unread” and think; oh no. Clicking “mark all as read” you sigh, clench your muscles and think “I failed again but this time I’ll stay current and up to date — this time I’ll read it all, all the time”.

From Intent to Read to Intention for Reading


The clearer your intention, the better you feel. “I follow this feed to stay up to date on the news in my industry” sounds like a clear intention but soon you’ll find yourself stressed at somehow staying “up to date”.


Because the question is; why do want to stay up to date? Answering that question for yourself gives you a chance to bring things back to your real life; “I follow this feed to stay up to date in order to learn about code exploits as soon as possible so I can protect the company server”.

If you find yourself storing information or URL’s ask yourself: what do I intent to do with this?

The fact that it is remotely interesting isn’t enough. You have to know for yourself “I save this article because I’m planning to write about the body-space awareness of termites”.

More elsewhere:

  • Horizons of Focus
  • Covey’s idea of Roles (would love to include a link but alas, can’t find a good write-up on it! Know one?)

Do you think clear intention helps — or do you maybe think all this talk about information processing and knowledge work is way overdone?

Treat Your Feeds Like Magazines

Treat Your Feeds Like Magazines

Adopting a “first in, maybe never out” approach to RSS feeds assures you have tons and tons of content from sources you know you like.

It’s there, ready to go when you want to enjoy it.

This Saturday morning, for example, I passed in bed with some heavenly espresso (Italian stovetop method, yes) and tons of great, funny, interesting, emotional, informing articles. It’s like having a huge pile of recent magazines.

Be Your Own News Filter

Young woman reading a magazineAs you browse through your collection of feeds and feed items you’ll come across a lot of tasty stuff. Just as with reading a magazine, it’s perfectly OK to skip forward to what caught your interest, to sample and article or to earmark another for later reading.

In Google Reader the Starred Items works perfectly for this. [S]tar that post, [S]tar that item you think sounds like a good read, [S]tar for later on.

This routine is like being your own news filter. Not only do you have your hand selected subscriptions waiting for you; you have your hand selected “most interesting” articles preselected.

Photo at the generous courtesy of AJ Schuster

Surfing vs. Information Overload

Surfing vs. Information Overload

My main reaction to the idea of information overload is one of disbelief. David Allen does a wonderful job giving words to that disbelief:

"If information overload was the issue you’d walk into a library and die. The first time you surf the web, you blow up."

Now as we don’t have people dying or suffering a mental meltdown caused by information "overload", clearly we don’t mean "overload".

What we’re trying to say is; "Look, there’s too much information here to digest". To which my answer is; so?

If someone is clutching his stomach complaining about "food overload" caused by there being too much food to digest, you’d ask "but why in the world do you try to eat it all at the same time?!"

Take Television

Information abundance isn’t new. Just think about the thousands of television programs, the hundreds of hours you could spend in front of the tube. Hard news, breaking news, reportages, documentaries…

TV screens

Hear anyone complain?

Between 1993-2002 television program supply in Finland (PDF) increased by 73%; 23 additional TV program hours per day. Yet television viewing time over that same period increased by only 40 minutes a day.

And no-one is collapsing under TV, entertainment or information overload.


Don’t Try To Finish

Nobody in his right mind will try to finish watching all programs on all channels.

Likewise no-one around you is attempting to read all newspaper article in all newspapers. Or sitting in a library speed-reading all books.

And you yourself, when you sat down and connected to the World Wide Web, were just "surfing the web"; you weren’t actually trying to reach the "last page" and finish, were you?

The same holds true for your RSS feeds. Yes, there’re 1000+ unread items. Great! Even if everyone would stop publishing today, you would still have a ton of great reads ahead.

Because face it, you don’t need to "catch up" with all those unread items. Stand up! Surf! Welcome to the information wave.

From Google Reader automatically into Gmail

From Google Reader automatically into Gmail

Gmail works great as a personal nerve center.

An efficient way to get data into the system, apart from typing it or using the Send To button or GmailThis bookmarklet, is a combination of Google Reader and FeedBurner.

Whenever I come across something in Google Reader that I might want to use as reference material later on, I don’t star it (S) but Share It (SHIFT + S).

I have a FeedBurner feed setup for the feed of those Shared Items and have configured that feed to have an email version available as well.

Subscribe to that email version and voila, once a day the full texts of my shared items arrives in my Gmail, gets labeled DB (database) and removed from view.

Mind Like Water: PHP’s Stateless State

Mind Like Water: PHP’s Stateless State

In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water”.
— David Allen, Getting Things Done

I find web applications, scripts, fascinating. Like water their natural state is stateless. And like water they have no memory at all.

Every time you interact with a web application is its first time ever. Every single time is its first and only time.

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Home Baked Bread

Home Baked Bread

Nothing beats the authentic smell of fresh home-made bread and coffee in the early morning.

Bread and coffee both have those authentic smells you just can’t fake.

For years I’ve been kneading my own dough and baking my own bread. And even though the time that I have available has been considerably reduced as I have gathered more contracts, I still make my own bread. And coffee.

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