Help Sought From the Naturally Organised

Here’s my dumb question: does any logisitically-minded Samaritan have any ideas for getting material out of actual books into that Scrivener project?

Obviously I’ve tried scanning stuff in, page by page. But that’s slow and dull and OCR seems stuck in about 1994.

At the moment I’m manually highlighting the printed text and typing in what I need. This worked fine when I was an undergraduate using a Smith Corona - but in those days I smoked heavily and was therefore rarely bored.

What I need to know; am I missing some brilliant organisational technique, some godlike OCR software - something fast and efficient and intuitive and liberating?

  1. Don’t use Scrivener as a research database. Buy one of the Devon products, which are far better at storing, searching, and analyzing masses of data. If you buy Devon Think Pro Office, it accepts scanned input and provides OCR, turning print into machine-readable text. The best machine for that purpose is the Fujitsu ScanSnap.

  2. If you can’t scan it, or find it on the web and store it as a file in DTPO, it’s an awful waste of your time to type up long documents. Write an abstract of it instead, with a pointer as to where this document is in your files. That way, if you really need its contents, you’ll find it quickly enough.

  3. Remember that 80 to 90% of research never gets used in a final piece of writing. We all tend to over-research out of insecurity or because it creates the illusion of work but is really procrastination.

  4. Don’t go back to smoking. That’s the best decision you’ve made so far! :slight_smile:

Cheers Druid

Probably I should clarify. This isn’t collecting early research; I’ve done all the noodling around. This is stuff that’s been whittled down from the twenty squillion books I had to read in order to get a handle on this project. By which I mean: this is stuff that’s going to be used.

I’m familiar with the discipline of research - I’m a novelist and scriptwriter by trade. But I’ve been commissioned to write an historical drama, which is wholly new territory to me, and I’m discovering the volume of hard-copy material I’ve worked through is difficult to reconcile with my usual practice, which is simply to keep a large, reasonably organised database and hope for the best.

(To which end, I own DTP - although I find Scrivener more than capable of handling a database large enough for a single project, even a sizeable one - such as a ten-episode television series. I’m pretty organised, in a shambolic kind of way.)

On this project, I’m just finding control of the physical materials a bit difficult: immediately before the project goes to script, and with deadlines hoving in over the horizon, I’m surrounded by columns of books, each of which contains material I will use. And I have discovered far, far too late that OCR sucks.

I suspect there are no secrets out there, and that I’ll simply have to knuckle down in that slightly inefficient way and work through the books, transcribing and organising as I go.

But one can always hope - especially on this board…

If it’s historical, then, depending on the time period, some of your sources may be available in Google Books for download. They’ve done some rudimentary OCRing so the texts are searchable (to a degree).

If you’re wanting snippets, you can either set up a camera-based ”scan“ system or use a scanner meant specifically for scanning books. If you’re interested, I can post a link to a thread on that someone posted with how-to instructions.

I have the inexpensive Opticbook 3600 from Plustek and highly recommend it. The downside is that the software (which I recommend) is Win-only, but the unit has a very narrow leading edge so even relatively tightly-bound volumes can be scanned.

The overall downside of these solutions is that the books, etc., have to be scanned. Unless you try one of the handheld scanners and can actually get one to work (I have two and could never get either one of them to work properly), I don’t know of any other way to get the information in.

Just thought - there’s always dictation software. I actually did that once with an old obscure journal that had been rebound too tightly. Since I only needed one article, it was easy to read it in, though it did take same time. I’ve heard that MacSpeech is coming out with a new product called Dictate which uses the same recognition engine as Dragon, and is supposed to be quite good. It has been announced, but not released yet (afaik). Dragon is good - obviously - but is also Win only.

Good luck.

Maybe too late, and I admit I have no experience, but have you thought about getting speech recognition software and reading those quotes into your machine? A few weeks ago I received an email from somewhere (SmithMicro?) promotion a new voice recognition app which, if I recall correctly uses the same recognition engine as Dragon Dictate. There was a thread on speech recognition software some where on the Lit&Lat forums too …



These are excellent suggestions. Thank you. (I knew this was the place to come).

Despite sounding like a dastardly machine wielded by a cackling villain in one of Dav
Pilkie’s “Captain Underpants” novels, the OptiBook 3000 sounds great.

And as for using voice recognition - especially for those brilliant little quotes…well, I find myself bizarrely excited by the prospect.



This is highly dependant on your available dependants, but my 14 year old daughter does a high quality job at a low cost. I call it barter. She calls it slave labor.

While I don’t have nearly the amount of research that you do it might be a viable plan for you. you might find a high scool or undergrad student who will do simple transcription at a reasonable price.

Actually a undergrad MIGHT do it for food…

Another deviant joins the crew of Scrivener. Mere d`Lucifer!!

Msieur Cross, it should come as no surprise, that amongst the myriad life forms to be found scuttling and slithering around the decks of The good ship Scrivener; just as on the the damp humid steamy stinking floor of most equatorial swamps and tropical rain forests, there can be found, both the cause and cure/antidote/solution, to most of lifes impedimenta/ailments, if only one knows where to seek or avoid.

The ship carries the worlds largest colony of rats of the genus `Bilge rattus Portlander, for example. Not mega-contributors, to the great scheme of things, at the moment, but who knows, somebody may find a use for them one day.

So do feel welcome Msieur and make yourself at home, LD :smiling_imp:

Thanks for the welcome, Vic-K - it’s genuinely appreciated. But truth is, I’ve been here since the beginning. (There’s a testimonial from me on the Scrivener home page.)

I will, however, admit to being an almost incurable lurker.

Oui je sais, M`sieur Neil, how could I not. I…how you say…pull the leg. :smiley:

As a skeletal SPECTRE, my very nature demands I be a big SPOOKS admirer :wink:

Bonne Chance,
Le Directeur

Apologies, Vic-K - clearly my irony detector is on the blink again. (What can I say? I got it cheap. And I can’t replace it. It’s an old model, and no longer greatly in demand. )

druid, over-researching is one of the great joys of being a writer! :smiley: (And we get so few…)

Retrieval is the weak point in doing research. One thing I’ve noticed over time is that while I have great affection for Devonthink Pro, I tend to rely on the same Finder folder hierarchy that I’ve used for years. Now with Spotlight, it’s becoming easier and easier to locate something without having to pull up a separate app.

What I don’t have (yet) is something to show me the interconnectivity of the information, Ironically, Word has the ability to link bookmarks in separate files, though it crashes on me often enough as to not be reliable.

A wiki maybe?

Digital camera

Close Up shots

Filemaker Pro


Hi Neil,

It’s midnight and I’ve spent the past seven hours spooling through, tangling, untangling and getting irrevocably caught up in code for in a new “convert script format” feature, but…

Is there any particular reason that you have to OCR this stuff* or have it as actual text? If it’s just for reference, can’t you just scan in what you need as plain PDF files (without the OCR, so it’s much, much quicker) and import these into Scrivener? They won’t be selectable as an OCR’d PDF file or text document would be, but if it’s just for reference whilst writing, it wouldn’t be so bad… Just a thought. :slight_smile:

All the best,

  • Pedant’s beware: I am very tired so don’t even think about dissing my noun-verbing. :slight_smile:

I feel … chastised.

Um, Jaysen…while we’re on the subject of chastisement, you have two typos in your previous post:

“This is highly dependant on your available dependants…”

It’s dependent. Write it out 500 times and mail to Vic, who is in severe need of correction. :smiling_imp:

not me pal! I`m in a state of withdrawal :wink:

One last suggestion: I just remembered that Evernote has a beta of the new version of their software and one of the touted features is the ability to search images for words. There’s a vid on their blog that shows the app locating a word on a billboard in a picture. They are in “private invite” beta right now, but perhaps a desperate plea could get you an invitation.

Thanks everyone. Jaysen, I replied to your suggestion with a dedicated post but it didn’t make it onto the boards. The upshot was - having a research assistant would make me feel like an evil mastermind.

(This is a feeling to which I’m perhaps not quite as opposed as I should be.)

Keith - yeah, PDFs are good for reference. But my - in hindsight, silly - idea was to combine all the various historical accounts I’ve read into a single, reconciled, uber narrative - a kind of cobbled-together Frankenstein’s monster which I could then shape according to the dictates of the story I want to tell. It’s not something I’ll do again.

To be honest, working through all this material in such a cumbersome way will only add a week to the job - and it’s taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. So in a weird way, it was probably worth it.

This is what I’m telling myself. In a while, I might believe it.

Thanks for all the ideas…

dependent dependent dependent dependent dependent dependent dependent dependent dependent

Enough of this foolishness!

Here is a warning to all. BUY TWO MACS! Otherwise you will need to learn to spell or properly use words while the only real computer you own is in the shop getting another new logic board. I will start another rant about why and how I hate microsnot in new thread. That should make it easier for KB to delete…

[edited to silence all the silly people who expect Wock and I to actually use words properly :stuck_out_tongue: ]