How to Automatically Make Any PDF Searchable on Your Mac

I have started reading Paperless by David Sparks and one of the key ingredients to going paperless is being able to search your documents not only by the title of the document, but also by what is inside the document as well.

In order to reach this nirvana of document searchability, you have to figure out how work around the problem of PDF’s. While the PDF seems to be the universally accepted format of devices these days, it’s not exactly search friendly when it comes OS X’s Spotlight or my favorite search tool Alfred.

However, you can make this happen through the magic of OCR (Optical Character Recognition). With OCR, you can turn any pdf into a searchable document. This is actually quite easy if you have copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard or PDFpen. Both of which contain tools that will convert your PDF into readable text.

This all sounds great, however if you are like me, you don’t want to have think about this. You are constantly getting emails with PDF attachments that have been downloaded, but you don’t want to spend the time converting them to be OCR friendly. You would prefer it would happen in the background while you are working so that you are not having to remember to open up your PDF application of choice and convert the pdf.

So I have dug around and found a way to make this happen. Using Applescript and Folder Actions you can automate the whole process to happen in the background so you don’t have to think about it. (Notice that one of the keys here to making this work is designating a folder to where all of your email and web downloads will go. This is important as we will be applying Folder Actions to this folder.)

So if you are brave, here is how the process breaks down:

  1. You will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard or Pro. You can also use PDFpen or if like as well.

  2. Go to Take Control Books and download these Applescripts. Follow the directions listed in readme.txt file as to where to place the Applescripts.

  3. Create a folder where you want the PDF’s to reside whenever they are downloaded from your email or the web. You can leave the default as the Downloads folder as you like, however that tends to become junk drawer for me so I have created a folder called Action Items and have made that my default downloads folder.

  4. Select the folder you have just created (or the Downloads folder) and then go to Finder > Services > Folder Action Setup. Once selected, a Folder Action Set Up dialog box will appear asking you which script to attach to the folder. Select the script entitled “OCR This (Acrobat)”. Then check the box labled “Enable Folder Actions”. (This is assuming you have Adobe Acrobat installed, if you are using PDFpen select the script for that program instead.)

  5. Now test the folder action by placing a PDF in the Downloads folder (or Action Items). At this point Adobe Acrobat should start up and ask you to name the new file that will be OCR ready for you to search on. (You might be asked the first times to run the script to verify that you want perform the recognize text function on the file. It happened to me twice, and then thereafter quit popping up and started working smoothly.)

Now if you follow these steps you should be able search for text inside your PDF’s using spotlight or Alfred (for Alfred just simply type “in” then spacebar then text you want to search). Hope this works for you, contact me if you questions!

Drafts for iPhone

I have made it known of my affinity for Alfred for OS X. Not only is it a great application launcher, but it also has the ability to send text to various applications such as Omnifocus and Evernote.

When it comes to the iPhone I want the same ability and Drafts for the iPhone does that. Simply launch the application and you are greeted with a blank screen and a keyboard. At first, you might assume you are working with a simple text editor and nothing more. However, when you tap the arrow on the lower right you are greeted with multiple actions to manipulate the text. Here is a quick list of what you can do with your text:

  • Send to Twitter
  • Send to Facebook
  • Add in Omnifocus
  • Save to Evernote
  • Save to Dropbox
  • Email
  • Message
  • Copy to Clipboard

Drafts also supports Textexpander and custom URL schemes (more on this later). Grab Drafts and thank me later.

How My Son Has Changed My Productivity

About a year ago I had the privilege of becoming a dad for the first time. With that privilege has come a lot changes, one of which was an adjustment in how I get things done. Here are a few things that I have learned:

Time Constraints Are Your Best Friend

Now that my son is mobile I am finding that my free time has become more limited. So when my son finally lays down, the race is on to get things done while he’s asleep. This limited time has forced me to become smarter with what moments I have to myself.

Sunday Evenings are Sacred

My nights during the week have become shorter due to all the additional work that comes with my son, so any preplanning I can do on Sunday night has become sacred territory for me. On Sunday I prep my task list and review my agenda for the week. This is the time in which I capture all the commitments that may have fallen through the cracks. If my Sunday night goes well, then the rest of the week should also go well.

Ten Minutes of Prep is Vital to Avoiding Chaos

Before leaving anywhere with my son, my wife and I do a quick ten minute check of everything baby related that we need with us in case my son has meltdown in the aisle of the grocery store. For me, the ten minute prep is now something I try to do before each meeting that I have at the office. I ask myself questions to make sure that I have clarified agendas, expectations and what the desired outcomes should be.

The first year with my son has been a blast. I can’t wait to see what is around the corner.

My iPhone Note Taking Apps

When it comes to iPhone note taking apps I am pretty sure I have at some point bought and tried a majority of apps that are in the App Store.  Over the years I finally whittled the list down to just a few core note taking apps that I really do use on a day to day bases.  Here is a quick rundown:
Squarespace Note
I don’t think I could have designed a better looking than Squarespace Note.  Launch the app and you are greeted with a blank white screen and a keyboard.  That’s it.  From there you type your note, and with an upward swipe of your finger your note is off to a predetermined destination of your choice.  You can choose between sending your note to Evernote (my current choice), Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, Squarespace or an email address that you have preconfigured.  It’s dead simple and I love it.

Since I use Spootnik’s Omnifocus sync service I can email myself tasks and have them drop straight into my inbox.  However, there I times when I do not want to open up my email and have my inbox become full with new messages.  I simply just want to send an email out.   Captio let’s me do that.  Just simply choose a default email address that you want to send your email to and then you are set to go.   Then when you launch the app, you simply type your message and hit send.

iO6 iPhone Notes App
For times when I just simply want to jot down some quick info that I know I will quickly throw away, I stick with the stock Notes app.  I personally can’t stand the faux legal pad, however it does work seamlessly and with iCloud sync it’s a quick and easy way to get between my iPhone and my Mac.

Wendell Berry’s Standards for Technological Innovation

From the author Wendell Berry in 1987:

1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces. 4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
6. It should be repairable by a person ofordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
8. It should come from a small, privately-owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

From “Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer“, Harpers Magazine, 1987.

What My Parents are Teaching Me About the iPad

My parents bought an iPad this Christmas.  I took the time to help them get it set up and was amazed to see how they reacted to it.  Here are some things that I learned from parents while observing them with an iPad. 

1. It’s computer not a tablet. (My dad calls it a computer, tablet is completely foreign concept).  

2. Cloud storage is really confusing if the only thing you have known as storage is 3.5” discs and CD-ROMS.

3. The FOX News iPad app is horribly designed, yet it will be main source of news for my dad.

4. Multiple email accounts for different people on the same iPad can be confusing.

5. They don’t understand why there is an app designed for the iPad and that same app is does not have a desktop version.

Keep in mind my parents are very intelligent people, however it was interesting to see them to interact with this new technology. 


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