Jun 25

Zoho

Like me, you may have been with your internet service provider (ISP) for quite some time. You may also have taken up their offer of a free set of email addresses when you started, for example, for your family members. Well, the time may come when you may want to change ISPs but the problem is you will probably forfeit that email address you’ve by now handed around to friends and families and also to online newsletter subscriptions, forums, logins and as your contact address.

I was with Virgin Broadband in the UK ever since I took up a broadband internet connection in 2006, according to their first email to me. They recently decided to move us all over to TalkTalk which I wasn’t happy about for a number of reasons. I decided to move to BT Broadband and when I contacted Virgin for a MAC code to complete the move, they informed me I would have my Virgin emails for up to 3 months and then it would disappear.

That was fine; it would give me enough time to find a new email provider and inform all my contacts. And that’s my first point. If you do use an email address provided by your ISP, it’s worthwhile finding out just how long they will support it after you move away from them.

Right, now to find an independent web-based email service preferably with a free option. I won’t be using the free email offer from BT Broadband having learned my lesson with Virgin, so I dug through my bookmarks on free email providers in Diigo and came across this 2011 post on MakeUseOf. One of the suggestions there is Zoho Mail. I remembered Zoho from mentions on various tech podcasts and I always had a hankering to give them a try as a Google alternative but never got round to it. Well here was my chance to try them out.

So I signed up for a free Zoho Mail account (@zoho.com). This gives me 5GB free mailbox storage which should be more than enough for my personal use. The interface is nice and it’s ad-free. But the major benefit for me is that the email account is independent of my ISP and I won’t lose it if I move broadband provider again.

ZohoMail1

If you have your own domain (e.g. yourname.com) you can set up a free email account on Zoho Mail with up to 10 users each with 5GB mailbox storage.

If you do fancy trying a free Zoho Mail account, sign-up is a little confusing. You have to click the button on the Pricing & Sign Up page which looks like this:

ZohoMail2

After that, sign up is very straightforward and you’ll have a free web-based email account in no time. I decided to set up IMAP, which isn’t the default setting in Zoho Mail. There’s a great explanation of IMAP versus POP here. Basically, IMAP allows you to retain email on the remote server for online access while also allowing you to set up access on a desktop email client such as Thunderbird with the option to retain local copies there permanently. To set up IMAP in Zoho Mail, click Settings at the top right of the screen, then go to Email forwarding and POP/IMAP. Here you can set up email forwarding and POP or IMAP access. Disable POP access and enable IMAP access. You can also see the settings there that you need to set up IMAP access in Thunderbird so you can set up and store local copies of your Zoho Mail there as well if you wish.

You can also install Zoho Mail apps on your Android or iOS phones and tablets so you can access your emails there too.

I’ve been with Zoho Mail for just a week now and I’m pretty pleased so far (by the way, they aren’t sponsoring this post). All in all, it took me about a day’s work to change over all my Virgin email addresses to Zoho Mail, and I’m still seeing a number of Virgin emails coming in that I’d forgotten I had and I’ll have to change over. Hopefully after the 3 month period, I’ll have caught just about everything so I think it pays to start transitioning to your new email provider just as soon as you can after you’ve made the decision to switch ISPs.

Better still, don’t start using ISP email in the first place and save yourself this headache if you move providers later.


Jun 16

IMG_20150611

You may have had to scan parts of books before so you know what it’s like to try to position a page on the flatbed scanner platter and scan it. It doesn’t always work out well first time with parts of the page missing, slanting pages, some pages upside down, etc. I’ve spent a little time scanning indexes from cookbooks recently. About half of my cookbooks are indexed on the website Eat My Books but for those that weren’t, I decided to scan those indexes as PDFs and send them to Evernote for a more complete record of all the recipes in my books. So here’s a few tips I learned about flatbed scanning along the way.

Clean the scanner platter

We’re going to be doing OCR (optical character recognition) on the scans to convert PDF images to text so the first thing is to make sure the platter of the flatbed scanner is spotlessly clean. Any specks of dust, dirt or smudges will lower the quality of the scan and possibly hinder the OCR and word recognition.

Prepare for scanning

If your scanner has a side-hinged lid as mine has (see image at top), this is going to hamper laying the pages of large books such as cookbooks on the platter, unless the lid is detachable. Check if yours is. If not, and you’re scanning single pages from large books, you will have to turn the book through 180 degrees for each page to avoid the lid. No such problem with an end-hinged lid. If you’re scanning indexes (usually at the end of books), or thick books, you’re probably going to have to somehow support the heavy side of the book as you scan the page on the light side (again see image above). You can help support one side of your book by finding a shoebox or some other support which is the same height as the scanner platter and laying half of the book on this while you scan the other page.

Know your scanner software settings

Anyway, for a multi-page scan to a PDF on a flatbed scanner with a side-hinged lid, you’re going to inevitably end up with a PDF where pages are alternately inverted and right way up. Check your scanner software settings to see if inverted text can be automatically corrected. I use a Canon Pixma MP280 multifunction printer with Canon MP Navigator software and I found I could change the settings to correct this. Here’s the initial screen I see when I select Save as PDF file

Canon MP Navigator - scan as PDF

The scan settings at the top of the screen can be changed depending on what you want. I’ll deal with the Resolution a little later. The important part here is to select PDF (Multiple Pages) obviously for a multi-page scan, then click Set. This brings you to this screen with some important settings:

Canon MP Navigator - PDF settings

Check Enable keyword search for OCR. Check Detect the orientation of text documents and rotate images to correct the alternate inverted pages in your file, and check Correct slanted document so you get a scan with nice horizontal text. You’re scanner software may have a different layout but dig around in the settings until you get it set up correctly.

Another couple of points. If the font size of the book text is small, try increasing the image resolution to 400 or 600 dpi to improve OCR (on the first screen above). But even doing this, I still found that some text was not recognized when searching the PDF later using Ctrl-F. Coloured text background and contrast between text and background also have an effect on the quality of the OCR.

Finally, when you are struggling to position and hold a heavy book on the platter with one hand and reaching for the mouse to click Scan with the other, I found that it was easier to just hit Enter on the keyboard as that would activate the scan and also restart the scan after a new page had been selected in a multi-page scan.

The multi-page PDFs were saved to my hard drive and after that it was just a case of opening a new note in my Cookbook indexes notebook in Evernote and dragging the PDF there. I do know it’s possible to scan books directly with your smartphone straight into Evernote and I’ll tackle that in a later post and link to it here when that post has been added.

Do you have any tips for scanning books on flatbed scanners? Drop a comment below.


Jun 3

I’ve been using Microsoft Word for close on 20 years and still technical things crop up either I didn’t know about, or haven’t had to know about. I recently received a Word document to work on in which a significant number of words at the end of lines were hyphenated. Nothing strange about that, except that, when the cursor was advanced over the hyphenated word, it completely jumped over the hyphen to the next character as if the hyphen wasn’t actually present in the document.

I did a bit of searching and discovered that automatic hyphenation had been turned on in that document. In Word 2007 and later, you can check the status of hyphenation in your current document and turn off automatic hyphenation by going to Page Layout, clicking Hyphenation and selecting None.

Word hyphenation

In Word versions earlier than 2007 go to Tools, Language, Hyphenation and uncheck Automatically hyphenate document.

So you’ve never noticed automatic hyphenation? Well, that may be because it’s turned off in all your documents. So this doesn’t apply to me? It might. if someone sends you a document in which automatic hyphenation has been used, it will be turned on for that document in your system, i.e. the hyphenation setting travels with the document. So a hyphenated document will open on your system. But it’s easily turned off as I’ve described.


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