Jan 16
Finding Free Kindle Books on Amazon
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It’s possible to pick up great Kindle ebooks for free on Amazon. I’ll show you a couple of ways to go about it. These methods work for the Amazon UK site but may be a little different on your own Amazon store if you’re outside the UK.

Method 1: Go to your Amazon website, select Kindle Store in the drop down menu to the left of the search window, then enter your keyword. I’m showing ‘Evernote’ as an example.

Amazon free ebooks1

This will bring up a list of Kindle ebooks about Evernote but the trick now is to change the ‘Sort by’ drop-down menu on the right side from ‘Relevance’ to ‘Price: Low to High’. And there are your free Evernote books at the top of the list.

Method 2: Again go to Amazon, mouse over ‘Kindle E-readers & Books’ from the ‘Shop by Department’ menu on the left side, then navigate to and select ‘Kindle Books’ from the fly-out menu:

Amazon free ebooks4

This will bring up a screen of Kindle Books. Then select Kindle Best Sellers in the menu on the left side.

Amazon free ebooks2

This will bring up a new window where you can select ‘Top 100 Free’ rather than ‘Top 100 Paid’. Then select the Genre you want on the left side. I’ve chosen ‘Computing’ as I know that’s where the Evernote books will be. Then just browse through the top 100 best selling free Kindle books on computing.

Amazon free ebooks3

So there’s two ways to search free Kindle ebooks on Amazon. It’s worth going back regularly as paid books are often promoted to free for short spells. Good hunting!

Jan 14

paperless lifestyle

As I look to the left of my monitor, I see a pile of mail on a shelf waiting to be ‘processed’ and another smaller pile of more urgent paper on my desk by my left hand. When I open the mail I quickly scan through the contents to see if anything needs urgent attention – usually not these days as most communication comes by email (yea, less paper!). The more important mail (e.g. credit card payments) goes on the pile on my desk and the less important stuff either goes straight to recycling or lands on that other larger pile of less important paper waiting on the shelf. And the two piles steadily grow and grow until I get round to dealing with them.

Well not any more. My big resolution for 2015 is to try to go paperless as much as I can and I’m looking forward to it. Why? Because I know I’m motivated enough to succeed on this one, and I know I have the tools to deal with it. What tools? Well Evernote and a scanner.


Although I’ve had a free account with Evernote since early 2008, it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve really ratcheted up what I store there. I’m confident they’ll be around in the long term so I’ve made a decision to go with them as my repository for paper and documents (among many other things) which I need to keep. I’ve had a Premium account for over a year now which means I don’t have to worry about monthly upload limits. By the way, the Premium monthly upload limit to Evernote is now a massive 4GB. My one big regret with Evernote is that there isn’t a native Linux version. I’ll go into my Evernote set up in a later post in this series.


Until now, I’ve usually scanned documents to Evernote from a multifunction printer. I have a Canon MP280 MFP at the moment and I’ve blogged before about how its flatbed scanner can be used to add scanned documents to Evernote. In fact I could use virtually any scanner with Evernote as Evernote has a great feature to monitor and import from a folder or multiple folders on your PC or laptop. Anything that is scanned to a nominated folder or folders is automatically imported into a linked nominated folder in Evernote. To set this up in Evernote, just go to Tools, Import Folders and this dialogue box appears:

Evernote Import Folders

Once you’ve added a monitored folder on your PC or laptop, a copy of the scanned document is then sent to the nominated Evernote folder, in my case .Inbox.

Well that’s all fine but I’m serious about going paperless so I need something a little better than a flatbed scanner, which just takes one sheet at a time, and only scans one side of paper at a time (a simplex scanner). Even though it is possible to create multipage PDFs with this set up, to speed things up, I really need a duplex scanner (one which will simultaneously scan both sides of a sheet of paper) and a sheet feeder, although not a large one as I hope to keep on top of paper this time. Other questions I have to consider are does my scanner need to be portable and should I buy a scanner from Evernote.

Well I’ve made that decision and ordered a scanner and I’ll discuss my choice in the next post.

Do you have a pile of mail lying waiting to be dealt with? Have you gone paperless? How did you go about it? Let us know in the comments.

Nov 20
Remove Duplicate Notes in Evernote
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First let me say there’s no magic button to press to get Evernote to remove all duplicate notes, but I’ve found this manual process doesn’t take too long to carry out. I have around 2000 notes in Evernote in around 48 notebooks but with most notes in two large notebooks (called Evernote and Tech). I didn’t time it but I guess it took around 20 minutes to check and delete duplicate notes in my 48 notebooks. I found about 20.

Here’s how to do it. It’s not very high tech:

1. Go to your first notebook and click the View tab on the Menu bar at the top and select List View if it’s not already selected. This will bring up a list of notes in that notebook ordered with the newest notes at the top.

2. Click the Title column in the List pane and this should order your posts by the first character in the title, numbers first, then alphabetically.

Find duplicate notes in Evernote

3. Just read down through the title column deleting Notes with duplicate titles as shown above. I found that virtually all of my duplicate notes occurred were when I reclipped a webpage using Evernote Web Clipper. This can easily happen. Perhaps days, weeks or  months after clipping a webpage, you come across it again, possibly through someone else’s recommendation and you clip it again to Evernote. And chances are the note titles of duplicate notes will be the same as Evernote Web Clipper fills this from the post title. You might also quickly check the note size of the duplicate is the same. You’ll note the size of my younger duplicate note is larger than the older note as there were more comments in this post so this is the one I needed to keep. If you create a lot of notes by other means, then be careful deleting duplicates, but in any case don’t panic if you’ve deleted an important note which wasn’t a duplicate. You can recover it from your Trash notebook… until you empty it.

4. Finally, after you’ve finished deleting duplicates in that notebook, go back to the List pane and click on Created to get your notes back in date order. Then move on to your next notebook and so on.

Okay, if you think you’ve been short-changed reading through this basic Evernote housekeeping tip, I’ll try and redeem myself. If you haven’t spotted the duplicate note I removed in the image above, it’s a very good post on Lifehacker listing some very useful readers’ tips on notes you should consider saving in Evernote. Have a read through the comments there for lots of great ideas.

Oct 30
The Future of Handwriting
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Quick brown fox

I hardly use handwriting any more. Just the occasional signature or scribbled note is all I usually ever have to do now. I used to keep a spiral notebook by my PC for the odd scrap note, but I’ve recently started a Scrap notebook in Evernote for this and I’ve been using that instead. Just as an aside and a quick Evernote tip, I called the notebook .Scrap so it appears near the top of my list of notebooks in Evernote.

But just where are we heading with handwriting? I’m guessing that kids in school these days are spending increasingly more time at keyboards including touchscreen keyboards and less time developing handwriting skills. Surely handwriting quality and speed is bound to suffer.

I remember I was a reasonably neat but also reasonably fast writer in school. Of course, as a student going through college, that quality was sacrificed through having to write seemingly endless lecture notes at great speed. I guess it’s changed days now as students increasingly take notes on laptops.

So that got me thinking. For me, which is faster: handwriting or keyboard? Of course, if you’ve learned touch typing properly, that would win hands down over handwriting – but not in my case. I still use two digits to type. Fairly quickly, but all the same, two digits. If only I could have seen the future back in the 1970s and started touch typing back then. I did try. Mum has this old Remington typewriter that was unbelievably heavy. I tried it now and again but kept making mistakes and back then there was no Delete key. Anyway, back then, typing was for secretaries – little did we know!

Okay, so is typing faster for me than handwriting? I thought it might be a close run thing so I tried a comparison test. For the test, I wrote this sentence: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog (if you didn’t know, it’s a sentence which contains all the letters of the alphabet). I wrote it 10 times on a sheet of lined paper as quickly as I could but trying to retain legibility (as shown in the image at the top of this post), and I timed that using the stopwatch on my Android phone. I then typed the same sentence 10 times in MS Word and timed that as well. I repeated this exercise two more times and here’s what I found. Times are given in minutes:seconds.

Trial 1

Trial 2

Trial 3









Typing with corrections




I actually made fewer mistakes when writing, but even at my modest typing speed, typing is still quicker than handwriting, even allowing for corrections in typing. And of course, typing has all the advantages of being digital so storage and searching is better.

Incidentally, I opened Evernote on my Android phone and took a photo of one set of 10 handwritten test sentences just to see what Evernote would make of my handwriting. As you may know, Evernote can recognise handwritten text. In the 10 handwritten sentences, it recognised brown two times, fox three times, jumps once, and over three times, but failed to recognise any other word. I guess if I had written more slowly it might have had better success.

So it looks like handwriting is going to take more and more of a back seat as we all get typing and go increasingly ‘paperless’.

What do you think about the future of handwriting? How’s your typing speed? How’s your handwriting? And what about your kids’ handwriting? Are you concerned or is it just inevitable that handwriting will be affected by tech progress?

Dec 23

As a freelance worker, all my work and instructions come in by email. If you’ve ever had to act upon instructions in email you’ve probably noticed it can be difficult to extract just what you have to do from a long email thread. Typically in my case as an editor and proofreader, authors will communicate back and forth with the book editor who then emails these instructions to the publisher. I then eventually receive a copy of the email thread and have to take on board the authors’, editor’s and publisher’s decisions for editing. There may also be lengthy disclaimers at the end of individual emails in the thread. And someone along the line may just start a new thread rather than reply using the old one.

The point I’m trying to make here is that just copying the email threads into Evernote is all very well for archiving the conversations, but what I actually have to act upon can easily get lost in the threads. I’m sure you’ve been there too. You know you’ve read some work instruction somewhere but can’t remember exactly what or where! So here’s how I get round that in Evernote with some tips along the way. I’ll assume a basic understanding of Evernote.

I use Evernote to store Personal and Work notes. I have a stack of notebooks under a stack called 1. Work and I open a new notebook in this stack for a new freelance work project.

Tip: If you’ve named your stack of work notebooks Work, it’s obviously going to be near the bottom of your alphabetical list of notebooks/stacks in the left pane. I find myself in the Work stack quite a lot so I found it useful to call the work stack 1. Work. This brings it up directly under !Inbox so I have my two frequently used locations right at the top of the notebooks/stacks list on the left.

In the project notebook, I open a new note called Project name To Do. It’s useful to keep this note at the top of your list of project notes.

Tip: You can keep the To-Do note at the top of your list of notes by setting a reminder (you don’t have to actually set a date or time if there’s no strict deadline). To do this, click Reminder on the bar above your note. This pins a reminder to the top of your notes in the left pane. Alternatively, you can edit the note creation date to some time in the future and this will have the same effect of bringing it to the top of the list of notes for that project. To change the note creation date, click on Info on the bar at the top, then click on the created date and change the year to something like 2020 for example.

Now when a new email comes in, I read through it and copy and paste only the important decisions I have have to act upon into the project To-Do note in Evernote. Additionally, you could put the email sender name and date information at the top of that particular to-do item should you ever wish to trace the instructions back to the source email.  I put a check box next to each instruction and check each when complete. It’s a little clunky as noted in the Evernote subreddit but works okay.

Tip: To insert a check box at the end of your to-do item, just click the ticked box on the bar above the note. Or click Ctrl-Shift-C. You can also group check or uncheck items on the project to-do list. In the Windows Evernote client, just right click on your note and mouse over To-do. Then click Check All or Uncheck All.

Now you should have a quick itemised reference to all your project instructions with check boxes in this one project to-do note  – far better than ploughing through individual email threads trying to remember just what you read where.

Do you have any tips for working with emailed work instructions? Drop a comment below.

Nov 7

I need to make more use of Evernote now that I have a free year of Evernote Premium. This includes scanning more documents into Evernote but I really can’t justify spending at least £100 on a Doxie or a ScanSnap duplex scanner at the moment so I had a look again at my trusty Canon multifunction printer. I’ve already written a post on scanning JPEGs directly to Evernote from my Canon MP280 multifunction printer so I had a look at the Canon MP Navigator scanner software again and managed to set it up for one-click scanning of multi-page PFDs directly to Evernote.

But first to improve on my earlier post, if you’re going to be scanning documents on a daily basis, track down your scanner software program (in my case C:\Program Files\Canon\MP Navigator EX 4.0\mpnex40.exe) and right click on the file to pin a shortcut to your task bar. Switch on your Canon multifunction printer and open the scanner software.

Canon MP Navigator1

The interface is not particularly intuitive so here’s a walk-through of how I set up one-click scanning of PDFs to Evernote. If the box at the bottom left is checked, uncheck it. This will temporarily prevent one-click scanning and allow you to set up the action ‘Save as PDF file’. We can’t use ‘Custom’ scan as we did before as this only allows saving in JPEG, TIFF or BMP image formats. But that’s not a problem. Just leave the Custom set up for scanning images as discussed in the earlier post. Now click on ‘Save as PDF file’ and set it up as follows:

Canon MP Navigator2


I discussed how to find the Evernote executable file in the earlier post. It may be in C:\Program Files\Evernote\Evernote. Now click the box at the bottom left to enable one-click scanning and Apply the changes. Now when you click ‘Save as PDF file’ as in the first screenshot, this will scan the document to Evernote and leave a copy in an archive on your PC. It’s not exactly one-click as you’ll have to click when prompted to either scan additional pages or exit scanning when all pages have been scanned. One other tip. Before scanning, open Evernote Desktop in the notebook you want the scans to appear. If you don’t and you are currently in another notebook, the scans will all be sent there. Not ideal. If you like, you could create a notebook called .Inbox or !Inbox (the punctuation before the notebook name puts it at the top of your list of notebooks) and have Evernote viewing that notebook before you start scanning. Everything then goes into this folder for later organizing to other folders.

This method should work in a similar fashion for all Canon multifunction printers and you may also find that even if you don’t have a Canon multifunction printer, you can set up your own scanner or multifunction printer to do this while you decide if you want to invest in a dedicated duplex scanner or a portable unit.

Oct 25


I just got word today in my RSS feed that anyone with the O2 mobile provider in the UK, either contract or Pay & Go, can apply for, or upgrade to, Evernote Premium for 1 year. I’ve been using Evernote for a number of years now and blogged about it back in 2009. They have a ‘freemium’ model and I’ve been using the free version until now. However, this has some limitations and I was actually just about to move to Evernote Premium when this great 1 year offer came up.

So what has Premium got that the free version hasn’t? Well the advantages of Evernote Premium are listed on the Evernote site, but the main benefits are a higher monthly upload limit (1GB as opposed to 60MB with the free version), increased note size up to 100MB, offline notebooks on your mobile phone, PDF annotation, and searching inside PDFs, attached documents and text in images. I could use all of these.

Of course, this is an astute marketing move from Evernote to try to move us up to Premium. Try it for a year and get used to all the features and upload capacity, then try going back to the free version. I probably won’t go back.

Here’s the link for anyone in the UK on O2. You can sign up from your mobile phone or on your PC. If you use your PC, O2 will text a code to your phone which you will need to complete the process. This is the route I took and I had no problems upgrading to Premium for 1 year.

So if you’re in the UK and are using Evernote Free or are thinking of trying Evernote, give this offer a try. It lasts until 24 October 2014. If you decide to move back to the free version after your free year, all your uploaded data remains in place.

Evernote Premium offer [UK only]

Apr 30
Recording the Seasons
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Well, that’s April just about over as we look forward to summer here in northern Scotland. The daffodils are in full bloom now and the buds are appearing on the trees. Barley has been planted and the green sheen of the young shoots can be seen across the brown fields.

I’ve never paid much attention to the timing of the events in Spring, until this year. An elderly relative kept asking me how long it would be before the trees were in bloom and I couldn’t really answer. So I’ve tried to keep a record of the main seasonal events around here this year. Might be interesting to compare it with next year’s events. I’ve just made a short note in Evernote, nothing fancy just a record of things like first crocuses in bloom (I missed the first snowdrops), first daffodils out, first primroses out, gorse bushes in bloom, farmers planting crops, first lambs in fields, trees starting to come into bloom (just now). We haven’t had the arrival of the first swallows here yet but I guess it won’t be long now. And thankfully, we live far enough north that the lawn hasn’t had to be mowed just yet!

I’ll keep going through summer and autumn recording things of interest outside and when they occur. How are things looking with you? What’s in bloom where you are?

Image credit: Spring Colours

Mar 29

HeadFirst HTML

We have a lot of choices in our spare time these days. If we decide to spend it in front of a screen, we can generally either consume (e.g. watch YouTube, read blogs) or create (e.g. write blog posts, develop websites or themes, create mobile apps) or a bit of both (e.g. interact on Facebook or Reddit).

For the past 5 years, I’ve spent a fair bit of my spare time consuming blog posts in my RSS reader and then creating posts often passing on practical advice from what I’ve read. But I’ve got to the point where I feel my time might be better spent with a little less content consumption and a little more creation in other areas. Why? Well, I guess advancing years tends to focus your outlook a little. I’m realising that if I want to accomplish new things while I still have time and the ability to do them, I need to change now. But that’s easier said than done. Change is always difficult. It’s very easy to just sit back and consume on the sofa.

First thing is to cut back on my content consumption and get my reading down to just a few core blogs. Well I know which blogs I get the most from so I’ve already done that, and Reddit is still proving to be a great source of information for me. Next, try to identify what new things I want to achieve. I’ve got my list down to a few main items: website development, going paperless, explore Linux further and photography.

Website development

I have a hankering to progress my skills in website development. Not in any big way. I wouldn’t consider myself a designer and I’m certainly not a programmer but I did enjoy setting up this website a few years ago and modifying a WordPress theme until I got it just the way I wanted it. Trouble is, there was a lot of trial and error involved. So I need to improve my HTML and CSS skills initially. Depending how I get on I may move on to PHP and jQuery.

I do have a little knowledge of HTML and CSS but I’ve recently  bought a great book called Head First HTML and CSS and I’m working through that. It’s probably the first ever text book that I’ll end up reading from cover to cover! I want to replace the theme on this site and my business site and at the moment  I’m considering using Genesis Framework to do that. Hopefully if all goes well, I may try my hand at website development on a part-time basis.

Going paperless

The biggest decisions in going paperless are whether to use Evernote or something else and then how to structure the archive if at all, i.e. few or many notebooks. As you may know, there are proponents on both sides, i.e. don’t structure it, just use one or two notebooks and rely on search to find stuff in your archive. On the other hand, we’ve all come from a background with physical filing cabinets and organising data in folders on PCs, so you could instead use lots of notebooks to help organize and archive everything. If you do use Evernote and are considering going paperless, Jamie Todd Rubin has a great blog I can recommend.

Explore Linux further

I’ve already discussed this in a series of posts but basically my PC future may lie with Linux rather than Windows. Next thing I have to do here is assess Linux Mint and examine the different ways to edit MS Word doc and docx files. In my day job it’s important that I can track changes in Word documents.


Away from the PC, I enjoy walking and photography. I wouldn’t call myself a keen photographer but I do enjoy taking photos especially when they turn out right. I just have an old Canon PowerShot A570IS. Don’t know if I have the discipline to carry a DSLR and accessories round and I’m not sure if I can afford all this anyway. So photography is really work in progress for me at the moment.


I’ll continue to blog because I enjoy passing on what I’ve learned, but you can expect a little change in direction here. Because I’m not moving to Windows 8, you can expect less Windows posts as time goes on. I’ll probably be blogging more about each of the above topics in future and occasionally on life in general so I hope you’ll continue to read the blog and please subscribe if you can.

What do you want to achieve in your spare time? Anyone have any advice on what I want to accomplish? I’d love to hear your comments.

Feb 28

Occasionally you may need to archive a copy of a webpage or your cloud data for future reference. You may need to retain regular (weekly or daily) snapshots of certain sites that change regularly, for example stock listings. Not just that, a snapshot of your cloud data can be useful if the site temporarily goes down. I had this problem last week as my online to-do list app, Wunderlist, went offline for several hours. No big deal you might think, but I use Wunderlist as my go to reference of tasks I have to complete next day. When I connected that morning, the site was down and I was left trying to figure out my priority to-dos for the day. Luckily the site was back in a couple of hours, but it left me thinking perhaps I should be archiving my to-do lists on a daily basis so I don’t get caught out again.

Fortunately, there are a myriad of free apps that will archive webpages or cloud data to your preferred online storage option. I had a think through some of the sites I’ve signed up to in the past and these came to mind: Evernote, Bo.lt, Minus – of course there are plenty others, including Dropbox. So let’s look at one or two options.


Applications like Wunderlist allow you to email the page to yourself so that’s one option I could use to back-up my to-dos at night. Just click the email icon in the top right corner of the main window in Wunderlist. If you have an Evernote account, you could also email the page to Evernote using the email address all registered Evernote users have to send data to their account.


Still in Evernote, another alternative is to clip the to-do list using the Evernote Web Clipper browser extension.


Some months ago, I signed up to Minus, an online storage service giving 10 GB of free storage. It’s perhaps not the most intuitive of apps and takes a little time to figure out, but in the Settings of the Desktop Tool, you can set a screen capture hotkey. As long as Minus is running in your system tray, you can use this hotkey to capture a webpage either as full screen, or a rectangular area to your online Minus account.


Here’s a recent Wunderlist to-do list captured in minus. Clicking the entry opens it up for viewing.


Sign up to Instapaper and install the Read Later bookmarklet in your browser. One click now saves your webpage to Instapaper.


Allows you to archive everything on the webpage including links and formatting. There’s a good write up of Bo.lt here.

Automatically archive webpages

All of the above are fine but they all need you to actually save  the webpage. Isn’t there anything which needs less intervention to archive? Something that will automatically save a webpage when you open it? Well there is, and at the moment it’s in beta and it’s still free. It’s called Archify and it’s one of my best finds of recent months.


Archify helps you find everything you saw in your browser and search your stream on social networks. Just open a webpage and Archify will save a copy to your account – unless you blacklist the site or exclude it for security reasons (e.g. HTTPS sites). Needs a little bit of tweaking to set up they way you like it so it doesn’t continually archive pages you don’t need.  Archify seems to effortlessly track and archive your every move on the net!

Schedule an archive of webpages

Sorry I can help yet on this one. I’ve looked around the net and asked on a tech forum and no-one had any great ideas. So, anyone out there have any bright ideas on how to schedule an automatic daily archive of a webpage, particularly one you have to log into first? Surely there has to be a demand for an app that will make a regular snapshot of a webpage or an open tab in your web browser?

Update (6 March 2012): I’ve just found a small utility that will take scheduled snapshots of a webpage and it’s called SiteShoter. There’s a good write-up here. You can set it to take snapshots at specific intervals from 1 minute to say 24 hours. The one downside is, perhaps not surprisingly, it won’t log in to a site before it takes the snapshot, so archiving your cloud data is probably not possible. Still, if you want scheduled snapshots of webpages, SiteShoter is worth checking out.

So that’s my suggestions to save important webpages. My current routine is to use the screen capture hotkey to save it to my Minus account. But if I forget, I should have a copy in Archify if I opened that page recently, and that’s definitely going to be the case for my to-dos in Wunderlist as I update them in the evening with the next day’s projects.

So how do you archive webpages? Drop a comment below.

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