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Friday, March 28, 2014

How to search scanned text stored on Google Drive

My preceding post shows how to archive a scanned image to Google Drive in PDF format. Consequent to the archival of a document is to find and retrieve it in the future, the topic of this post.

If you have followed my earlier advice to organize your documents into sub-folders on your Google Drive, you are in good condition. Even better if you have renamed the PDF to something meaningful during the scan process. For you, the retrieval task is as simple as the following.

  1. Open a web browser and go to Google Drive.
  2. Navigate or search document file name.

    If you know the sub-folder (e.g., Receipts) which contains the scan document, click to open the sub-folder on the left hand side. Otherwise do a search by entering a keyword from the file name (e.g., Duster).

  3. Select the document, and the target operation.

    To share the document via your social network, click the Share (+) button.

    To remove it, click the garbage can button.

    To download the document, click the More drop-down menu and select Download.

If the document retains its default name such as scanned_20140315-1126.pdf, you are now at the mercy of the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) feature of Google Drive. My experience tells me that Google Drive won't be kind to you at all.

You can try searching for keywords that are inside the PDF document. For instance, Invoice.

Search success is highly dependent on the quality of the original scan image. For a quick photo shoot of a receipt printed on thermal paper under dim lighting, the odds are against you. It is prudent for you to organize your scans into sub-folders, and name the files meaningfully.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Scan to Google Drive in PDF format

Google Drive lets you store, and view your files in your personal Google cloud space. To upload or download files from the cloud to your Android device, you install the Google Drive app.

The Google Drive app has a relatively little known feature: the ability to scan an image into PDF format, and store the PDF file onto Google Drive cloud space.

This scan feature strictly is not Optical Character Recognition (OCR): it does not convert a text image into text that you can open in a text editor or office suite for editing. For OCR, you should use Google Goggles instead.

The Google Drive scan is a good way to quickly make a permanent record of a short document like a sales receipt that you can retrieve later from anywhere.

You can scan a document within the Google Drive app, or use the Google Drive scan widget.

Google Drive app

  1. Tap the Google Drive app.
  2. (Optional) Create a new folder on Google Drive to hold the document.

    Tap the BIG + button in the top right corner, then select Folder in the Add new menu.

  3. Tap the BIG + button again, but select Scan.

    Note: for Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablet owners, you won't find the Scan option in the menu. This is a known but unresolved problem. Please use the Google Drive scan widget to scan documents.

  4. Adjust document image position in the camera viewfinder.
  5. Tap the blue circle button to take the picture.
  6. Rename the PDF file.

    If you don't like the picture, tap the recycle button at the bottom, and retake the picture.

    Otherwise, rename the output PDF file. The default name is something like scanned_20140322-1448.pdf.

    Rename the PDF file by tapping the menu icon at the top right corner, and select Rename scan. Give the file a meaningful name, e.g., ComputerReceipt-20140322.pdf.

  7. Tap the checkmark button to upload PDF file to Google Drive.

Google Drive scan widget

  1. Tap Apps on your Home screen.
  2. Tap Widgets tab.
  3. Scroll until you locate the Drive scan widget icon.
  4. Drag (tap, hold, and move) the widget to the desired location on Home screen.
  5. Select a Google account.

    If multiple Google accounts are set up to use your Android device, you will be prompted to select an account to access the corresponding cloud space on Google Drive.

  6. Select a Google Drive folder to store the document.

    Tap MyDrive if you want to store the document in the top folder of Google Drive. Alternatively, tap an existing sub-folder (Receipts). You may also create a new sub-folder by tapping the "plus folder" icon in the top right corner.

    Tap Select to finish selecting the folder.

    An icon labeled with the selected folder (Receipts) is created on your Home screen.

    All documents scanned using this icon will automatically go to the Receipts folder on Google Drive.

    By repeating the above procedure but selecting different folders, you can create shortcuts on your Home screen to scan documents to different pre-assigned folders.

  7. Tap the newly created Google Drive scan shortcut (Receipts) on the Home screen.
  8. Take a picture of the document, and upload to Google Drive.

Now that your document is safely archived in Google Drive, you can relax. That is, until one day you need to locate the document. The good news is that you can search using keywords from the text within scanned documents. In my next post, I'll explore how to find that exact document in the Google Drive cloud.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

textPlus - part 2

Part 1 of this series is about the setting up textPlus, and sending text messages from your Android devices. This post addresses text messaging from the reverse direction: receiving messages.

For someone to text you, he needs to know your phone number. This is the confusing part in using textPlus. textPlus assigns each registered user a unique North American phone number to receive text messages. To reach you, others text to this textPlus phone number, not the original number that you registered with textPlus in the initial setup.

To find out your textPlus number, follow these steps:

  1. Run textPlus.
  2. Tap the app menu button on the upper right corner, and select Settings.
  3. Tap Contact Info.

    Your assigned textPlus phone number is displayed at the bottom.

Note that the textPlus phone number may have an out-of-state (or out-of-province) area code. For example, I live in the province of British Columbia which has a 604 area code, but my textPlus number has a 902 area code which points to a location in the province of Nova Scotia.

When you text a friend using textPlus, your friend will see your textPlus number as the originating phone number for the text message. To text you back, your friend replies to the textPlus phone number. The reply message is displayed in the textPlus screen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

textPlus - free text messaging - part 1

Do you want to send and receive SMS messages on your Android tablet? Do you have an Android phone but without an unlimited text messaging plan?

Using the textPlus app, you can send text messages for free to any phone number in the US and Canada, as well as receive messages in the opposite direction. textPlus comes in 2 versions: Free (with advertisement) and Gold (ad-free but you pay).

Initial Setup

  1. Install textPlus - a free app - from the Google Play web store.
  2. Run the app.
  3. Tap Sign Up to register for a textPlus account.
  4. Enter your existing mobile phone number (with the area code).

    Note that this phone number is mainly used by others to look you up in the textPlus user base so that they can text or call you. Texting or calling between 2 textPlus users through the textPlus app are free anywhere in the world.

  5. Confirm the phone number by tapping OK.

    An SMS that contains the access code is sent to the phone number.

  6. Retrieve the access code from your mobile phone inside the text message.
  7. Enter the 4-digit access code on the textPlus screen, and tap OK.
  8. Finish by adding details - gender, birth date - about you, and tap Next.

Texting

To send a text message:

  1. Open the textPlus app.
  2. Tap the text+ button in the upper right corner.
  3. Enter the 10-digit Canadian or American phone number you want to text, and tap Add.
  4. Enter your text message in the Compose Message field, and tap the right arrow.

    The message is sent. A copy of the text message appears in both the left pane and the right pane.

Part 2 of this short series on textPlus illustrates how to find out about one's own textPlus phone number, and how to receive text messages.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Connecting to a WiFi Hotspot

My 7-inch Android tablet is light enough that I often bring it when I visit a McDonald's restaurant. Many McDonald's are equipped with free WiFi hotspot. Below is how I connect to the free WiFi service.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Make sure that WiFi is enabled.
  3. Find the McDonalds WiFi network and connect.

    Like many fast food restaurants with free WiFi hotspots, no key is required to access the WiFi network.

  4. Swipe down from the top screen edge to display notification messages.
  5. Tap the message that prompts you to sign into the McDonald's WiFi network.

    The browser app opens with the McDonald's splash page.

  6. Tap the checkbox labeled I have read and agreed to the terms and conditions.
  7. Tap Connect button.

Now you can sit back, enjoy your latte, and surf the Internet.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Easy text insertion

Before I learn the trick, inserting text in the middle of a body of text is a chore.

I would try to tap to place the cursor at the exact point where I want to insert text. But I could never get it right the first time, or the second time, or third. I usually end up backspacing - therefore erasing text - to get to that particular spot.

Then I found out I can actually move the insertion marker. You only need to tap somewhere near the spot you want to insert. Then, drag the marker to the exact location you want.

Why didn't I think of that earlier?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

How to enter accented letters

English speakers normally don't write any accented letter. But in the rare occasion that you do - learning a new language using Duolingo - how do you enter an accented letter using the English keyboard?

The short answer is to do a Long Press on the corresponding letter keys (a, e, i, o, u).

All 3 common Android keyboards - Google, Samsung, and SwiftKey - use the Long Press to bring up accented letters.

For the SwiftKey keyboard, this feature is disabled by default. To enable it,

  1. Tap the special SwiftKey on the virtual keyboard.
  2. Tap the Settings icon.
  3. Scroll down to tap Theme and Layout on the left hand side.
  4. Toggle on Accented Characters.

To enter an accented letter, say u, on any of the above virtual keyboards,

  1. Long press the u key.

    The additional accented letters are displayed.

  2. Tap to select the accented letter you want.