Research workflow: more tips and trying out Tropy

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 3.17.16 PM

Figure 1. A screenshot of a collection in Tropy.

I’m posting some more research workflow tips   in order to remember the things that worked and that didn’t on recent research trips. There may be better ways, but here’s what’s worked for me.

 

One useful practice is to put the photographs in some kind of order immediately, while you’re still in the archive.

  1. After taking a set of pictures, about one or two folders’ worth, upload them to Dropbox and give the folder a name. I use the Box, Folder, and Title, since that information is useful later.
    1. Why photos and not .pdfs or scans? I’ve tried those apps, of which Scanner Pro worked the best, but it takes longer to get the photo centered, etc., and anyway, I can create the .pdf versions later. If I were working with more typewritten materials where OCR is a possibility, Scanner Pro would be fine.
  2. In Preview, I then add the folder name to each item before the image name
    Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 7.12.41 AM

    Figure 2. I keep the image numbers in there until I can rename the files.

    by using Select – Rename .  This is just a placeholder until I can add a more meaningful name. Although it’s a good idea to get the folder information in the picture itself (see previous post), that might not be possible all the time. This immediate identification ensures that there aren’t any mystery images.

  3. Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 6.59.23 AM

    Figure 3. These really should follow the XML date conventions.

    Later, when the archive is closed or when I have time, I give them a more descriptive name and, if there’s time, transcribe them. This picture is from is an older batch; more recently, all the files follow the xml date convention YEAR-MONTH-DAY since there’s no confusion about that and sorting is easier.

  4. For ease of reading, you can make a .pdf. In Preview, open a group of files, select them using the Thumbnail pane, and choose File – Print – Print as .pdf. (I have had better luck with this than with Export as PDF, which sometimes will only do one image.) Another tip: if it takes Preview a long time to make this .pdf, the file is invariably too huge to manage. For some reason, if you try the process again (select, file, save to .pdf) it will often go very quickly and result in a smaller file size. It’s pretty random.

This brings me to Tropy, which is a great free app for organizing research materials and. The image at the top of this post is the material in Figure 3 organized in Tropy.

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 7.45.01 AM

Figure 4. One of the items in Tropy, opened to show the transcription as well as the image.

You can read all about it at the Tropy link, but what Tropy does is to provide a space for metadata AND the image AND the transcription all in one place, which is pretty great.

You import the photos into Tropy (it doesn’t do .pdf files) and then add the information. To put photos together, as here, you can drag and drop them onto the first page. You can also batch-input metadata such as collection names, etc., by highlighting and adding the information to the whole group.

Also great: with the image open, it’s much easier to transcribe in the Notes section (or simply to write notes about the information if you aren’t transcribing it). You can even use the dictation feature (fn-fn, as in Word) to read the letter into the Notes section.

It’s wonderful not to have to look back and forth between the transcription and the image, or to be able to read a lot of pages at once without creating a .pdf.

Features that Tropy doesn’t have so far that would be extremely useful:

  1. Ability to sync with Dropbox so that you can use the file across multiple computers. You can back up and copy the .tpy file, but when you open it in a different computer, you won’t see the images.
  2. Ability to output text in something other than .jsonld format. I can see that this is a hugely useful format, but if you (like me) aren’t experienced with .json  and want to export your notes and transcriptions as text, it would be nice to have that option.

That said, Tropy’s still an elegant way to organize and work with your files, especially for a discrete collection like a cache of letters.

 

 

 

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