How to combine multiple PDF files into one in Preview

Even though Mac updates destroyed Preview on my desktop, my ancient MacBook (6 years old and proud of it) still has a functioning Preview app. Here’s the process, which I’m writing down here because otherwise I forget it and have to rediscover it every single time.

  1. Open both documents in Preview.
  2. Choose the Sidebar icon in both of them, or the one that shows you little thumbnails of the pages along the side.
  3. Select the document you want to move from the thumbnails in the sidebar of one document and drag it over to the other document. Place it wherever you’d like it to go.
  4. Select all the thumbnails in the sidebar of the combined document.
  5. IMPORTANT. If you try to SAVE or EXPORT the document at this point, you’ll end up with one page. Don’t do it. Instead, choose PRINT.
  6. When the PRINT dialogue comes up, choose PDF as your printing option.
  7. Name the file, save it, and you’re done.

Theoretically you can do this with Adobe Acrobat DC as well, with only a few more steps, but that’s available only with the Creative Cloud subscription.  It’s also possible with NitroPro (which isn’t free) and apparently with the free FoxItReader. You can’t merge them using the free Adobe Reader, though.

I have yet to find a good–that is, simple–workaround for inserting signatures into documents.  Adobe Acrobat DC has a lot of complex options for this, but not one has allowed me to do what Preview used to do with a single click.


Farewell, Preview! Yosemite 10.10.5 killed you off for good

First, a riddle:

Q: How is a Mac system update like an “old dark house” mystery?
A. It kills off your functional programs one by one with no explanation.

It’s been a few weeks since Apple unleashed the Kraken that is Yosemite 10.10.5 on my iMac.  I wrote about how to get Word 2008 up and running again, which has worked for a few weeks although it’s being balky now.

But Preview is officially kaput, crashing so much that it’s clear it will rise no more.  If I want to look at a .pdf, I use Adobe Reader. If I need to edit or crop a picture, I use a much older MacBookPro where the apps are still functional.

According to MacRumors, this latest build of Yosemite improved security, which is all to the good.  We’ll soon have El Capitan, which is supposed to focus on “improving performance and user experience.”

Here’s a pro tip, Apple: a big part of “user experience” is not killing off the apps we use every day. Just a thought.

If Yosemite 10.10.5 broke Word 2008 on your computer, here’s a solution

Yosemite 10.10.5 descended on my Mac on September 19, and, as usual, programs began crashing in droves. Well, Word 2008 and Preview, the two programs I use most, broke, rendering the Mac useless for most work.

Word would open, crash, ask me about “Report this problem to Microsoft?” and display a crash report.  I tried opening in Safe Mode, restarting, resetting the Font Library, and other suggestions found online.

According to this thread and this thread, the problem is that documents with Track Changes were open in Word when the update occurred.  Here’s what worked:

  1. Open Word but hold down the Shift key as it opens to prevent the documents from automatically loading. (Here is the source of the information:
  2. Once Word opens, go to File -> Open Recent -> Clear Recent and clear out those files.
  3. Shut down Word and restart it.
  4. Open the files that you need. You can even open and save the ones that were open during the 10.10.5 update, and they seem to be unharmed.

This seems to work for Word.  It doesn’t work for Preview, so I have switched to Adobe Reader for now.

It’s not clear to me why Yosemite 10.10.5 has such a grudge against Word and its Track Changes feature, but that’s a matter for the wizards in Redmond and Cupertino to solve.

Downloading and uploading graded papers to Blackboard

The new Blackboard really, really wants you to use its inline tools to grade and comment on student papers. But what if you have a system in place already, including autotext comments you’ve prepared (which won’t work inline) and don’t want to follow Blackboard’s master plan?

This is largely a bookmarking post so I won’t forget how, so please feel free to click away if you already know how to do this.

To download papers (pretty straightforward):

  1. Go to Full Grade Center.
  2. Go to the column where the assignment is.
  3. Click on the drop-down arrow and scroll down to Assignment File Download.
  4. Check “Select All Users” or “Select Ungraded” or whatever.
  5. Download these as a zip file.

Once you’ve graded them, how do you get them back on Blackboard? There is probably an easier way, but this one works.

  1. Go to Full Grade Center.
  2. Go to the Assignment Column. In the gradebox where the student attempt is, click the little drop-down arrow.
  3. Go to Attempt.
  4. In the right-hand box, where it says Feedback to Learner, click on the drop-down arrow.
  5. Underneath the Notes box, there’s your old friend the paper clip, which means that you can attach the graded file.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 4.00.53 PM

Here’s another way, no less obscure:

  1. Go to Full Grade Center. In the Assignment column, under the arrow, click on View Grade Details.
  2. It will take you to the Grade Details Page. (If you click Attempts at this point, you’ll be back in the “Attempt” menu, as above.)
  3. Click on Edit Grade. Now, you won’t see the attachment icon here, because it’s hidden in the extended menu.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.56.18 PM

    Figure 1. Nothing to see here, right?

  4. Click on the down arrows, though, and you’ll see the paper clip attachment icon.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.56.35 PM

    There it is!

Workflow for Research Archives

cropped-410px-the_house_of_mirth_page_of_original_manuscript_edith_wharton1.jpgSome good recent  posts talk about how to organize your workflow for working in a research archive.

From 2013, Dan Royles on Digital Workflows for the archive at ProfHacker:

Jessica Parr at Early Americanists:

Both these posts list some good apps as part of the discussion, so check them out.

Since I just returned from a trip to a research archive, here are a few tips, not entirely digital, that I wish I’d thought of earlier.

1. Keep a research log so you know what materials you were working with and when. I used to keep this on a yellow pad (in pencil of course) but have mostly switched to a Word document. It’s in two parts:

One part of the log–the part I still keep on paper–is the list of what boxes I ordered; when I ordered them and the date I ordered them for, since they have to be ordered in advance; and when I returned them. It was just plain easier to see this on a paper pad with returned materials crossed out.

The main part is a running list in a Word document of what I am looking at during the visit: which folders and boxes, generally informal notes about what I’m finding, etc.  Since I had been to this archive before, I was able to look at the log I recorded last time, which saved time when reading the folders.

2. Keep a transcription and notes page for each box as you’re working on it. For some of these, a transcription or notation already existed from the previous visit; I just had to photograph the materials.

This may seem obvious, but when you get home, you may not–in fact, probably won’t–remember whether you looked at Folder 754 and not 755 unless you write it down.  You’ll wonder (or I have), “Did I skip this one, or did it not have anything useful for the project?” Taking a moment to note your impressions will save frustration in the long run. I also wrote down whether I photographed a folder or not.

3. Photograph all the things.  Again, it seems obvious, but it’s a lot faster to photograph items than to read them, especially if you’re short on time.  When in doubt, take a picture.

If you don’t develop a record-keeping system, though, you’ll be lost.

Both Royles and Parr suggest using your phone and TurboScan to record images.  I tried TurboScan but ended up using a camera instead, despite the TurboScan benefits.  Why?

  1. TurboScan was slower than a camera, which may be because I have an older iPhone.
  2. The images weren’t as sharp as I needed (especially for pencil marks).
  3. It would take more time to type in the filenames on the phone’s tiny screen, email the images to myself or upload them to Dropbox, etc., than I wanted to spend.

Using the camera let me take sharp images, which I then downloaded in batches.

4. Organize the photographs to match the archive’s box & folder scheme . After downloading a batch of photos to the Macbook, I moved them immediately from Dropbox’s Camera Uploads folder to Folders named for the box & folder numbers I was working on.  I could then rename the files at leisure, if necessary, which I’ve done some of since I returned from the trip.

Most of them have names like DSCN205-ew to jsmith 25-11-27 pg1.jpg for the first page of a letter from Edith Wharton to John Hugh-Smith written November 25, 1927, for example. Sometimes I make a notation about the work (Ethan Frome, House of Mirth). It’s not searchable, but I can find things in the folders by using the transcription and notes page.

folder example

The collection, box number, and folder number are all right in the picture.

5. Updated to add: put identifying information in the picture. It’s immensely helpful to have the box and folder number right in the image itself.  I used to write these on a piece of paper and then photograph the paper along with the document until I realized (finally!) that if I took a picture with the document top or side near the tab of the folder itself, that information would appear in the picture with no need to write the information on  a piece of paper. If I now lose track of where an image came from, there’s the box and folder number, right in the picture.

I want to keep refining the processes, so there might be an update post in the future. For example, I have premium Evernote, Zotero, iAnnotate, etc. but haven’t used them effectively for archive purposes, as Royles and Parr have done. For now, I’m happy to have the materials and to know that I can find things.

If Yosemite upgrade broke Mail on your Mac, here’s a solution

macmailAfter upgrading to Yosemite, Mail crashed repeatedly on my Mac. I checked several online solutions, but here is a much simpler solution that worked for me:

1. Go to System Preferences.Click on Internet Accounts.

2. Delete each of your email accounts by highlighting it and pressing the little minus bar (next to the + button) at the bottom left of the pop-up window.

3. Open Mail and be sure it’s working and not crashing.  Close Mail.

4. Go back to System Preferences -> Internet Accounts. Add back each email address one by one. To do this, click on the + icon and add the information.

5. Check Mail after each new email address to be sure that Mail is still working. It will take a little time for Mail to repopulate your Inbox folders, etc., but it works.

I’ve had to do this process whenever the iPad updates its OS and the mail client quits working, so I’m glad it works for other Macs as well.

It’s a nuisance to do this, true, but it’s less onerous than trying to find folders like Mail -> Library -> Bundles or temporarily disable and then rebuild the mailboxes.