Air Mail by Google

29 06 2013

Google Cloud Print is an online service that connects your printers to the web. Using Google Cloud Print, you can make your home and work printers available to you and anyone you choose, from the applications you use every day. It works on your phone, tablet, Chrome device, PC, and any other web-connected device you want to print from.

Here is a brief overview of the topics discussed in my series ‘Air Mail by…’ with details about Google’s Cloud Print.

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The service is available through the Google Chrome browser, Google’s mobile apps such as Gmail and Docs, and other supported iOS, Android, Windows and Mac apps. It is also the default printing method on Chromebooks.

When starting a print job e.g. from an iPad data are transmitted from the iPad to a Google server and then to a selected printer over a secure internet connection.

What kind of printers can I print to using Google Cloud Print?

Google Cloud Print can print to Cloud Ready Printers, which connect directly to the web and don’t require a PC to setup. Google Cloud Print can also connect to existing classical printers that are plugged into a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer with Internet access, using the Google Cloud Print Connector in Google Chrome.

How do I connect my printer to Google Cloud Print?

In order to print using the Google Cloud Print service, first connect your printer to the service. Google Cloud Print can print to either a Cloud Ready printer that can connect directly to the Internet or a classical printer that is plugged into a Windows or Mac computer with Internet access.

To connect a Cloud Ready printer to Google Cloud Print, follow the instructions for connecting Cloud Ready printers.
To connect your classic printer, you will need to install Google Chrome on a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer that is connected to your printer. Once installed, enable the Google Cloud Print connector in Google Chrome.

Details of connecting classical printers …

To connect your classic printer, enable the Google Cloud Print connector on any computer that is already connected to your printer and able to print. You’ll need Google Chrome to be installed on the computer.

Once Google Chrome is installed, follow the steps below to enable the Google Cloud Print connector in Google Chrome.

  • Log in to your user account.
  • Open Google Chrome.
  • Click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar.
  • Select Settings.
  • Click the Show advanced settings link.
  • Scroll down to the “Google Cloud Print” section.
  • Click Sign in to Google Cloud Print.
    In the window that appears, sign in with your Google Account to enable the Google Cloud Print connector.
  • Select the printers you want to connect, and then click Add printer.
    You’ll see a confirmation that Google Cloud Print has been enabled.
    Click Manage your printers to learn more.

    The printer is now associated with your Google Account and connected to Google Cloud Print. You can print to this printer using Google Cloud Print whenever you’re signed in with the same Google Account.

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Limited GCP features on iOS devices …

Unfortunately most of the apps for iOS devices do not support GCP at the time except Google Chrome and Gmail for iOS.
An app that supports GCP is PrintCentral by EuroSmartz but I cannot recommend this app as it has bugs since years and the UI looks a bit playful and is definitely not state-of-the-art.

Examples …

Printing a website

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Printing an E-Mail

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Printing is also available from within the app Gmail for iOS devices.

Sharing a printer …

You can let your friends use any printer you connected to Google Cloud Print, as long as they also have Google Accounts. Follow these steps to manage your printer’s sharing permissions:

  • Visit the Google Cloud Print management page.
  • Click the Printers on the left side.
  • Select the printer that you want to share.
  • Click the Share button.
    When you share printers, you’ll share printer names so choose a descriptive name when setting up your printer for the first time.
  • In the dialog that appears, enter the email address for the person or Google Group you want to share with.
    Click Share.
    Your friend will receive an email notification. To disable sharing, follow the steps above to open the Sharing dialog for the printer and edit the user list.

The security …

Cloud printing always submits documents via an internet connection to the service provider, in this case Google. So security questions have to be assessed.

What you should know is

  • Transmission is encrypted
  • Information about the jobs you send for printing, the documents themselves, and server logs created from each request ate shared with Google
  • Documents themselves are kept strictly confidential on Google servers but only for so long as the print job is not yet completed

Some technical details …

Notifications of waiting jobs are distributed to printers using a persistent XMPP connection. The printer initiates this connection with the Google Talk XMPP servers.

To maintain a persistent XMPP connection Google’s libjingle library can be used. A persistent connection to talk.google.com and subscription to Google Cloud Print notifications is established by sending a subscription stanza to the Google Push Notifications service.

Whenever the printer comes online or receives notification of a waiting job, it uses the Fetch API to grab any available jobs in the queue. The /fetch call takes the printer id (required) as a parameter and returns the list of available jobs in the Queued state. Each job has an id, a title, a status, and two URLs: one for the job ticket (in either XPS or PPD format, determined by the format in which the printer originally registered its capabilities) and one for the job file itself. The file is available in PDF, PWG-raster (March 2011 draft), or in the original format of the document. The document type served is specified via the accept header of the request made to the second URL of the print job: the URL of the job file itself. Not specifying this header will result in a PDF printout.

Summary …

Google Cloud Print is an extremely useful feature but Apple again said ‘NO’ to implementing this feature and only supports it’s own AirPrint feature. AirPrint is designed for using printing functionalities only for devices connected to the same WiFi network. So if you are out of the commonly used network you cannot print documents.
With the above mentioned exceptions no app designed for iOS is GCP capable.

So it’s recommended to use the HP ePrint Service if there is a need to print documents from outside the network to which the printer is connected (see Part (1) of my articles about Air Mail …).

Related links …

Google Cloud Print

Google Cloud Print Support





Air Mail by Apple

27 06 2013

Printing documents seems to be old-fashioned in the modern era of digital communication. But there are some cases where an occasional print out of documents is necessary. I use it for example when I have to look on two or more documents to compare the contents which is pretty uncomfortable on an iPad because of the just-one-window-display.

My articles ‘Air Mail by …’ explain the different possibilities to print from an iPad or an iPhone as there are Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, HP ePrint.

If both, a printer connected to a computer and an iOS device, are in the same WiFi network a classic printer can be used for printing from an iOS device. This case was discussed in my post Printing from iOS-Devices

Here is a brief overview of the topics discussed in my series ‘Air Mail by…’ with details about Apple’s AirPrint.

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Apple AirPrint …

Apple is known for highly simple and user-friendly solutions.
So let’s start this series of articles with the AirPrint technology developed by Apple and HP.

AirPrint is a feature which is implemented in Apple products starting with OS X Lion and iOS 4.2 in November 2010, for printing using a wireless LAN, either directly to any AirPrint compatible printers (such as HP’s entire ePrint range, Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Gestetner, Hewlett-Packard, Infotec , Lanier, Lenovo, Lexmark, Ricoh, Samsung, Savin, Xerox and more) or to non-compatible printers through a MS Windows, Apple Mac OS X, or GNU/Linux PC. AirPrint does not require printer-specific drivers.

The current list of AirPrint compatible printers (at the time more than 500) can be found on

Apple Support HT 4356

A number of software solutions allow for non AirPrint printers to be used with iOS devices. For such printers, AirPrint support can be achieved by configuring such support on an intermediary system already having such printers configured for local printing, shared on the same network. Since AirPrint is driverless, such a configuration compensates for the lack of native AirPrint support by using the drivers on the intermediary system instead.

The simplest solution for all platforms is to create a new Bonjour service that tricks iOS clients into believing they’re talking to an AirPrint device.

Fingerprint by Collobos Software Inc. is an example for such a desktop application which allows printing from iOS devices to every printer connected to the same network.

AirPrint in details …

My home configuration consists of an Apple Airport Extreme Router and an HP Photosmart 6510 which is AirPrint capable. That means the printer has just to be connected to the power supply. In a further step the connection to the WiFi network is established via the iPhone-like control panel by entering the networks password.

After connecting the printer to the WiFi network the printer appears in the print menu of every printing-capable app.

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Suggested additional software …

HP offers an app called HP Printer Control which allows to fully control the printer and it’s features like scan, copy, capture, file management and some utilities. The file management feature additionally supports access to well-known cloud providers like Box, Dropbox, GoogleDrive, or cloud providers supporting WebDAV connections.

The latest version of this app has a perfect UI and is near to apps for file management like Documents by Readdle.

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Features of HP Printer Control …

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  • Document control from virtually anywhere
  • Seamlessly move between paper and cloud-based files with intelligent mobile scanning and easy control of your HPe-AII-in-One from your iPhone or iPad.
  • Create high-quality documents from the camera-enabled intelligent mobile scanning feature or send scans directly to your mobile device from your HP e-AII-in-One. Then print or share your device or Cloud-based files online or by E-Mail.
  • Intelligent mobile scanner technology automatically processes images taken by your [Phone or iPad’s camera to create high-quality documents.
  • Documents can be saved as PDF or JPEG to share, store or print from your device.
  • Access cloud document storage services such as iCloud, Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive or social media site including Facebook.
  • Use your mobile device’s large screen to control scan, copy and print functions of your HP e-AII-inOne.
  • Print photos, PDF, web pages, email attachments, Microsoft Office documents and more from virtually anywhere.
  • Compatibility
    Print, copy and scan with Apple iPad, iPhone and iPad.
    Mobile scanning feature supported by iPhone 4, 4S, 5, the new iPad and iPod 5G (iOS 5.0 or later) or later with 5 megapixels or more camera with autofocus.

How to print with HP Printer Control …

  • Download a document from the cloud and print.
    Even if you are in another WiFi network or just 3G connected you can send the print job to your own printer by using your printer E-Mail address.
  • Use ‘Open in’ e.g. from within Apple’s spreadsheet app Numbers and select Printer Control from the apps menu to print.

Using HP Print service …

If you are not connected to another WiFi network you even can send a print job to your printer connected to your home or office network by using the HP ePrint Service.

Sign in to HP ePrintCenter, register your printer by entering the unique printer code (supplied by HP for every printer; shown in the Web-Service-Menu of the printer’s control panel). You can then create an E-Mail address for your printer. It looks like name@hpeprint.com.

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If you send a document to this address HP ePrint Service will send a print job to your printer at home or in the office which is assigned to this E-Mail address.
You can protect this service by entering E-Mail addresses from which it is allowed to send print jobs. Furthermore Google Cloud Print works together with HP ePrint Service. For example you can print Google docs without waiting for Google’s service to create a printable document.

Related links …

AirPrint Basics

HP ePrint Service

HP ePrint Data Sheet

Thanks for dropping by.
Comments, positive or negative, are appreciated.





The Maldives

24 06 2013

The Maldives, officially the Republic of the Maldives, is a group of 1,192 islands in the Indian Ocean about 250 miles south-west of India.

It’s definitely one of the most gorgeous places on this planet.

For sure, on the Maldives there are also people using iOS devices. But that would be no particularity and not an interesting topic for an article on this blog except we would discuss the problems of using gestures on a touchscreen with extremely clammy fingers.

Both, the Maldives and the iOS Filesystem are composed of islands.

Apple’s publication ‘About the iOS File System’
Every App Is an Island
An iOS app’s interactions with the file system are limited mostly to the directories inside the app’s sandbox. During installation of a new app, the installer code creates a home directory for the app, places the app in that directory, and creates several other key directories. These directories constitute the app’s primary view of the file system.

The ‘Open in’ command within an iOS app is the Dhoni which takes you from one i(s)land to another.

Dhoni
is a multi-purpose sail boat with a motor or lateen sails that is used in the Maldives. It is handcrafted and its use within the multi-island nation has been very important.

iLand
is the location of an app on your iPhone or iPad. It’s also handcrafted and if there would be no Dhoni for carrying data from one app to another an iOS device would totally loose it’s usability.
See my post The iOS Filesystem

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The population of the Maldives inhabits 192 islands. So 1,000 islands are free for placing one bug on each island. If the Maldivian government permits each bug and flaw may take it’s app along.

The time will come when bugs will leave this world because they cannot bite the users any longer. Apple and the developers then may organize the repatriation of the recovered apps.

Here are the new inhabitants of the Maldives, apps, bugs, and flaws:

0001 Notability
Hyperlinks are not supported

0002 Instashare
PDF file format not supported

0003 Dropbox client
No options for sorting files
Sort order is fixed to ascending by file name
No renaming of folders
No WebDAV support

0004 Tap Forms database application
Print out of records just for one record at a time

0005 HP Printer Control
Downloading a PDF from my bank to print it out the app tells me that password protected PDFs cannot be handled.
(Printing via SAFARI worked without errors)
So what’s the sense of preventing the printout?

This reminds me of just renaming an EXE file to a ZIP file to let the file pass through a firewall. Isn’t it horse hockey?

0006 iOS
Missing apps in the ‘Open in’ menu
A bug Apple is not talking about. For me a big problem as it is not possible to import a CSV file into my Bento database installation on the iPhone.
On an iPad it works.

0007 SAFARI, CHROME, …
You cannot scroll down to the end of the site with one tap

0008 WordPress.com
In blogs on WirdPress.com you cannot go the top of a site when tapping on iPad’s or iPhone’s status bar.

0009 Apple’s Photos
Saving photos from an app in the camera roll doesn’t keep the file name.
It’s turned into Apple’s file naming system (IMG_number) and further on nothing points to the content of any image.

0010 Bento
The only way to import data is via a CSV file as an E-Mail attachment.
It seems that FileMaker Inc. hasn’t heard anything about clouds.
Or do I have to by their MAC version of FileMaker server as well?

0011 Customer Center
(German Telekom)
The list of bills is ordered ascending without an option for changing this.
So you always have to scroll down to see the latest bill.
Consider your banking app would show you your very first account settlement first!

0012 Dropbox
Dropbox doesn’t offer a full text search within files like Google Drive.

0013 Google Drive
Google Drive offers a full text search which is an awesome feature.
After entering the search term the app lists all files containing the term.
But it does not highlight the references. So it makes me feel giddy to look for the term in a longer text.

0013 App Store
Developers describe their updates and you can read about changed or updated features before downloading the new version. All this you have to keep in mind because nearly no developers shows the history of updates in his app. If a new gesture is added you won’t remember the announcement and therefore cannot use the new feature.

Oh Lord, sometimes I think developers are just coding but forget that their users own a brain, not a harddisk where all the information is accumulated.
There is more than just coding to be successful and to meet the requirements of users.

0014 Photostream
You cannot transfer photos from the Photostream directly to the camera roll without creating a new album. Does anybody have an idea why?

0015 Google+ app
If you drag down e.g. within a community the information is refreshed.
If you drag down within an article the article is closed.
The same gesture for completely different actions.

0016 Twitter
If you try to follow the recommendations of Twitter to use 2-Step-Verification you have to enter your mobile phone number. With all well-known formats you get an error message here in Germany. Thanks Twitter for offering security in just some countries.


Pain hits my wrist. So I move over to #999.

0998 Apple’s Keynote
When inserting media into presentations you have access to the camera roll but not to the photostream. So you must transfer a photo from photostream to a new or an existing album.

0999 Foxit PDF (Foxit Corporation)
If you want to sync documents e.g. with your dropbox account you have to pay for it once! I never saw this in any other software.

Latest bug

1000 Google+ for iOS
Great new notification bar but the app crashes in many not really replicable circumstances. This didn’t happen in the former version.

The list is not complete yet.
And I’m sorry I cannot do the job without your help.
Please complete the list by writing comments.

Statements of a CEO …

Let me add parts of an interview with Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev Corporation.

Q: Hello Oleg! What is your opinion on the definition of a “bad” application?

A: Hi! Well, a bad app is one that does not satisfy the end users’ needs. That’s the definition for me as a developer. Any software must have a direct purpose, a precise task that it performs. …
So if the app lacks these, and it cannot perform its intended task, cannot meet the needs of audience, it’s a bad application.

Q: Are there any other peculiarities that make software “bad”, unpopular and inconvenient?

A: Yes, I can say a bad app is also one that doesn’t fully meet the needs. For example, a well-working app that doesn’t have a proper UI, or lacks some functionality. This causes inconvenience for users, who are very likely to abandon this app, and try to find a better one. I can also name support as a criterion; if the users have questions about the app, they must receive feedback; and software owner has to consider the reviews and improve the application. …
Speed and security are also very important. It’s unallowable to leave a chance for security breach and leaks of corporate data, e-mails, contacts, or any personal information. A good app not only has to bring benefits – it has to cause no harm. Bad software is created without the discussion of these issues between the software owner and developers.

Q: What about any minor problems, bugs?

A: Problems like these are usually eliminated through quality assurance. Bugs may also lead to dissatisfaction of end users, blocking them from using the app. That’s bad. But the major bugs are usually disclosed during the QA process, before the deployment.

Q: And what are the main problems an app can face after deployment?

A: The majority of problems after deployment are connected with compatibility of devices and platform versions. I mean Android. It has plenty of devices, smartphones and tablets. If the app doesn’t use the standard UI elements, for example, there might be problems on certain devices. That’s bad. …
iOS is a winner here: developers have to consider the differences between iPhone and iPad; and the platform versions – they check if the app works properly on the earlier versions. …

Other problems may include updates. For example, occurs some change in Facebook, some function is added, or some is removed. This may influence the app that has integrated Facebook sharing. This has to be tracked and updated in case of necessity. … Updates are vital for good apps.

Q: What are the main mistakes of developers that result in such a questionable outcome?

A: This may sound trivial, but good software developers are people inclined to creative work, in some way like composers and poets. Custom software works are often highly individual. No developer would knowingly put bugs into the app. The main mistakes are usually connected with inattention. A lot here depends on the developer’s experience. On one hand, an app must be done to be close to perfection. On the other hand, developers can mistake, and do mistake, you cannot predict and consider just everything. …
And here we come to quality assurance.

Q: You mean that the app that hasn’t undergone proper QA, has all the chances of being dubbed a bad one?

A: Correct. Developers and QA specialists both vitally shape the app. But while developers create the app, QA specialists must wish to destroy it. That’s the opposite activities that work for the quality of the app. QA tests the capabilities of the application, find its limits. The better are the attempts to destroy the app, the more problems are found and eliminated. …
Testing is an obligatory stage of our software development. …
Don’t cut down QA for the sake of sparing costs. QA is the essential way to make sure you will get the high-quality software you want.

Unfortunately all these statements are valid only for roughly 1% of the apps available at Apple’s App Store. And you recognize it after purchasing.
So on my point of view Apple cannot necessarily be proud of it’s overloaded software offer.

Again I want to quote a comment of my friend Michael Wilde published on Google+. Michael is an expert with more than 30 years experience in application development.

I have worked with well marketed apps. They look great and well organized at first use. But when one digs deeper into the app; there are sometimes basic , functions missing. I expect them to be apart of the app; push every screen and device button. The basic function just does not exist. I wouldn’t buy a used – automobile because it looked nice from the outside and had a great stereo system. The same goes for applications on any platform. Don’t be fooled by , applications that have “great stereo systems”. In other words, don’t purchase applications because they look nice and have a couple of “neat” functions. Make sure the app does exactly what you expect. Even at the basic functionality level. This article points this out very well.
The “stitched together apps” are guilty of this. Big or small, there is always always, a push to get a product on the shelf. Sometimes promises are made for needed or corrected functionality will appear in version 1.2.xx.xx. In other words, it wasn’t put together correctly the FIRST TIME.

Summary …

There is no chance to completely avoid the occurrence of bugs in applications.
But as a customer I can expect:

A valuable system analysis before coding begins
Intensive tests before applications are released
A friendly support taking care of customers
A consistent further development

This should be the basic code of practice for all developers who want to earn their living with app development. For big companies it should go without saying but an embryonic developed final inspection is regrettably the reality.

To read the document

The iOS Human Interface Guidelines (by Apple Inc.)

should be a MUST for all developers.

Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.





Text Recognition (2)

21 06 2013

Part 1 of ‘Text Recognition’ outlined the theory of optical character recognition and pointed to applications for Windows PCs.
Now it’s time to look upon apps for the iPad and iPhone.

Some indispensable features …

Within an OCR capable app I expect

  • Zoom functionality
  • LED flash On/Off
  • Multi-Page processing
  • Availability of ‘Open in another app’
  • Cropping
  • Editing to correct OCR processing

I reviewed three apps. All of them are designed for iPhone but can be installed on an iPad as well with the well-known limitations (only portrait mode, app size with zoom factors 1x and 2x).

  • ImageToText
    is a free app and works accurately.
    A bit strange about it is that you need to send your scan via E-Mail in order to get the text-based version. If that works for you, the app works quite well and doesn’t cost you anything.
  • TextGrabber
    is a well-designed app and turns photos of text, coming from your built-in camera or elsewhere, into digital, editable text. What makes it great is that it’s generally accurate and it’s easy to use.

    Other apps offer more features to adjust to images that are not perfect (perspective, contrast, etc.). But in most cases it’s the faster job to eliminate some errors in converting than to try out uncountable adjustments to increase the quality.

  • Prizmo
    is rather expensive. What you get is a comprehensive OCR app that is pretty accurate. If you want something that can handle regular text as well as business cards, bills, and whiteboards, Prizmo is a valuable option. It will also read recognized text back to you, which certainly has its useful applications as well. There are different voices available (Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish) for which you have to pay about $3.50 each.

The test environment …

I fed the apps with two different pages but took new photos with each app as each app had varied requirements and preferences for the camera.
There is a simple page and one with a simple table.

Here is the dish for OCR capable apps.

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The results …

All photos have been taken from within the apps.
The device was an iPhone 4S without using it’s LED flash.

ImageToText

The image shows the apps screen and the returned E-Mail containg the converted text.

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Conversion of tables can be used to extract data line by line.

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Features of ImageToText compared with criteria:

YES Zoom functionality
NO LED flash On/Off
NO Multi-Page processing
NO Availability of ‘Open in another app’
NO Cropping
NO Editing to correct OCR processing

TextGrabber

TextGrabber offers full camera control as well as cropping.

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Sharing and translating (using Google Translate) are additional features of TextGrabber.
I checked the translation into German and it was pretty good in this case. But obviously this depends on the content. I saw Google translations from US English into German where the result was as disastrous as the Titanic case.

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Converting tables into text is not usable.

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Features of TextGrabber compared with criteria:

NO Zoom functionality
YES LED flash On/Off
YES Multi-Page processing
NO Availability of ‘Open in another app’
YES Cropping
YES Editing to correct OCR processing

Prizmo

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Converting tables into text is not usable.
Prizmo offers a special feature for converting bills. If a photo is taken there is vertical divider line with which lables on the left side con be separated from prices on the right side. But even with this functionality 50% of the extracted lines were invalid.

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This images gives you an impression of some other features.

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Features of Prizmo compared with criteria:

YES Zoom functionality
YES LED flash On/Off
YES Multi-Page processing
YES Availability of ‘Open in another app’
YES Cropping
YES Editing to correct OCR processing

A pretty nice feature if Prizmo is that scans are saved in the documents folder with the original image and the extracted text.

Summary …

There is no need to spend much money for an OCR capable app.
By the way: The prize of Prizmo is not far away from being dubious.
Admittedly Prizmo presents a perfect UI and many additional features other apps don’t offer.

Prizmo was updated on 2013-05-15 and I checked it again regarding scanning of tables. The result: Text recognition still perfect, table recognition still bad.

The results of using additional features of TextGrabber or Prizmo didn’t improve the quality of the result. Some features had the reverse effect of what was intended.

The best result in converting an image to text was achieved by the free app ImageToText.
The reason seems to be obvious because there is no OCR processing implemented in the app. By sending the image to an external webserver some grown-up OCR software there can do the job.

Do not try to begin digitizing lots of personal or business documents with one of these apps as it is suggested on websites and other media.

In no case a conversion was free of errors and manual corrections were necessary.
But it’s better to have one of these apps than to manually write down text from on image if this occurs occasionally.

What about PDFs …

If you have a document in PDF file format there is a simple solution to extract the text:

  • Open the document e.g. in
    PDF Expert (Readdle)
    Documents (Readdle)
    GoodReader (Goodiware)
    Adobe Reader (Adobe)
  • Mark the text
  • Copy the text to the clipboard

Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.
Comments and Likes are appreciated.





Text Recognition (1)

19 06 2013

Did you ever need the content of a printed document but couldn’t find the associated file?
Copy word for word into a new document is a suitable task only for short notes.
Did you ever see a text far away from your device you would like to quote?

As you read these words on iNotes4You, your eyes and brain are carrying out OCR operations without you even noticing. Your eyes are recognizing the patterns of light and dark that make up the characters displayed on your device. It took you a long time learning all the patterns and absorbing their meaning. Your brain now can figure out what I’m trying to say (sometimes by reading individual characters but mostly by scanning entire words and whole groups of words at once).

Reading handwritten text of different people improves your experiences with extracting the concealed information. Your brain is like a database saving all the different mutants of a character.

Transferring printed documents to digital text makes the job easier and you don’t have to spend your precious time for typing it manually into a new document. Luckily, you can use your iOS device to do OCR (Optical Character Recognition).

Take a snap of the document with your iPhone and hey, presto.

OCR in action

OCR software extracts all the information from the image and converts it into text. To do this job a stand-alone algorithm implemented in a software application is not sufficient. It must be supported by a database when it comes to non-unique results e.g. a ‘g’ or ‘q’ in a word. The algorithm then has to ask the database wether the first or an alternate variant is a well-known word.

There are many causes preventing the technique to do the job without errors. The error frequency is mainly determined by the following disturbances:

  • Color
  • Formatting
  • Contrast
  • Orientation
  • Incomplete characters
  • Font type
  • Surrounding non-text elements
  • and more …

Most of the problems can be avoided by using a special font set called OCR-A.

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Converting with 100% accuracy in 100% of the time would be nice, but we’re talking about OCR on an iPhone or iPad and not about an expensive professional equipment.
The important thing is that you provide the best source image possible. This generally means a flat page with clear text and sufficient lighting. If you can do your part and take a good picture all apps seems to have no trouble doing the job with occasional manual corrections.

Microsoft OneNote …

Microsoft OneNote is part of the Office suite and offers OCR.
Just open OneNote drag the image into the workspace and use ‘Copy text from image’. Depending on the image quality and the amount of not-wanted surrounding information you have to do some manual editing.

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Unfortunately the free app Microsoft OneNote for iOS devices does not support OCR.

FreeOCR …

This free OCR software uses the Tesseract OCR engine (HP), one of the most accurate open source OCR engines available.

FreeOCR offers a simple UI with two windows (left=the original image / right=the extracted text). It supports most image files and multi-page TIFF files.

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Steps to do by OCR software …

  • Loading image as bitmap
    The source usually is a file with one of the well-known formats BMP, JPEG, PNG and so on. PDF files must be supported as well, many documents are stored as images in PDF format and the only way to extract text from such files is to perform OCR.
  • Detecting the relevant image features
    Many OCR algorithms expect some predefined range of font sizes and foreground/background colors so the image must be rescaled and inverted before processing when necessary.
  • Reducing disturbances
    An image can be skewed or it can have a lot of optical noise, so deskew- and despeckle-algorithms are applied to improve the image quality.
  • Converting to bi-tonal image
    Many OCR algorithms require bi-tonal image, therefore color or grayscale must be converted to black-and-white image. This process is called ‘binarization’ (reducing to two colors) and in some cases it is an important step because incorrect binarization will cause a lot of problems.
    In other cases, the algorithm performs better on the original image and so this step is skipped.
  • Lines detection and removing
    This step is required to improve page layout analysis, to achieve better recognition quality for underlined text, to detect tables, etc.
  • Page layout analysis
    This steps is also called ‘zoning’. At this stage OCR system must detect positions and types of the important areas of the image. It has to identify columns, paragraphs, captions, etc. as distinct blocks. This is important in multi-column layouts often used in newspapers and tables.
  • Detection of text lines and words
    This might be a complex task when analyzing layout-oriented articles in magazines because of different font sizes and space between words and lines.
  • Combined-Broken characters analysis
    It’s a common situation that some characters look broken or touch each other. So OCR has to separate characters and virtually complete their shapes.
  • Recognition of characters
    This is the main algorithm of OCR. An image of every character must be converted to appropriate character code. Sometimes this algorithm produces several character codes. For instance, recognition of the image of ‘I’ may produce ‘I’, ‘1’, or ‘l’ codes and the final character code has to be selected by looking on the context.
  • Dictionary support
    This step can improve recognition quality, some characters like ‘1’ and ‘I’, ‘C’ and ‘G’ may look similar and the dictionary must help to make the decision.
  • Saving results
    The last step is to transfer the pure text into a suitable output format e.g. a searchable PDF, DOCX, RTF, TXT. The greatest challenge is to keep the original page layout for columns, fonts, colors, pictures, background etc.

A sneak peek …

There are a lot of OCR apps for iOS devices. Cost varies and so do feature sets. Some are limited towards scanning business cards. In any case the image should not look like my image above.
Anyway you must keep your feet on the ground. Forget suggestions of app developers that you can convert all your printed documents into readable text.

Part 2 of ‘Text recognition’ is coming soon and compares valuable apps for iOS devices as there are ImageToText, Text Grabber, and Prizmo.

Thanks for dropping by.





iOS 7 Beta

18 06 2013

Shortly after Apple’s WWDC 2013 heavy posting in communities and blogs let websites get overheated. People are provided with many spotlights on new features, traditionally as textual descriptions or videos.

Mind mapping is a powerful technique which may or should replace text by visualized information. It’s the appropriate technology to keep the users away from (textual) information overload. On the other hand mind maps in some cases show us that some kind of news presented without high resolution images and videos not necessarily satisfy consumers wants. What remains is a visualized summary with which users may get deeper into some topics on demand.

But even images and videos cannot replace the original product. For Feelings, enthusiasm or disappointment, user experience, and a simple Like or Hate we have to wait until iOS 7 is installed on our devices.

Anyway I miss the usage of mind maps in publications.
So I created a map showing the relevant features of iOS 7 as of June 2013.
It’s expected that there are more new features not fully developed and published at the time.

20130616-193425.jpg

Here you may download this map in different formats:

PDF Adobe Reader
https://www.box.com/s/1hi9x8gjffstdhqivsgb

ITMZ (Native format of iThoughts for iPad)
https://www.box.com/s/2so40qj7qeabo65d9t6v

MMAP (Mindjet)
https://www.box.com/s/h3jrq1symoacyhy21mce

XMIND (XMind)
https://www.box.com/s/lpzwfjf5393ljbm5c07u

Admittedly this map cannot show the new design which is quite important because many potential customers decide per design. Additionally users don’t just want to use their device but also want to like it. That’s a very important point in former, today’s, and future strategy of Apple: Pull customers by doing a bit artwork for devices and software.

So please refer to the Apple website where all features are presented with animations

Apple iOS 7

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Another brief walkthrough is presented by J. D. Lace on Google+

iOS 7 Walkthrough by J. D. Lace

By the way …
J. D. Lace publishes excellent posts with comprehensive content.
J. D. contributes to http://allthingsapple.me/

and by Corbin Briske

A depth look on iOS 7

Annotations …

  • Feature details
    The mind map doesn’t show details. Details of features are always almost important regarding the acceptance, usability, and productivity. If the UI (User Interface) and the UX (User Experience) are not suitable users will not recognize them as an improvement although it could be sophisticated and never shown in other operating systems or applications.
  • Missing features
    In January 2013 I collected some features users all over the world expected for iOS 7.
    iOS 7 is coming, dead sure!
    None of these features are implemented in the actual beta version of iOS 7.
    So Apple again goes a not expected path. Is it a trail of tears? Regarding the file system I would say YES. It is still a way with many stumble stones to commonly use files by multiple apps.

    Note
    Refer to my blog
    Every App is an iLand
    if you are not familiar with the built-in restrictions of Apple’s file system.

  • Saying NO and pulling people
    Some publications say that Apple worked on a completely revamped version of iOS because of it’s strongest competitor Google with it’s Androis OS.
    I assume: Apple would even had done it if Android would not be in the market.
    It’s Apple’s innovative power to continuously provide people with products the want.

Further information …

A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information. A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea.

The website

Biggerplate.com

20130616-120714.jpg

is the world’s largest free mind map library founded by Liam Hughes, UK.

On January 1, 2013 I created a new group on Biggerplate.com named APPLE.

The Apple group offers free mind maps about Apple products, the operating system iOS for mobile devices, and apps from Apple’s App Store.

Apple group on Biggerplate

To download mind maps from Biggerplate you have to register first. Just enter your E-Mail address and a password and you will become a member. The membership is totally free.

You can download any mind map created by more than 50,000 members for free.

For the Apple group it’s recommended to use the app iThoughts by Craig Scott available at Apple’s App Store. It’s the only app supporting about 20 different formats especially .mmap files (Mindmanager), .xmind files (XMind), and .cdmz files (ConceptDraw) which are supported by Biggerplate.

Related links …

Apple iOS 7

Features Apple didn’t talk about

Features MIA in iOS 7

Thanks a lot for dropping by.





Pairing People with Mind Maps

16 06 2013

In my article ‘Molecules and Art’ I talked about bios, researches, and arts as applications of mind mapping.

This article gives some examples of pairing users and developers, or generally speaking, pairing people with different skills.

  • Developers are technicians and users are users.
    Cloudy error messages and technically oriented manuals are not what users should expect after purchasing a software product.
  • Salesman need a brief overview of the product’s key features.
  • Managers have to explain their strategies to the midlevel staff.

Is there an effective method to seamlessly connect people with different skills and hence talking different ‘languages’?

Mind maps may bridge the gap. Here are some examples.

Databases …

Users of software applications don’t want or are not able to think about the appropriate file management for the data they have to work with. Developers usually don’t want to deeply engage in the specific fields of activity of their users.

So how can developers be paired up with users?
Or in other words:
What is a common platform for technical and functional responsibilities?

Mind maps may help as they reflect the requirements of users as well as the more technical thoughts of developers.
Here are the fields available in Tap Forms HD database app for the iPad.

20130408-200627.jpg

Both, developers and users can bare their thoughts in a mind map.
There are no special skills required to use this common platform for the description of tasks and the communication. Different skills of users and developers are leveled to a graphical view of the task and therefore communication is enhanced.

The result may be a more efficient software application and the mind maps may serve as a common knowledge base for future updates and improvements.

UI design …

A further benefit could be the disclosure of inconsistencies in the UI design. See my mind map about the Security Settings of an iOS device where settings are widely spread over lots of sections in Apple’s settings app.

20130408-200643.jpg

This mind map may be also used as a manual for security settings.

Feature description …

See this mind map which describes all features of the mind mapping app iThoughts HD for iPad, developed by Craig Scott, UK.

20130408-200657.jpg

Update descriptions …

My demand:

Each operating system should have an integrated viewer (an engine for displaying mind maps which is open to the developers to fill with content) which provides interactive usage of mind maps as a replacement for textual descriptions. Think of a help system where you can expand the topics you are interested in.

Mind maps are simply more attractive with additional usability. The well-known ‘Search’ implemented in help systems is also available in mind maps. So there is no need for textual descriptions any longer. Admittedly this is only valid for applications with a strong focus on ‘easy-to-use’ and mostly ‘self-explaining’ features. If there is a need to comment all topics mind maps loose their simplicity and textual descriptions are more effective.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sales offers …

Developers can explain the main features of a new device by creating a mind map.
Salesman and potential customers can use this map to easily inform about features of the product.

Tap on an image to enlarge the whole map or the snippets.

The benefits are that shop assistants can easily assimilate the features by the brain and remember them a longer time.

Problem descriptions …

Whenever you are confronted by a problem mind maps help you see all the issues and how they relate to each other. They also help professionals to quickly get an overview of how you see different aspects of the situation, and their relative importance.

Explaining strategies …

Industry leaders develop strategies which have to be explained to teams.
Mind maps are suitable for communicating the objective of a project, the different tasks involved, and most importantly the role and function of everyone in the team.
Part of being a good leader is being an effective communicator.

Training events …

The usual and I think a bit old-fashioned way is to use Powerpoint/Keynote presentations e.g. for software applications training.
There is always just one slide visible and if there is a need to scroll back you cannot see the slide where you came from.
In a mind map just expand a branch and after finishing the discussion collapse it and continue with the previous topic.

Related links …

Molecules and Art

Remarks to Mind Mapping

Mind Map vs Textual Pages

Blog Summarizer

Apple on Biggerplate.com

Databases and Mind Maps

Mind Mapping (3)

Mind Mapping (2)

Mind mapping (1)

Comments and Likes are highly appreciated.
Thanks for dropping by.








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