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Whenever you need them most, old clunky copy machines are always positioned on the other side of a building. Plus, they’re often printing documents sideways, running out of paper, or are low on toner.

Skip the hassle, and archive information the easy way. Just flip out your cellphone and take a few snapshots. You can refer to them later, they’re easy to delete, & they will cost you next to nothing.

In a Rush

Imagine you’re at the local library scrambling to complete a research project at the last minute.  However, a voice over the intercom has just informed you that the library will be closing in 15 minutes. You’ve found some solid reference material, but you don’t have any change to use in the Xerox machine. Plus, you need to copy 20 or 30 pages of material. All you’ve got in your pocket is a cellphone. Don’t worry. Just find a good light source and use your phone’s camera!

Clarity of Photos

Clarity is a must whenever you reproduce a document. If you’ve ever made a copy on a machine that’s low on toner, then you know exactly how important clarity is to your reproductions.

Without clarity, your documents are rendered worthless.

Therefore, it is essential that you take photos from an optimal distance when using your cell phone as a copy machine. In my experience, I can safely take photos of half of a page of material without the words on the page looking blurred or unreadable.

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Also, I recommend that you take a snapshot at an angle where no shadow will be cast over a page, espcially when words are difficult to read close to a spine of a book.  Additionally, pages will be easier to read later if you mark the divide of the page with your thumb or any other available marker, so that you will know where one photo’s information picks up from the last.

Space for Memory

Unless you use a state-of-the-art phone, memory space is something of a concern if you attempt to convert your cell phone into a copy machine. I recommend that you make a habit of regularly transferring your pictures to your P.C. (which I’ll discuss in a moment). This will free up space, so that you will always have room to take random photos, as well as to document more of your research.

Another option is to buy a digital memory card which can be slotted into your phone (but obviously your phone would need to be built to accept memory cards, which a lot of the new phones do these days).

You never know what will catch your eye next, so it’s best to be on the ready.

Transferring to Computer

Ideally, your cell is already able to connect to the internet, as an iPhone is able to do.

However, if you are a pauper, viable options are still available to enable you to transfer your pics.

While many cell phones give you the option to email files, using this feature may be more costly than a Xerox machine would have been in the first place.

Some phones are equipped with a USB port, and it is possible to upload files from your phone to your computer with the aid of a USB cable.  This is fine if you don’t mind keeping track of the cable.

However, a more satisfying option may be to invest in bluetooth software, which will permit you to link your cellphone up to your computer and to wirelessly transfer your files. This software may cost $25.00 or $30.00, but it will definitely be worth the investment when you consider its superiority alongside of the other alternatives I’ve mentioned.

Online Storage

Photobucket allows you to upload pics from your cellphone directly into an album in your Photobucket account.  Flickr offers a similar service.

If however, you’re only using your photos for reference purposes, you may want to place them in Skydrive Windows Live Skydrive & 3 Alternative Online Storage Services Windows Live Skydrive & 3 Alternative Online Storage Services Read More , and delete them when you’re finished with your research.

As always, before uploading pics, be aware of any per-picture charges imposed by your cellphone provider.

Save Time & Money

While printing your images at home will still cost you the price of printer ink, you can take measures to defray these costs. For example, you can crop your pics, then copy & paste several cropped images onto a single page. Another easy way to save money when printing is to refill printer cartridges instead of buying new ones (periodically, Walgreens even offers to refill printer ink for free).

Nevertheless, even if you fail to save money on the ink, you’ll still be saving yourself time.

For an extra thrill, clip your pics into Evernote Become a Rockstar Note Taker with Evernote (100 Invites) Become a Rockstar Note Taker with Evernote (100 Invites) Read More (in cahoots with Eye-Fi to create an instant photographic memory) and you can make text within your photos searchable.

Have Even Better Ideas?

How do you use your cell phone to save time or money? What other uses do you use your cellphone camera for? Which online application is most useful for handling your uploads?

Let us know what you think. We’re always eager to follow up on new trends, so don’t be afraid to be a new trendsetter!

Photo Credits : Mac Funamizu, lastyearsgirl, lincolnblues and JulianBleeker

  1. Jennene Christine
    January 30, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Loved this post because it provided a practical option for a tool almost everyone has. Could make me feel like MacGyver.

  2. Rich
    January 29, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Snapter (snapter.atiz.com/) is a solution where you can use any digital camera as a mobile scanner, and capture documents as diverse as books and business cards instantly.

    Snapter creates PDF files which come complete with sharpening and color improvement, and it is also possible to stretch or crop the document in a manner not dissimilar to that of Photoshop and related applications.

  3. Thomas MacEntee
    January 29, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Great post - one option that genealogists have been using is snapter.atiz.com/index.php which allows you to take a pic of a book or document and then scan it into a PDF. This is useful when working in a library with a broken photo copier or an archive that charges an outrageous amount for copies.

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