How to rework your old articles from print-outs

If you’re anything like me, you keep stacks of clippings. But if you own the copyright to the articles, and you want to update them , how can you do so? The good news is that you don't need to retype them. In this article I explain how to convert them into text for word processing.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to scan a document and then convert it into a word-processable document. Assuming you don't have OCR – Optical Character Recognition – software, you will scan the document and save it as an image, and then load the image into an online application that will convert the image into text.

Just by way of explanation, the way it works is as follows. When you scan the document as an image, a word processor wouldn't recognise the shapes in the picture as letters. What OCR software does it makes a shape, say B, recognisable as the letter 'B'.

You'll need either a scanner or a multifunction printer, and a graphics package that has an option to scan. In this tutorial I'm using a free application called

Step 1

Place the document to be scanned face down on the scanner. Then, in your graphics application, Click on the scanning option. In, this is the Acquire option in the File menu. If you have more than one printer connected to the computer, you will be asked which device you wish to use.

Step 2

Selecting the device, by Terry Freedman

Selecting the device, by Terry Freedman

Next, select the type of image you are scanning. It's best to select "Black and white picture or text", or something similar. This is because the scan will be less likely to pick up graphical marks that it can't interpret. (Indeed, you can sometimes improve the results by making the resolution lower, for that reason.)

Selecting the scanner setting, by Terry Freedman

Selecting the scanner setting, by Terry Freedman

Step 3

Once the document has been scanned, it will be stored as an image. Depending on which OCR application you use, you will either be able to upload the image as it is, or convert it to a pdf. You may already have that option in the printer/scanner itself, but frankly I find it a bit of a faff to use it. The easiest way to convert it is to insert it into a blank word-processing document, and then save that as a pdf. After a bit of experimentation, I've found that is one of the best because it converts pages with columns without too much difficulty, although you will still probably have to work on the document in your word processor.

Converting the scanned image to a text document, by Terry Freedman

Converting the scanned image to a text document, by Terry Freedman

Step 4

Save the processed text in a Word or text format, and then you will be able to tweak it (such as by running a spell-checker over it).

Two examples

To illustrate the process, Here are two examples of "Before and After".

Example 1: This article

I first wrote the article on which this was based in around 1997. I had to change references to the software, add screenshots, and tidy it up a bit with headings, but that was pretty much all. Let's put it this way: scanning and then processing the article was a lot quicker than typing it out again (or trying to find the original diskette on which it was saved over twenty years ago!)

The original printed version of this article, by Terry Freedman

The original printed version of this article, by Terry Freedman

Example 2: A Jason Fox story

Around 30 years ago, just for the challenge of it, I wrote a "hard-boiled" short story in the style of Raymond Chandler. The original wasn't even on a diskette: it was typewritten. Here's the first page:

The first page of the original typewritten story, by Terry Freedman

The first page of the original typewritten story, by Terry Freedman

And here's the story word processed, tidied up and presented as new! Enjoy!

The Case of the Fake Filofax

A Jason Fox Story
Terry Freedman

Author’s intro: I penned this story just after I’d signed up for a course in how to start up your own business. The course was run in a “New Age” centre, so the instructors spent a lot of time talking about “psychic energy”, the importance of colours, vibrations and so on. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve no doubt these things are important, but it really was crying out for a bit of a mickey-take. I’ll never reach Enlightenment if I carry on like this. Sigh.

Jason Fox, by Terry Freedman

Jason Fox, by Terry Freedman

Jason Fox looked at his watch. Two am. He'd hardly noticed the hours crawl by as he was working on his latest case - a series of murders with no apparent motive, but all with two things in common: one, all the victims had been guys just starting their own business; two, they'd all been students at some joint called the Be Centered Center.

A couple weeks back he'd enrolled on a course at the Center. He thought maybe the guy who ran it was in a numbers racket or maybe just a good old-fashioned rip-off scheme. But the only thing the guy was really into was colors. Kept muttering something about "green energy" and "orange level". The guy was weird alright, but not the murdering kind of weird. Still, Fox told himself, you never can tell. He thought back to the Corelli case, where the guy was a top hit man for the Mob, posing as a Baroque composer.

Fox looked over at his assistant, Grimwald, who was typing up the report on the Menelli case. He'd been at the typewriter for a couple days now, and still hadn't finished the first page. "Good kid" thought Fox. "If it hadn't been for Grimwald, Menelli might be in Florida by now. But good thing he didn't have to earn his living as a secretary, or he'd be on Welfare."

"Hey, buddy", Fox rasped. If anyone wants me, I ain't around. If you want me, I'm getting a drink."

"Sure thing, boss" replied Grimwald as he reached for the second bottle of Tippex.

Jason Fox stepped out into the neon-lit city night. He paused in a doorway to light his cigarette before dragging himself to the speakeasy across the street.

The bartender nodded towards Fox. "What'll it be, Mister?".

"Gimme two shots of Bourbon, no ice," Fox gritted. "And make it snappy."

Fox suddenly became aware of a dame in a red dress standing next to him. Her perfume was like the scent of nectar in a city of broken dreams. Fox took himself another cigarette and then, almost as an afterthought, motioned the pack towards her. She took one.

"What's your label, honey?" Fox grated.

"Say" she cooed in a voice like a mink coat in the frozen wastes of Alaska. "You don't waste any time”, do you?"

"OK, sugar" Fox grunted. "Cut the cackle. This ain't no chance meeting. Who sent you here and what do they want?"

She lowered her eyelids and half smiled, like a schoolkid being asked out on a date for the first time. "Well since you ask so nicely" she said in a voice that could stimulate a corpse, "I thought maybe we could talk about business. You look like the kind of guy who wants to branch out on his own. That's the kind of guy I like."

This was the chance he'd been waiting for. Maybe this was all a coincidence, but Fox didn't believe in coincidence. He decided to play along.

"Sure, baby" he muttered. Let's go to your place and get down to business.

As he followed her down Manhattan, Fox suddenly realised that he hadn't left word with Grimwald about where he was going. Still, Fox mused. What can a dame do?

Ten minutes later they were at her pad. As she poured him a Bourbon, Fox noticed the filofax on the coffee table. It bore the initials L.K.

She brought him, his drink, and smiled at him. "Guess I'll just go and change into something more comfortable" she whispered as she "accidentally" brushed past him on her way to the bedroom.

"Yeah" Fox grated.

While she was out of the room, Fox flicked through the filofax. There was something screwy about it, but he couldn't quite make it out. He turned to today's date. The entry for this evening read "Dinner with Mike". He heard the bedroom door open, and quickly shut the filofax.

"Nice place you got here" he grunted:' "Yours?"

"Why not?" she cooed. He turned to look at her. She'd poured herself into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Fox approved.

"So tell me, honey" Fox gritted. "Where you been tonight, and how come you were in that bar? That ain't no place for a classy dame like you."

"I know what you must be thinking""she replied, "but it ain't the way it looks. I just got kind of lonesome sitting here reading about marketing and stuff.”

That was the clue Fox had been waiting for. Now all he had to do was get proof. She was the murderess alright. The proof wasn't long in coming.

She sat next to him on the sofa and snuggled up to him. Their lips met like they'd been lovers for a long time, but Fox wasn't taking any chances. He kept his eyes open.

As they kissed, her hand reached into her bag. She pulled out a small brown dropper bottle. He'd seen one just like it at the Be Centered Center, but it hadn't meant anything to him then.

He broke off the embrace and pulled the bottle away from her. "What's this?" he demanded.

She looked phased, but only for a second. "That's Rescue Remedy" she smiled. "It makes me feel relaxed. Maybe it could ease some of your tension too?"

"Rescue Remedy, huh?" Fox gritted. "Let's see what this stuff can do."

He undid the top and poured the contents over a plant. It died instantly.

"OK, baby" he rasped. I know you're the dame behind all those murders. Why d'you do it?"

"Why? Why?” she screamed. She was hysterical now. "Because I got sick and tired of all those smart asses who knew exactly what they wanted. Me? I'm confused. I done a Transformation workshop and some nut I know tried to turn me on to the I Ching. And you know something? I got even more confused. So I decided to avenge myself. At least the guys I bumped off won't ever be confused like I was. But how did you know it was me?"

"The filofax, honey," Fox grunted. “It had things in it you hadn't done, like having dinner with Mike, and it didn't have things in it that you had done, like visiting the speakeasy. You kept the filofax to keep the cops off your tail. But you gotta remember, baby: if you fake a filofax, you oughtta keep another one somewhere just to remind yourself of what you're really doing."

Fox walked into his office..' It was 5am. Grimwald was just starting the second page of the Menelli report.

"Say, boss. You, were gone quite a while."

"Yeah", said Fox as he opened the I Ching. "Quite' a 'while"