This software will change your life

OK, perhaps the title is a bit strong, but if you use photos of archival sources in your research you’ll get what I mean relatively quickly.

During my Masters – when I was fiddling about with Windows Photo Viewer, swearing at my laptop whilst it crashed because I was trying to find something and had inadvertently opened 42 different windows of Photo Viewer – I kept thinking that there must be a better way of viewing photos of primary documents.

“It would be so much easier if I could put them in a PDF.” I moaned, as my laptop began bleating pitifully, because I had 5 different “Explorer” windows open and was trying to differentiate between 7 copies of a photo called “DCM_1001_1519”.

On starting my PhD, I realised that this could not continue, and I’d have to find a way of doing it that was relatively quick and easy.

I had trialled various free PDF converters during my MA, but none of them were particularly easy to use (or quick, or free for longer than a month).

Recently, however, I found an excellent piece of software that has made everything much easier, and solved a lot of problems (my laptop still occasionally bleats at me, but this is one of the many special little things about it that gives it “Character”).

The software is called PDF Mate – Free PDF Merger (I’ll agree that it’s hardly an auspicious name), but it allows you to select any group of photos, and it’ll stitch them, in that order, into a PDF document which you can name in any way you like.

So instead of having files and files of photos like this:


I have files like these:


This software makes things much easier for a number of reasons.

Not only can I rotate all the photos once they’re in the PDF almost instantly (something that can take 30 minutes if you ask Windows to rotate each photo file individually), I can keep a consistent zoom across all the pages of the documents, jump to any page I like, skip through useless portions of documents quickly, and it’s easy to return to the page I was at (without having to remember that I was reading  “DCM_1001_4578” in a file called “PREM 11/4589”).

The best thing about turning the photos into a PDF, though, is that once you’ve done that, you can download this nifty little piece of freeware, and compress your files without loss of quality.

The only thing that technology could do for me now is to make some OCR software decent enough to interpret photos of hand-written Xeroxed carbon copies taken by someone who’s been in a windowless archive for 7 hours straight and is shaking due to an overload of caffeine…

But then I suppose, you can’t have everything.

Post by Stuart Butler 


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