Never Lose Another Idea with JotNot for the iPhone

I recently discovered a cool app for iPhone called JotNot that enables you to capture the contents of notes, documents, business cards, white boards and other flat surfaces using the iPhone's camera. This makes it an ideal idea capture tool.

During the past year, Evernote – a note-taking and information management tool that is available for multiple computing platforms – has become the nerve center of my writing operations for and two blogs I publish. It’s where I capture blog post, article, report and information product ideas for future development. I also use it to keep notes on new services I’d like to create and follow-ups on projects upon which I’m working.

But there never was a practical way to integrate hand-written notes with this information store, other than to use a flatbed scanner and laboriously digitize them, page by page – until now. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a cool little app for the iPhone called JotNot that utilizes the mobile device’s camera as a document scanning tool. The idea of this incredible app couldn’t be simpler:

1. Open JotNot

2. Select the camera icon and take a picture of a page of your notes.

3. When you have an acceptable image, process it in JotNot. This uses a clever touch-based screen to align the corners of a rectangular guideline to each corner of the image, so you can correct for parallax (see the image at right for an example – the corners can be dragged to define the “shape” of the processed scan) – distortion caused by not having the iPhone’s camera perfectly positioned over the document you’ve “scanned.” It can also be used to crop the scan, so that only part of your subject gets captured by JotNot. This app also correcrects for any issues with lighting, color and contrast, enhancing the quality and legibility of your document.

When you’re finished with this process, the document you’ve photographed is added to JotNot’s library. You can then scan additional pages of notes, business cards and other documents and add them to the current document, or to a new one. This enables you to easily create multi-page scanned documents. Simple, but very clever.

The final step is to export your scanned document to Evernote with a single tap of the screen. Selecting this option displays a dialog box where you can create a document title, select the Evernote notebook to which you want your document to be sent, and to add any tags you want to create. You can convert your scan into a PDF, or transfer it in its native JPG format. I tried this with several sets of my recent notes from conversations with people about, and it worked perfectly. It was very exciting to see my hand-written notes appear within my Evernote files.

JotNot can also perform a limited amount of optical character recognition on text; I tested this capability with a single business card; once I transferred its image into EverNote, I was able to search for the person’t last name. The proper Evernote entry appeared, with the last name highlighted in the JPG image. Very cool!

You can use the app’s presets to capture a variety of information via the iPhone’s camera, including receipts, whiteboards and blackboards. Basically, if you can photograph it with the iPhone, you can capture it with JotNot – magazine articles, artwork, sheet music, and other flat documents.

JotNot can also be used to send scans to:

  • E-mail messages
  • Fax
  • WebDAV/iDisk
  • Google Docs
  • Dropbox

One of the really nice things about JotNot is that all of the processing takes place within the iPhone, not on a third-party website – ideal if the documents you’re scanning must be kept private.

If you capture ideas using a combination of electronic and analog (i.e., writing) means, then you’ll love JotNot. It’s available for only US$0.99 in the Apple AppStore.