I’ve noticed a lot of my classmates still prefer to print off articles and chapters that are available freely online to read them in hard copy rather than on their computer screens. I’m not sure if this is because they inherently hate reading off a computer screen, or if it’s because they like to scribble notes to themselves in the margins.
If it’s the later, I have a few suggestions that can let you take those notes, without having to use all that paper and waste your ink cartridges.
First, let’s assume the reading in question is a .pdf file. For example, one I have found on the internet: S. Smale’s Differentiable Dynamical Systems. Don’t worry I don’t understand what it’s about either.
Instead of clicking on that tempting print button, click on the “Select Tool,” click on any point in the text and type CTRL A, then CTRL C. You can then open up your favourite word processing program and paste the entire document into your word processor where you can manipulate it.
Now, to take all those notes you so love. (The following suggestions are tailored to users of MS Word, since that’s what I use).
If you’re a person who likes to highlight as you read, you can do so with this tool:
If you like to write text in the margins but you don’t want to mess up the formatting of the document, click on the INSERT menu, and then click “Add Comment” (Don't worry it's less invasive in a real Word.doc)
And there’s so much more flexibility with a word processor that you just can’t do after you’ve printed that article out. You can Bold the important words. italicize the article’s thesis statement. Want the article double spaced so you can read it better? Piece of cake. Don’t like the column width? Easy to change.
Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a laptop you can bring with you to the class discussion, you can type CTRL F and search the entire article for that quote you just know is in there somewhere but you can’t remember where and then everyone will think you’re a genius for having the perfect contribution to the discussion.
I know some of you out there love the smell and feel of paper. So to quell that concern as well, Please feel free to print off this article and take it with you everywhere you go. That way, if while reading your articles on your computer you begin to pine for paper, you can pull out my article, give it a big hug and continue your work refreshed.
Because really, are you going to read that article you just printed off ever again? Save a tree, save yourself some money, and experiment a little with what your computer can do. You might even like it.
*Note, this only works if the person who created the document has used the full version of Adobe Acrobat and has let Acrobat use Optical Character Recognition to convert the contents of the document to text. Unfortunately, as many of you have found, the only way to get some .PDF documents into text is to have your own Optical Character Recognition software.