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WhiteLines® – A Little $3 Swedish Notetaking Gem

For this article, I want to share with you a Swedish productivity gem that I came across by accident when I went with one of my girls to shop for school stationery at Warehouse Stationery.

On one of its shelves was an ordinary looking $3 exercise book called WhiteLines® but which comes with a label that says, “Write, scan & save your notes with Whitelines® Link”

I knew I struck something profound when upon reaching home, I was able to immediately write some notes on the pages of the book with an ordinary ballpoint pen, download the free app, and convert the notes into electronic form within seconds.

I have always been on the lookout for ways in which technology and non-technical people can work together. All too often, workers have to adapt their ways of working to suit the computer. Once in a long while, I discover a nugget where computing has been adapted to work the way that workers work. This article is about Whitelines, one such jewel.

Once in a long while, I discover a nugget where computing has been adapted to work the way that workers work. This article is about Whitelines, one such jewel.

At its simplest, Whitelines consists of a notebook made of ordinary paper but with special markings on the pages, and a freely downloadable mobile app for converting the pages into electronic form. All this is done almost without any technical knowledge and within seconds. The cost is almost negligible.

This is how it works.

Whitelines notebooks are identical to any notebook except that instead of having white pages 

with darker lines printed on them, they are light grey with white lines. Besides that, Whitelines paper also has four small white squares printed at each corner that resemble QR codes.

In the picture below I have indicated (with red boxes) where those four square boxes are. At the bottom of the same picture, I have also drawn a blue rectangle to highlight the area where there are three icons. By placing a cross on any of the icons (called Quickboxes), you indicate to the app how you would like the note to be auto-synced – choose between your email inbox, Evernote or DropBox.

So, your first step is to use any pen to write your notes or draw your pictures on the Whitelines page. When you have finished your notes on each page, you draw a cross on one of the three Quickboxes.

The mobile app is free to download from Google or Apple Store. The only setting required is to indicate what is your email address and your credentials for your Evernote and DropBox accounts if you intend using them.

When you are ready to scan, simply open the app and use your mobile’s camera to take a picture of it. Here is where Whiteline’s cleverness comes in.

First, the app is programmed to detect the four squares. Each time one of the squares is detected, the app flashes an orange square on the mobile’s screen. When it detects all four squares (indicating that the entire page is within coverage), the system automatically snaps the picture and converts it into pdf.

I have enjoyed using WhiteLines. It requires no training because it uses plain old pen and paper.

It also orientates the page so that the final picture of the page is perfectly rectangular. Furthermore, the app crops the picture so that only the Whitelines page remains. Therefore, if your camera picks up anything else beyond the page, that will disappear automatically.

What is left is a picture-perfect, cropped and straightened shot of the page with a perfectly white background to make the words stand out.

Next, if any of the Quickboxes (email, Evernote and DropBox) is selected, it will send the pdf to the selected destination.

The time it takes me to turn on the app and snap the picture is usually no more than 15-20 seconds. Once it has come into my mailbox, I can deal with it in any way that I usually deal with pdf attachments that anybody has sent me.

The filing of these notes in fact is a very critical step in the whole process because it is what makes the Whitelines book so much more useful than an ordinary notebook.

For instance, with these electronic Whitelines notes, I can import them into specific client folders within my CRM database. Or I rename the file names to reflect the subject and then file them into pre-named directories. For example if I have met with Elvis Presley to discuss an upcoming appearance in Hamilton, I may name the file “Presley Elvis 2018 02 05 Hamilton concert initial planning meeting” and store them in the ‘Hamilton Concert’ directory.

I believe that even the most IT-challenged worker should be able to master this technology without effort. And there is virtually no cost involved other than buying a notebook, which costs less than other ordinary notebooks.

If you want something more fancy, there is a whole range of books available. For example, a German manufacturer produces a range of very high-quality fashionable hardcover notebooks. The A5 book with 125 sheets costs $28.45 plus freight. Otherwise, OfficeMax and Stationery Warehouse sell books at $2.60 each for an A6, $4.34 for A5 and $7.38 for A4 (all ex GST). There are many other sizes and styles as well.

I believe that even the most IT-challenged worker should be able to master this technology without effort. And there is virtually no cost involved other than buying a notebook, which costs less than other ordinary notebooks.

Readers of my column will recognise that this technology is very similar to another handwriting technology called LiveScribe, which I have been using for nearly a decade now. LiveScribe uses another Swedish innovation called Anoto.

I can now access all my notes on paper notebooks (where accessible) or my tablet or my mobile. Freedom and efficiency – that is what good technology is all about.

I have enjoyed using WhiteLines. It requires no training because it uses plain old pen and paper. The technology bit (mobile app) is simple and efficient. It is also very cheap. I can now access all my notes on paper notebooks (where accessible) or my tablet or my mobile. Freedom and efficiency – that is what good technology is all about. Give it a go.

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