Tools I recommend

  • Zotero (for note taking and citation management)
  • Jotnot (for scanning docs)
  • Adobe Acrobat DC/ Pro (PDF OCR and manipulation)
  • Dropbox or Box (for cloud storage)

Text Extraction Software

Available in the Digital Scholarship Lab.

OCR Conversion

OCR (Optical Text Recognition) can convert your images to text if they are in a type format. This can be very useful for searching your documents. But OCR will not work on handwriting, so it is not always useful.

Use the tools you know and love

If you love Evernote or Devonthink or Google docs, go ahead and find a workflow that uses them. I prefer to recommend free (if only to Cornell students) and non-commercial products if I can, but if you are already committed to a product, keep using it.

Technology in the library

New York Public Library in 1911
Peter A. Juley, photographer.;
"Technology," 1911 (detail)
Repository:New York Public Library Archives. Source: Flickr Commons

Adobe DC

While the free version of Adobe Acrobat allows you to read PDF files, Pro allows you to manipulate those files, including deleting pages, reordering, or extracting sections. While you would definitely require Adobe Acrobat Professional in order to convert JPGs to PDFs if you use a camera, it is still a useful app to have when using a scanner app, since it also allows you to easily edit and extract individual pages to create single documents, or to combine multiple documents.

Remember that archival files are usually not described down to the item level. That means that if you want to cite or store single items in Zotero, you will have to create that metadata yourself (rather than just having Zotero pull it in for you). Acrobat Pro can take a large file-- whole folders that you have "scanned" and you can extract single pages or multiple pages so they can easily be stored in Zotero. 

Acrobat can also run OCR on your PDF files, thus making them searchable. Zotero can search the content of your PDFs if you set it up to do so, so it can really be helpful when you didn't properly tag your notes as you planned to!

Available on all library computers.

Easy PDF

Easy PDF is a free online PDF conversion tool that can convert files from and to PDF. This tool can be used without limitation or registration, no ads served.

Conversions supported by Easy PDF:

- Convert scanned or regular PDF to Word, Text, Excel, PowerPoint, JPG, PNG, GIF

- Create PDF from more than 100 different file types (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PNG, JPG, TIFF, Publisher, HTML, etc.)

- OCR online extracts text from scanned images and photos to Word, Excel or Text

- Convert PDFs (designed with AutoCAD) to DWG

- Split, merge and compress PDF


Some other benefits of using Easy PDF:

- Completely free and without ads, no limitations on the number of conversions or file size

- No registration, you can use the tool anonymously

- Secure and automated conversions, files are automatically deleted from servers

- Import files directly from Google Drive and Dropbox

- Usable with any browser on Mac, Windows, Linux or mobile devices

- Multiple languages supported

- Convert files in 3 clicks and under 1 minute


Visit for all conversions or go to for OCR.