[Editor’s note: Thomas MacEntee, Flip-Pal mobile scanner ambassador, discusses this year’s RootsTech conference and Flip-Pal’s new Toolbox software.]
I am excited about this year’s RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, March 21-23, 2013 where I will be a speaker, an Official Blogger and an attendee. While the description on the RootsTech website gives you a clue as to the focus of the event, RootsTech is more than just a technology and genealogy conference. I like to think of it as a “genealogy happening.”
When I attended the first such event in 2011, there really hadn’t been anything like it before and I was certain I was experiencing a one-time phenomenon. I was able to connect with over 60 genealogy and family history bloggers from around the world, and I also met genealogy product vendors like the Flip-Pal mobile scanner team.
Ask anyone who has attended the past two RootsTech events and you’ll understand that there is a certain “vibe” which can’t easily be described. Perhaps as someone who follows the genealogy industry both from a personal and professional perspective, I have a different sense for what RootsTech is and what it isn’t.
I do know that it isn’t your typical genealogy conference, mainly due to its focus on technology. I also know that there is a serious commitment to finding solutions via technology—solutions that can expand the typical genealogy experience. As I’ve said before, the basic fundamentals of genealogical research remain unchanged but the tools we use to conduct that research are constantly changing before our eyes. At RootsTech, attendees will learn about the latest tools and also what the future will bring for family historians.
Visit the Flip-Pal Team at Booth #328
This year, Flip-Pal will once again be attending RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center and helping attendees understand why preserving family photos and documents is an important part of genealogy.
RootsTech brings “technologists together with genealogists to find solutions to the challenges of genealogy research,” and in that manner a presence by Flip-Pal is a perfect fit. During the three-day conference, members of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner team will demonstrate the benefits of using the new Flip-Pal Software and Flip-Pal Toolbox in booth # 328.
New Flip-Pal Software
You read that right: there is a new Flip-Pal Software 2, which comes with a new, intuitive interface featuring web-like navigation. When using the Flip-Pal EasyStitch software to “stitch” scans of large originals, users now find images that are larger and easier to view. In addition, the new software makes scans easy to share and upload to the web, while the new “Community” page allows users to connect with other Flip-Pal mobile scanner owners, partners, videos and more. And with the Flip-Pal Software 2, users can easily get the latest changes in Flip-Pal tools and software with a single button.
Flip-Pal Events at RootsTech
You won’t want to miss these Flip-Pal events if you are attending RootsTech:
- Diane Miller, Flip-Pal mobile scanner genealogy expert, will demonstrate the new Flip-Pal Software 2 and Flip-Pal Toolbox 2 design at the Demo Theater in the Exhibit Hall on Thursday at 4:20 p.m.
- At 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, Thomas MacEntee, Flip-Pal mobile scanner ambassador, will present “Collecting the Fabric of Life – Scanning in 3D,” in Room 255B.
See You at RootsTech!
RootsTech has become a “once a year” industry event for me and I look forward to each occurrence with anticipation. I know I will always discover new ideas and be able to share them with other technology users who also happen to be genealogists and family historians.
Don’t forget to stop by booth #328 and talk with the Flip-Pal team. If you can’t attend this year’s RootsTech, please visit http://flip-pal.com/customer-care and click on the “Downloads” tab for more information about the new Flip-Pal Software 2 and how Flip-Pal customers can update their Toolbox software.
[Editor’s note: Cina Johnson of Ohana Software shares her thoughts on why the Flip-Pal mobile scanner is the perfect scanning tool for family historians.]
Have you seen the movie, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids? If so, then imagine using that invention to shrink your flat-bed scanner down to 10¼″ x 6½″. Then throw away your power cord, add a small viewing screen and a memory card—so you don’t need a computer—and you will have a new found freedom in the form of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner.
Flip-Pal Means Scanning Freedom
Not only will you be able to scan items without the need for a plug and computer, but this miracle machine goes even further by making it possible to scan very large, flat objects. This is accomplished by removing the scanning cover so you can see straight through the scanning bed and out the bottom of the scanner and see the object you are scanning.
I mentioned freedom as a result of shrinking a flat-bed scanner. Here are two examples of what I am talking about. While sitting in the family room in my recliner, I scanned a small photo album. How sweet is that after sitting at a desk all day! And while sitting on the bedroom floor looking through a box of memorabilia I found a small folder with a picture of my Dad along with his pilot’s certification and some other papers from WWII. I hopped on the bed, grabbed my Flip-Pal and began scanning the contents of the folder. In a couple of minutes I had scanned all these forgotten treasures and put them back where they belonged.
Scanning Is No Longer a Chore with the Flip-Pal
Had it not been for the Flip-Pal, I probably would not have bothered scanning them since it would have meant going into the office, booting up the computer, warming up the flatbed scanner and then scanning. Maybe I would have put them into a pile to “scan someday”…but you know what that really means! The freedom to act on the spur of the moment (find, scan and return) is remarkable.
Flip-Pal Easy Stitch Software—Free and Easy
I also mentioned that you can scan large flat objects. The process is different from using a scanning wand. With the Flip-Pal you take a series of scans so that the entire document, picture or design is in essence scanned. After you finish scanning the object in overlapping segments, go to your computer and use the Flip-Pal Easy Stitch software (included with your purchase) and with no effort on your part, your scans are PERFECTLY stitched together to form one complete photograph. To say that the software is remarkable is an understatement…it’s jaw dropping!
I recently made 32 scans of my grandfather's large diploma and used the Flip-Pal Easy Stitch software to stitch them together and the final result was FLAWLESS. I've stitched photographs of buildings and of faces and the results have always been seamless. I've never seen such good results when stitching photos and the process is EASY.
I also ran across a colored picture that was taken in 1974 and the colors had all turned orange. I used the Flip-Pal mobile scanner to scan the picture then used the Color Restoration Software (also included with the purchase) to restore the color. There are options to adjust the colors but after playing around I decided the software did a better job than I could do on my own.
The software alone is worth the price of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner. Its convenience makes it an incredible value. The simplicity of using the Flip-Pal mobile scanner and the included software attests to the care that the developers have put into making it user friendly.
No Tech Knowledge Needed
I checked the Flip-Pal mobile scanner website and found that it is user friendly and enlightening. Their FAQ page answered the questions I had about batteries and about scanning framed objects. I checked out their website pages under the About Flip-Pal tab and learned a lot. This page contains customer comments and by reading this and their blog I have even more ideas of how and where to use the Flip-Pal mobile scanner. I’m going to be taking it with me the next time I visit my family out of state—and my list of scanning projects is growing.
My Review of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner
Is the Flip-Pal perfect? No, but I only have two wishes and that says a lot. First, I wish they offered a plug-in cord so I COULD use it without batteries when I’m working at home. I love the fact that the Flip-Pal is battery operated so it can be used anywhere but a plug-in option would be nice. Second, I wish there was a bit more depth-of-field in the focus so that matted pictures and slight indentations from a book’s binding would stay in focus. Neither of these is so great that it would prevent me from purchasing the product.
With all that the Flip-Pal mobile scanner does, I will use it much more than I thought I would. It’s so handy and compact that it will stay by my side while I complete my picture preservation project. I just wish I’d had it sooner because it is so FAST. A full sized flatbed scanner takes a lot longer to scan a 4”x 6” photograph than the Flip-Pal, so by staying at my table with all my pictures I can scan a LOT in a remarkably short time.
To be perfectly honest, I was given a Flip-Pal mobile scanner evaluation unit so I could review the device and write this article. However, I’ve had the Flip-Pal mobile scanner on my wish list for some time and now that I have it, I’m not disappointed. In fact, the more I’ve used it, the more I’m enjoying it!
A Stitch in Time Saves Images
Scanning 4” x 6” pictures with the Flip-Pal mobile scanner is quite easy, even if the pictures are glued into the old albums like my family’s pictures all seem to be. But what do you do if you are faced with a picture similar to the one above—20” x 6”, old, cracked and curled from being rolled-up for so many years?
I can’t tell you how to get it to relax from its rolled state—there are archival experts to help you with that, but I will take you step by step through scanning this photo in multiple overlapping scans, then using Flip-Pal EasyStitch to put it back together into a single digital image.
EasyStitch is simple to use, but the computer program itself is quite sophisticated. It uses pattern matching on all of the scans of your original. It matches the seams flawlessly so your large photo, quilt, document or sketch can be put back together into a whole digital image. All you need to do is make the overlapping scans!
Getting Started – Preparing to Scan
So the first thing you do is pop the lid off your Flip-Pal mobile scanner. It may be a little harder to do the first couple of times you try it. If you look closely, you can see small finger indents on each side near where the lid attaches to the scanner. Just easily pry them up.
Then flip the scanner over. If you look at the bottom window, you will see lines etched a little more than half an inch from the edges. These are your overlap guides. You don’t have to be exact when you are scanning, but you certainly do need to have some kind of overlapping pattern that EasyStitch can use to knit your scans back together!
Find a clean flat surface large enough to lay your photo, art piece, document or quilt so that it is stretched out completely. You may even want to weigh down the corners to make sure it will lay as flat as possible. Note: If you are scanning a framed picture, in most cases you won’t have to take the picture out of the frame to scan it, especially if it is close to the front glass.
The “Fun Flip” Part – Capturing Image Segments
Now, comes the “Fun Flip” part! Turn on the scanner. Start somewhere on the image where you can keep track of your scanning progress (see the example below), flip-over the Flip-Pal mobile scanner and press the green “scan” button. Watch as the scan bar goes to the opposite end of the scanner. When it starts its traverse back “home,” then it is safe to move the scanner to the next area of your original to scan.
Lining up for your next scan doesn’t have to be exact or even in order. Before you move the scanner from its first position, note where the far edge etched line on the back of the scanner cuts across the picture. Then move the scanner to the near edge etched line. This video can quickly show you how it is done:
Click here to access the Stitching Scans Together with Flip-Pal mobile scanner video.
These scans can then be stitched together to form one image. You can use the lines etched in the bottom window to align the overlaps.
Stitching the Image Segments Together
Now that you have done your overlapping scans, take the SD card out of your scanner. Just a quick push towards the scanner will cause it to pop out far enough to grab it. Put it in your computer. If you don’t have a slot for reading the SD card, then firmly push it into the SD to USB adaptor that is provided with the Flip-Pal and then put the USB adaptor into any USB slot on your computer.
Next, start the EasyStitch software:
- Windows: Start the Flip-Pal Toolbox and then click Stitch Scans.
- Mac: On the desktop double-click the Flip-Pal disk icon. In the Finder window, double-click on the Mac Folder. Then double-click EasyStitch.
The Flip-Pal EasyStitch dialog appears:
Click Select Files to Stitch and the Select Pictures to Stitch dialog appears. Select the images to be stitched.
To easily select all the scans for a single large original, select the first scan (e.g., SCAN0195 above) then press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard, then click the last scan in the series (e.g., SCAN0204 above). That will select all in the series between the selections.
To pick individual scans, hold down the Control (or Apple) Key while clicking on each image that you want to select.
Next, click Open at bottom of the Select Pictures to Stitch dialog. The program automatically stitches the images together into a single image.
A Stitching Tip
Here’s a little tip that I use to help me decide which scans should go into a single image. I always do a scan of my Flip-Pal mobile scanner carry case between each set of photo/page scans. That way (as you can see above) it is easy to select only the images between the carry case scans!
The Results: A Stitched Image
EasyStitch displays the stitched image using your default photo editing or viewing program, and automatically saves the stitched image in the same folder as the originals with the name Stitch[first image]-[last image].jpg, using the names of the first and last individual images used in the stitching process.
In the example above, you may notice the “ragged edges.” If your default photo viewing program is also a photo editor, use it at this point to crop, rotate or make other edits to the image. Otherwise, use a photo editor, such as Photoshop Elements, at any point in the future.
Another tip: as a best practice, save the photo with a unique name by clicking File, then Save As or Copy As.
Image Stitching in a Snap
So there you have it . . . a quick tour of stitching images scanned by the Flip-Pal mobile scanner. The process is simple and, as you can see, you don’t need to line up images or do any math to create a stitched image. Just select the individual images and let the Flip-Pal EasyStitch software do the rest!
Photo: Civilian Conservation Corps #671, Yarth Camp, Rapid River, Michigan, July 12, 1933. Used by permission of M. Bird.
[Editor’s note: The following guest post from A.C. Ivory, author of the Find My Ancestor blog, shares his first encounter with the Flip-Pal® mobile scanner and with photos (and even a YouTube video) shows how you can get started scanning your photos and documents practically anywhere.]
Some of you may have heard about the new mobile scanner produced by Flip-Pal. A few years ago, Flip-Pal was at the Sandy Family History Expo showing off their cool new product and I was able to sit down and play with one at the expo.
I am so impressed with these little scanners! I must admit, when I first saw and heard about them I was a little skeptical. I thought to myself there is no way a little scanner like that could produce such a great quality image. But I have changed my mind!
This scanner is very lightweight and the perfect size for taking it around wherever you go.
You can see how small and mobile the scanner is.
Click here for the Flip-Pal mobile scanner technical specifications.
The photo above shows some of the different buttons and components of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner.
The Flip-Pal comes with a 2GB Secure Digital (SD) card for saving your scans. The card also comes software for color correction and photo stitching. Since the software comes on the card, all you have to do is insert the card into your computer and the software automatically loads and asks you whether you want to stitch a photo together or make a color correction. If you ever lose your SD card, you can download the software from their website and put it onto another SD card.
Some of you may be saying to yourselves right now "I don't have an SD slot in my computer or a reader that I can use with my computer." For those of you who do not have an external reader or a built-in reader in your computer, Flip-Pal also includes a USB adapter (see the photo, below) that you simply put your SD card into and then you insert the USB adapter into your computer’s USB slot.
The Flip-Pal has a little display screen for changing the scan resolution, either 300 dpi or 600 dpi. You can also change other settings on the screen. Of course, the screen will also show you a preview of the image you just scanned. This allows you to decide whether you want to keep that scan or do another one.
One of the coolest features that I find is that you can take off the lid or the top of the scanning bed and then turn the scanner upside down and scan a book or a large photo! There have been a couple of times where this would have been really handy for me! I have gone through a couple of old scrapbooks my grandma and mom have made, and with each of them I have had to carefully take apart the scrapbook in order for it to fit onto my flat-bed scanner at home. With the Flip-Pal you don't have to do that anymore!
For photos and documents that are larger than the scanning screen all you have to do is "stitch" them together. Now in the past, it required quite a bit of time, talent, and proper software in order to do this. With the Flip-Pal it’s as easy as scanning the images and telling the software which images you want to stitch together…the Flip-Pal does the rest! I have to admit that this photo stitching software is the best I have seen considering how simple it is. While I don't have an actual example of an image that was stitched together—trust me—it is good! You couldn't even tell that it was scanned in multiple sections and then put together into one image!
All the images saved from the scanner are in a JPG format, which works on both the Windows and Mac operating systems.
Also another really cool feature I find with the Flip-Pal is that you aren't limited to 2D scans anymore! With the Flip-Pal you can scan 3D objects such as coins, military medals and even water bottles! Now you may be asking yourself “why you would ever want to scan a water bottle?” Well, you might have an old soda pop bottle or an ancestor’s old tin can that you would like to get an image of what is on it. You can always take a picture, but the photo would be distorted according to the contour of the bottle. With the Flip-Pal you can get a flat image from a circular object!
[Editor’s note: The following guest post from Susan Petersen, author of LongLostRelatives.net, reviews the Flip-Pal mobile scanner and shows how you can be up-and-running in just minutes and on your way to scanning family photos.]
I've eagerly been waiting for my Flip-Pal mobile scanner to arrive ever since I ordered it. This little gem arrived yesterday and I've been trying out some basic scanning as well as scanning an oversized document to see how the EasyStitch software works.
I was scanning some 55-year-old snapshots in less than five minutes after opening the box.
First of all, this scanner is fast. I'm used to my flatbed scanner warming up, grinding around and taking its sweet time. This scanner was producing images for me in just a few seconds.
The image above is just a very ordinary photo of yours truly mugging for the camera. It's fairly typical of Brownie camera photographs processed at the drugstore in the mid-1950s. With some minor adjustments in the contrast, the scan actually looks sharper than the original.
The software that comes with the scanner allows you to make some adjustments with brightness and contrast. I found it to be quite satisfactory for these "quick and dirty" examples. If you want to do more photo restoration in Photoshop or in another photo editing software that would be fine, but for most scans I think the Flip-Pal software is totally acceptable.
The image below is a “Before and After” example of the type of adjustments you can make to your scanned images. On the left is my original scan and on the right is the image after I experimented with the brightness and contrast. The original image is from one of those small photo booth pictures, circa 1940.
The next project was to see just how this works on oversize images. After all, isn't that the reason that a lot of us genealogists are interested in this product?
I went straight for my grandfather's childhood scrapbook of magazine photos of horses, cows and pigs. It's about 12" x 14", maybe even larger, but it's too big to get a full page on my flatbed scanner. It took me a couple tries to get the auto-stitching software to work, but that was my own fault since I seldom read instruction manuals unless absolutely necessary. Since the software was not recognizing any “stitchable” regions, I realized that my scans had to overlap with one another. I made 11 scans of the page and here are four of them, just to demonstrate what the individual scanned images look like. (Image size is reduced for the blog post.)
The Flip-Pal software is loaded on the 2GB SD memory card that comes with the scanner.
I clicked on the menu item "Stitch Scans," selected the scanned images to sew together and in only a few seconds I had the following image on my computer screen:
I've left this image at its original size so you can click on it to see the full-size hi-res scan. I'll challenge anyone to find each individual scanned image. It absolutely matches perfectly. I even avoided cropping this image so you could see the overage on the sides where I did the scanning. Well, what can I say? This is one of the two main reasons that I wanted to get this scanner.