[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!
How was your last family reunion spent? I’m sure you had a great spread of food, including favorite family dishes, some activities for the kids and perhaps even a family tree chart or a display highlighting the family’s history. Even if there wasn’t a book or binder with all the genealogy information for family to share, I’m sure there were plenty of conversations about parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles—all of whom have passed on.
Family Gatherings and Missed Opportunities
How many family reunions have you attended where you wished you could somehow capture all of the information that was being shared? Cousins swapping names of relatives, correcting each other as to birth dates and family stories. And what about photos being passed around and the conversations sparked by seeing family members in days gone by?
Start Planning Now!
As the “keeper of the family history,” as we genealogists are often known (and there’s always one in each family), we’re always looking for those opportunities to collect and gather more information.
I find it is easier to take a proactive approach to facilitating the sharing of family history information at family events. This means plan ahead! Also, to keep family members engaged and interested, I try to mix it up and take a different approach than the usual phone call or email telling family members to “bring stuff” to the reunion.
Here are some ideas:
- Set up a family history scan site at the reunion. Have you attended genealogy conferences where companies like Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com) offer to scan your photos and documents? Why not use a Flip-Pal mobile scanner (http://flip-pal.com) to make it easy to scan photos right at the reunion? Ask family members to bring items for scanning and explain how the process will work. Create an instruction sheet so everyone will know how items will be scanned, where they will be stored and how they can be accessed later. If Ancestry can do it, so can you!
- Capture names and dates for photos. Don’t forget that the Flip-Pal Sketch Kit makes it easy to “annotate” photos without harming the original. Use it to write names, dates and places related to the photo before scanning.
- Use family group sheets to collect information. Rather than have family members send you long written notes and narratives with the latest updates as to births, deaths, etc., why not send them blank family group sheet forms ahead of time? They can fill them out and then submit them at the reunion. In fact, set up a contest with a drawing as an incentive to ensure the forms are submitted. Also, make sure you have a set of blank forms on hand at the reunion for folks to fill out. Check out the list of free family history forms at Cyndi’s List (http://www.cyndislist.com/free-stuff/printable-charts-and-forms/).
- Get the children involved! Create an activity using copies of family photos and small cards with names, dates and locations where the kids have to match the photo with the correct information card. Here’s another idea: create a blank family tree and have them place the photos on the tree in the correct arrangement.
- Use memory prompts to get great stories. Don’t rely on open-ended questions to gather family history information; instead, create printed “prompts” that will inspire family members to reach the depths of their memory for those family stories and facts about ancestors. Cover all the bases including school days, first date, first car, first job, weather, clothes, shopping and more. It would be fun to have a Memory Jar where someone has to reach in and pick a prompt and then give his or her answer!
- Remember those old photo booths? Why not set up a fun photo booth or even a video interview booth to capture images and stories from family members at the reunion. Create a sign-up sheet so families can reserve a time for their close up!
- Create an email newsletter and notify family members. Do you remember receiving holiday newsletters from family members at the end of the year? Why not create a similar newsletter either online or using e-mail. There are plenty of options including free programs like MailChimp (http://www.mailchimp.com), or just use your current email program. Stick to a monthly schedule and help maintain the excitement about the reunion!
The Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Can Help
There is a lot to do and lots of fun right? It is never too early to get started on being the “family history fun facilitator” for your next event. The holiday season will be here sooner than you think and of course don’t forget next summer’s family reunion! Get started now by scanning your previous family photos, important family history documents and even military medals and other 3-dimensional mementos.
Judy H., shared her experience as a recent Flip-Pal customer:
"I am going to a family reunion next month and doing a presentation of family pictures dating back to the mid 1800's. I have hundreds of pictures that I would have had to scan with my printer and then save and I was dreading doing it because of the countless hours it would've taken me. I received an email about the Flip-Pal and then went online, checked it out and bought it. A few nights ago, as I was watching TV, I scanned over 200 pictures in a couple of hours...this product is amazing!!! I have another couple hundred to scan and am actually looking forward to doing it now. Thanks for such an awesome product!"
Make sure you have a Flip-Pal mobile scanner ready to capture all those photos and documents right on-site at the reunion. Believe me—folks may promise you they’ll scan the items themselves and post them online or email them, but once they get home it is so easy to get wrapped up in other projects and guess what? A year goes by, the next family reunion arrives and the process starts all over.
[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.