Back to Data Drudgery

I finally settled into being retired and at home all the time, including getting through the fishing and hunting seasons, getting a month-long cold or flu from visiting relatives, and then making it through the holidays. I’m back to finishing the drudge work of recording the data from each letter before I begin the transcribing, and have yet to fall in love with this database software, FileMaker Pro. For some reason, the data field for the date of each letter was converted to “timestamp” when I converted the original Bento file, and when I change it to “date,” I can’t get the letters to order correctly, so I guess I’m going to work with a copy of the file to see if I can correct the fields. Otherwise, it forces me to put a time with each date (e.g. 2/12/1942 12:00), which is annoying, in addition to being unnecessary and meaningless. I’m sure I’ll figure it out, but why can’t it be easy, like Bento? Yes, I’ll get over it.

Anyway, the data recording will be over soon, and I’m also adding the letter scan to each record, which I mentioned in the last post (with images), so the records will be more useful in the end, especially for sharing. I’m anxious to get into the transcribing. To help me get out of retirement mode and back into working mode, I’ve decided to wear my casual work clothes instead of the t-shirts and yoga pants I’ve become accustomed to rather quickly.

Interesting note—someone referenced one of my posts on punctuation in a YouTube video the other day about punctuation and it brought in an avalanche of site visitors, who I’m sure are wondering what’s going on here. It was my post about the punctuation called the dog’s bollocks and the video even referenced my image of the letter. It’s kind of buried in the video in a section about emoticons at about 3:09-3:22 minutes. Wait for it. You can see the video here: http://youtu.be/O9ak89FwYeI

Learning to love new software

Since I have no option, pretty much, I’m trying to fall in love with FileMaker Pro and its corresponding iPad app. The app is not as useful as the former Bento app where I did all my work, but it has improved from the earlier versions. Of course it cost me another chunk of money to upgrade to version 13. Whatever. I’ve taken advantage of a few of their webinars and will continue to do so, although they are more business oriented than for an academic project (academic in nature but without the academic institution).

One nice feature is that I can share the database in a read-only version with up to five iPad users, which will allow me to share them with family before all the transcribing is done. I’m going to try that soon with my brother to see if it works as described. The containers in the forms also allow me to drop in PDFs of the letter scans, which can then be read by those I’ve shared a file with. I’m working on the style of the database forms to make them as readable as possible. Will I also add the transcriptions to the forms? Maybe.

The layout options in the forms include using templates that fit your devices, mobile devices or computer screens. I’m just using the layout for the iPad, but you could choose a phone layout, as well. To save space in the forms, there are tabbed containers that are like a set of folders that you can flip through without scrolling down the page. I’m trying to get the forms just right before I start transcribing, because that’s when I will be finding topics and keywords to put in the forms to help me when I want to create an index to the letters. I pretty much see me transcribing in WordPress and curating the details in FileMaker Pro (I just wanted to see if I could use the buzzword curating).

Here are a few screenshots of how the data looks on the computer and the iPad:

The iPad screenshots were taken before I made a few adjustments to both the spreadsheet and the form, but I will have to email the whole file to myself and open it in the app to see those changes. I wish FileMaker Go updated on the device automatically, but the file would have to be hosted with FileMaker for that, so I’ll be emailing it whenever I want an update. That’s why I won’t be using the iPad app much nor updating it too often, just for sharing.

I finally figured out how to rearrange columns in the spreadsheet, but it was clunky and not even as easy as in Excel or Google Drive, unfortunately. Still, I’m not complaining; I’m learning to love.

A Lovely Display of Letters

At least to an academic, this digital collection of “The John McCoy Family Papers” at the Dartmouth College Library is lovely. View the documents and letters from this page: http://collections.dartmouth.edu/teitexts/jmccoy/index.html

Here’s a nice example of what I find so inviting in the display. The transcription on the left is clear and easy to read, without too many interruptions except where words are illegible. The actual letter image is available on the right in a nice viewer that does not allow readers to copy or download the document, to prevent distribution. I don’t think I’ll ever have the skills or resources to do something like that (you never know), but this would be a nice format in which to display my letters once transcribed. I’ve heard (I have connections) that the collection will eventually offer a toggle to the full TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) markup, something I’d like to learn in my coding adventures.

Dartmouth Library Document Collection Display
Dartmouth Library Document Collection Page Display

Going Home

At the end of June, I’m retiring, and this weekend I’m doing what my father wanted so badly to do when he was in Korea—I’m going home. As I’ve already written, I have moved the computer and since then the desk and most of my belongings. I even bought a new computer, which is still in the box, waiting to be the new workhorse of the project. Next weekend my remaining furniture will be moved home and I will be driving back and forth to work from there until the end of June. You can read about my failed career in my portfolio or not if you aren’t into dystopian literature.

I’m anxious to get back to the project which has been on hold while all my stuff has been scattered between two states, but I still pay attention to how other letter collections are cared for (see the next post for an example) even though I haven’t been doing the actual work for a while. I have also put off the annoying learning curve and transfer of data to FileMaker Pro, who now wants a hefty $179 upgrade to a newer version that looks a tiny bit better, but is still not what I enjoyed with Bento. Unfortunately, no one else has stepped up to the plate to replace Bento and most of my letters data is already there, so I need to learn to live with it.

If you have the opportunity to go home, take it.

changing software in midstream

So sad about Bento. Photo Credit: Aylanah via Compfight cc
So sad about Bento. Photo Credit: Aylanah via Compfight cc

I spoke too soon in the last post about my adored software Bento, which is no longer being offered by FileMaker, as of September 30. As you can see in the notice, FileMaker will continue to support Bento through next July, but who would feel comfortable working in software that doesn’t get updates, particularly one for iOS 7? I have painstakingly entered data about each scanned letter and will be adding lots of topical detail to each record as I transcribe the letters. I can’t depend on software that is on its way out.

So I put up a big chunk of money–big for me, even with the discount offered to former Bento users–for FileMaker Pro 12 and its free iPad app FileMaker Go. On the surface, it would seem that the new pair would simply be a more professional version of the Bento pair, but there’s a huge drawback–syncing of data is one-way, from computer to iPad. With Bento, you could do ALL your work directly on the iPad and sync it with the computer software in an instant. Now I will have to do all the work on my computer and wait for it to be pushed to the iOS device, or use a clunky copy/paste/email route to the desktop. Read this mess of methods that are not “true syncing, either”: http://help.filemaker.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/7720/kw/sync  The chances that I can develop a customized syncing script, as noted in the last option, are zero.

So, it currently appears that I would waste my time creating new records on the iPad and then trying to integrate them into the computer file, using iTunes of all things–I thought we were so past connecting our devices to iTunes for file transfer and backup. I am currently saving the file in DropBox and opening it on the iPad, but how will looking at it be of any use? And there is this comforting warning:

Important: When you transfer a file to your device, you are creating a copy of the original file. Data changes made on your device are not synchronized to the original file, and vice versa. You will need to transfer the file back to the computer and use FileMaker Pro to import data to the original file in order to update data.

Routine backups are strongly recommended for any document stored on a computer or iOS device.

Well, anyway, I did convert my Bento file into FileMaker and I still have the original, but no longer updated Bento file as a partial backup. I have yet to work in FileMaker, except to change the theme for readability. I’m looking around, seeing what’s different, and figuring out this monster professional database. It will all work out, but I will be tied to my computer, waiting for FileMaker Inc. to wake up and give us true syncing with the mobile app.