A quick view of my usual archive workspace. Everything needed for a practical archive is here.
Now we will discuss two tools useful in building our archive. These are few and may differ from what you have been using already. Again, very few and simple categories:
Almost everybody owns a smartphone, tablet, notebook or another computer. Storage is easy, and the capacities and possibilities almost endless. One reason most of us have more stuff on our devices than we ever need. Maybe it is the greed for possessing all that information and “valuable” PDFs, DVDs, etc. That greed is an obstacle, and with all that stuff, the confusion and mess appear.
Some may say: "Yeah, but maybe I will need this”. That may very well be, but not now in this phase of building the archive. What we need now is a blank screen.
I have met magicians that have an NAS server at home, and they showed me how they could connect to that from everywhere (in fact, they showed this to me in the break of a lecture). They were proud they could access all the ISOs and PDFs. But for what? Is it indispensable to have constant access to all of that? I don’t think so.
What we need is a very simple digital storage system for our archive. I use an old 13” MacBook. All my archive and working material are there. All the magic and ideas relevant to me. One place, one device. Of course, I backed them up in the cloud and on an external hard drive. But the tool I am working with every day is this simple old notebook.
I updated and installed a 500 GB SSD drive plus 8 GB RAM. That is enough speed and power to work with it. But even a smaller netbook would be excellent, provided you can connect it to some storage device, to exchange the data.
The whole point is to have a separate device for the archive which has nothing to do with your regular computer periphery. The idea behind is to save time by not being distracted by the feature the main computer has: the internet, social media, movies, etc.
It should be small and handy, easy to understand and operate and (most important) free of distraction. And it should be small and portable, yet have a proper keyboard for the input. The reason for this is that when I read a book, or work on something, I will have it right beside me, to take notes or jot down ideas. When I travel, I have it with me. Therefore, it should be small and lightweight, but still operable like a better typewriter.
The other argument for having an extra device is to retain the general view of the archive. I know that all of my magic stuff is on the device, and I know where it is on the device. The goal is no other magic routines, PDFs or whatever on any other device. That makes my archive clean, searchable and efficient to work with. No time wasted searching for stuff. It is all in one place.
I don’t use too much software for my archive. The most important is the software for taking my notes. I found that Simplenote is perfect for me. It is (as the name implies) VERY simple in all aspects: the UI is only barebones, the text is with no fancy styling and additional features, it has a full-text indexing, and I can tag the notes.
One of the most significant advantages is that it is speedy. Making a new note is just one click, and that’s it. Type your content and forget about the rest. The moment you type it in, it is saved. It is a workhorse and designed for real-world everyday use.
I can store the content in the cloud (while it is saved locally as well), which means I am protected against losing the data. Simplenote is free and a perfect, uncomplicated choice. Go here to their website and see for yourself. Simplenote is freeware.
Because my eBook collection got massive in the past years, I purchased the software DevonThink, which is a very professional solution. But you don’t need this now for the beginning. In the beginning, it suffices to put your PDFs into your file system (more about this in a later post).
One thing you will need is a proper text editor. I don’t use Word, but the freeware alternative LibreOffice. This suffices for doing almost any task. It is quick, versatile and connects you with the Word-world. But then, I don’t use it too often.
For typing my scripts, I have been using the CeltX software for years. It is very comfortable and useful. All scripts are formatted, I don’t have to think while writing, and there are lots of additional, useful features (like note-taking, index cards) that make writing a stage play or script a breeze.
And you will need a PDF-Reader, like Acrobat Reader or something else, to access the PDFs. I cut down the requirements to the absolute minimum. Most of the modern notebooks and operating systems like LINUX have everything I need for my archive already on board.
I use my little archive computer only for:
- storing digital publications (PDF, eBooks, DVD, audio)
- taking notes
- writing scripts
- the inventory list
- some research
I do not have any fancy software installed. Just the very basics, to not get confused from the main tasks concerning my archive.
So — get that old notebook back from your kids (that you gave them because it was ‘so good’ and enough for them). It is more than adequate for your archive task.
To eliminate any temptation, delete all data on that notebook that has nothing to do with the archive. You want to start with a blank and maiden place for your archive.
However, remember that the computer is not the most important part of the archive. But a useful and timesaving one.