A quick look at my usual archive workspace. Everything you need for a practical archive is here.
Now we will discuss two tools that are useful for building our archive. These are few and may differ from what you are already using. Again, very few and simple categories:
Almost everyone has a smartphone, tablet, laptop or other computer. Storage is easy, and the capacity and possibilities are almost endless. One reason most of us have more stuff on our devices than we ever need. Maybe it is the greed to own all that information and “valuable” PDFs, DVDs, etc. This greed is a hindrance, and with all this stuff comes confusion and clutter.
Some might say: “Yes, but maybe I need it”. Maybe you will, but not at this stage of building the archive. What we need now is a blank canvas.
I have met magicians who have a NAS server at home, and they have shown me how they can connect to it from anywhere (in fact, they showed me this during a break in a lecture). They were proud that they could access all the ISOs and PDFs. But what for? Is it essential to have access to all this at all times? 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 work material is on it. All the magic and ideas that are relevant to me. One place, one device. I back it up in the cloud and on an external hard drive. But the tool I work with every day is this simple old notebook.
I upgraded and installed a 500GB SSD drive and 8GB of RAM. That is enough speed and power to get the job done. But even a smaller netbook would be excellent, provided you can connect it to some sort of storage device to share the data.
The whole point is to have a separate device for archiving that has nothing to do with your regular computer peripherals. The idea is to save time by not being distracted by the function of the main computer: the internet, social media, films, etc.
It should be small and handy, easy to understand and use, and (most importantly) free of distractions. And it should be small and portable, yet have a proper keyboard for typing. The reason for this is that when I am reading a book or working on something, I have it next to me to take notes or jot down ideas. When I travel, I have it with me. So it should be small and light, but still work like a good typewriter.
The other argument for having an extra device is to maintain an overview of the archive. I know that all my magic stuff is on the device, and I know where it is on the device. The aim is to have no other magic routines, PDFs or whatever on any other device. This makes my archive clean, searchable and efficient to work with. No time wasted looking for things. It is all in one place.
I don’t use too much software for my archive. The most important is the software I use to take my notes. I have found Simplenote to be perfect for me. It is (as the name suggests) very simple in all respects: the interface is bare-bones, the text is without fancy styling and extra features, it has full-text indexing and I can tag the notes.
One of the main advantages is that it is fast. Creating a new note is just one click and that’s it. Type in your content and forget about the rest. The moment you type it, it is saved. It is a workhorse designed for the real world.
I can store the content in the cloud (although it is also stored locally), which means I am protected against losing the data. Simplenote is free and a perfect, straightforward choice. Go to their website and see for yourself. Simplenote is freeware.
As my eBook collection has grown over the years, I have bought DevonThink, which is a very professional solution. But you don’t need that to get started. To start with, it is enough to put your PDFs in your file system (more on this in a later post).
One thing you will need is a decent text editor. I don’t use Word, but the freeware alternative LibreOffice. This will do for almost any task. It is fast, versatile and connects you to the Word world. But I don’t use it too much.
For typing my scripts, I have been using the CeltX software for years. It is very useful. I can format all the scripts as I type, I don’t have to think while I write, and there are lots of other useful features (like note-taking, index cards) that make writing a play or script a breeze.
Now, with the advent of the Markdown language, I use Afterwriting (you can find it at www.afterwriting.com). It is open source, very easy to use and has now replaced the CeltX software for me.
And you need a PDF reader, like Acrobat Reader or something, to access the PDFs. I have kept the requirements to an absolute minimum. Most modern notebooks and operating systems like LINUX have everything I need for my archive already on board.
I use my small archive computer only for
- storing digital publications (PDF, eBooks, DVD, audio)
- taking notes
- writing scripts
- the inventory list
- some research
I have no fancy software installed. Just the basics, so as not to distract from the main tasks of my archive.
So get that old notebook back from your kids (the one you gave them because it was ‘so good’ and enough for them). It is more than adequate for your archiving task.
To remove any temptation, delete everything on that notebook that has nothing to do with the archive. You want to start with an empty and virgin space for your archive.
But remember that the computer is not the most important part of the archive. But a useful and time-saving one.