In the recent Episode 242 of the Pen Addict, a question was submitted about digital tools and apps that could be used to augment analog collections. After the episode, I decided to look into it and ran across an app called Sortly. The app positions itself as "the ultimate organizer app," and most of the information and reviews I have seen online focus on the utility of the app for organizing during a move. The app also suggests many other use cases, and the feature list interested me enough to try it out for cataloging and organizing one of my favorite collections: my Field Notes.
I downloaded the app on both my IPhone and IPad, and found the basic interface simple and intuitive. Individual items can be added manually or via barcode. The barcode scanning worked wonderfully for every Field Note barcode I tried, but I decided to enter them manually because I wanted to scan in my own pictures of each notebook. The interface for entering items via the app is below:
Details that can be added for each item include: photos, videos, name, quantity, price, tags, notes, product information (including purchase date and website link to the product), and even lending information if you happen to let others borrow items from your collection. For the purposes of organizing my Field Notes collection, the ability to add multiple pictures (I haven't encountered a limit yet), tag the items, and format my own notes were particularly useful.
There are two formats for viewing the collection- one above and one below. You can also create folders and even subfolders . I created a folder for Field Notes, with two subfolders: Colors Editions and Special Editions.
It required a decent amount of time investment to input each of my Field Notes into the app, especially because I scanned in at least 4 pictures for each notebook. However, the real utility of the app shined because of all of the details I added to each item. For example, I tagged each book by the year of their edition, the season of the release, and by color. These tags allowed me to easily pull up all the editions I own from 2011 or all of the red Field Notes in my collection.
Not only does the app allow tagging, it also allows for searching. Because I added details about the covers, papers, printing, etc. into the notes- I can also search by printing features like "debossed" or paper format like "dot-graph."
Another important feature I was looking for before I decided to invest the time to catalog my collection using Sortly was the ability to back-up and export my information. The app definitely has most of their bases covered here, allowing me to automatically sync all my information with Evernote, as well as export the text data into Excel, the photos and videos into Dropbox, and all of the information in any particular folder into a PDF. One thing I wish I could do is personalize the PDF a little more in terms of the output, but it does allow two types- an album format where all photos and details are included in the PDF, and a list format which is a basic summary of each item. I also wish it was possible to export and share specific subfolders or specific tags. But I have to say, even the basic PDF album looks pretty great with all of the photos included.
There are many other features that I have not yet explored, but I am really enjoying Sortly- and plan to add other collections to the app soon including my inks, fountain pens, and even Blackwing pencils. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to put down the $9.99 for the premium version. The ability to add photos from my own reviews and experiments filed under each item only adds to the appeal- especially when you consider a fountain pen ink collection.
In the end, I think it comes down to thinking about what features and benefits an app can add, and how those features offset the time cost of inputting your collections into an app. What features would make a digital tool a worthy addition to your analog arsenal? For me, tagging, searching, easy photo and video input, and automatic connection with Evernote make the top of the list.