Monday, November 8, 2010

PDF Scissors Update - more information - and Briss

(ADDENDUM: Also see later responses from Gagan to commenter requests.)

UPDATE to PDF Scissors introduction yesterday plus Gagen's mention of BRISS - another PDF crop tool, found by him and also mentioned by a commenter to this post who would like to see them compared (me too -- there is much feedback on it at Briss's site but they are all by 'anonymous' so I hope others here can compare them.

The author, Gagan Mazed, responded to the thread at and I'll post most of that here though I'm not linking to the specific thread because it has info from 2008 that is now out of date.

  Gagan responded to a request I made for a bit more information and this was his answer, with a couple of corrections:
'Hi Andrys,

You are quite right, there is not really much text in the site  The idea was that I would create a very simple tool that takes minimum effort to run the app (no script/no console mode, so that my wife can run it ;) ).  That’s why I used java web start, simply clicking the button launches the app directly from the web, so that ppl can try it by themselves and see if it does what they need (it’s just one click away).

About the tool, the way it works is that it “tells” how much area should be visible, it does not reflow text / do any modification to images.  If the ereader honors crop area (At least kindle 3 did for my test pdfs), setting to ‘fit-to-width’ zoom should show the cropped area nicely.  So the tool does not really care about landscape / portrait mode, also user is free to draw crop areas of any size and any numbers.  If only dropping the margin makes the content width readable in 6inch reader, then creating just one ‘crop area’ should work.

Oh one more note, although the tool runs using ‘webstart’... it does NOT upload any pdf file to any server, all calculations are handled locally and no information goes outside.  The tool itself does have any code that connects to internet.  So user should feel free to try any doc without privacy concern (I’ll add this note to the web).

This is a new born baby hobby project (so is the site), long way to go for improvement. Thanks for your feedback, really appreciated. '

Nice post at your blog, very explanatory. I quickly checked it, will check in details later.

About batch processing, same crop areas are applied to all pages, so user needs to draw them just once.

Btw, the first page shows all pages together with transparency (hard to explain, give it a try :) )

Commenter Tom Semple requested a few more refinements and I can't tell how far he got with trying it after finding that "File open" was offered after some cropping but not "File save" - so he may have stopped there.

Anonymous wrote that
'   "It 'stacks' the pages and "crops" all the pages similarly in the manner you specify.  It'd work well if all the pages are laid out in exactly the same way but won't work if each page is different. '

And commenter Brad reports this:
'   I tried PDF Scissors on a 400 page PDF ebook today.  It seems to be a handy little program.  It took about 15 min or so to do the 'stacking' of the book.
  Unfortunately the last three lines of every page were missing but I just estimated where to put the second box and everything was ok in the final cropped PDF.

  When you go to save, the button is mis-labeled 'Open' though it does act like 'Save'. I find reading an ebook in landscape normally gives three screens per page, with the third screen mostly blank.  Only two screens per page in portrait with PDF Scissors is a nice improvement.  Thanks for the heads up on this. '

(See later responses from Gagen Mazed in the Comments area of the introductory blog article on PDF Scissors.

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  1. Do you know if there is any way to take independent notes in kindle? By "independent notes", I mean notes which are independent of any books. Basically, it means create and edit a text files.

    Today I tried Google documents successfully in kindle, although it is very slow and a bit weird. Hope there can be a lighter version of Google document.

  2. Anonymous,
    I do one of two things.

    I make a blank text file on my computer or start one off with an intro paragraph and then I move it to the Kindle.

    On the Kindle I can 'Edit' the file to and notes to it.

    But when I edit the file I can't change ANY past word or thought. I have to add a 'note' to it, which can be a long one and it's treated like a footnote. When you read it, there'll be a number where you placed it and if you put the cursor there it'll show you the added thoughts from the add-on note.

    OR I can just take the My Clippings file, which already exists, and just add notes there.

    I head each note with a title I can 'find' later, like "ToDo" ...

    Using a straight text file means it's not slow or a bit weird :-) I wouldn't mess with Google docs for this.

  3. I found that I can use google docs (for taking notes) through When I go there (on a kindle), it has mobile links to all the different google apps. I think the website recognizes the kindle browser and treats it as a mobile device. However, the link to google docs seems to imply that it thinks I'm accessing it through an iphone.

    Anyway, I can create and edit files. However, it has difficulty placing the cursor in the correct spot if you come back to re-edit the file.

  4. There is another one crop tool:
    It would be good to compare them.

  5. I am not sure if it is appropriate to say it here, but for reading the pdf, and for many other things, there is an alternative operating system for kindle, called duokan (, developed by some Chinese guys (as far as I know), which works quite well.

    For example, in this system, the pdfs can be cropped in many ways automatically, or manually. It support reading two-column pdfs in a very convenient way.

    It also support formats like epub and djvu. I am not sure if Amazon will be angry with this.

    It works independent of the original kindle system, and can the two systems can be switched in several minutes.

  6. The PDFScissors Save problem on mac has a workaround: choose File/Crop & Save from the menu, rather than the icon on the toolbar (which apparently isn't hooked up correctly).

    That said, the startup time is very slow, even compared to Acrobat Pro, or (a fairer comparison) to full featured Flex apps I've used. I have a 5Mbps internet connection, so if it is a bandwidth constraint, it is going to be even worse for many others. Or It could be a server issue, some 'feature' inherent in Java WebStart apps, or lack of tuning of PDFScissors itself. In any event, it is a 'minus' relative to standalone tools.

    But it is always useful in terms of idea generation to see different approaches like this, so I appreciate your calling attention to it.


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