This week I had a chance to use Shoebox. It is an application for the iPhone recently introduced by 1000Memories. Shoebox effectively places a scanner in your iPhone. You can read the announcement at http://goo.gl/IOX25.
You can find any number of applications that allow you to take pictures of pictures, using the iPhone's camera. In fact, even the standard iPhone without any extra software will do that. What makes Shoebox different, however, is its ability to automatically detect the edges of a photo and then quickly crop and straighten the photo accordingly. Even if the picture was not perfectly aligned with the camera when the iPhone picture is taken, Shoebox will correct the alignment and show a picture that is perfectly aligned.
Shoebox then allows the user to add information typically written on the back of old photos, such as dates, names, and locations. The photos then are uploaded to the 1000memories.com web site, where they can be organized, shared and discovered by friends and family.
The Shoebox software for the iPhone is available free of charge and an account on 1000Memories.com to share the photos is also available free of charge.
Obviously, the higher the resolution of the camera in the iPhone, the better the results. This should work really well with the new iPhone 4S with the 8-megapixel camera. For my test, however, I used a 9-month-old iPhone 4 with a 5 megapixel camera and I must say that I was pleased with the results. In fact, scanning a 4-by-6-inch photo produced a digital image that is nearly as good as those produced by the large flatbed scanner on my desktop.
Downloading and installing the Shoebox software into the iPhone was a typical Apple experience: simple. With the iPhone, touch App Store, search for SHOEBOX, click INSTALL, wait a few seconds, and everything is then ready for use.
When launching Shoebox for the first time, you will be prompted to create a free user account on 1000Memories.com. If you already have an account, you can log in with that. The account creation process is simple; you are asked for your name, email address, and for a password you create. You are not asked for address, telephone number, credit card information, or anything other than name, email address, and a (new) password.
To scan a photograph, launch the Showbox software. Keep in mind that the Apple camera likes to have plenty of light. To be sure, newer iPhones do have a built-in flash but you will obtain better results when using natural sunlight. I'd suggest taking pictures near a window. Make sure you can see all four corners of the photograph before touching the CAMERA button.
When the CAMERA button is pressed, the iPhone camera takes a picture in the normal manner. Next, you see the picture displayed on the iPhone's screen and "crop marks" are shown. The software tries to detect the edges of the photograph automatically. If you accept the automatically-detected edges, press NEXT. If not, you can manually adjust the crop marks as you wish. If you manually make changes, the area you are changing appears in a "magnifying glass" as a highly magnified image, allowing you to make precise adjustments.
In my experience, the automatic detection of photo edges always worked perfectly. I never had to make any changes.
You can also rotate the image which is handy if you were holding the iPhone 90 degrees from the alignment of the photograph being scanned (landscape versus portrait).
After alignment and edge detection has been completed, you are prompted to add the names of every person in the photograph. Finally, you may (optionally) enter a caption of your choice, the date of the picture (approximate date is acceptable) and location. You also may optionally share the photo on Twitter or Facebook.
Pressing DONE uploads the photo to the 1000Memories.com web site. Once on the site, you may make further adjustments or add more information. Others may see the photo and optionally add their comments as well, if they wish.
The photo that accompanies this article is a picture of me and my "friend," taken when I was perhaps 6 or 7 years old. The original picture is a tiny 2-inch-by-3-inch snapshot that looks "grainy" to begin with. I'd say the scanned image is a good reproduction of the original. Obviously, better originals will result in better scanned images.
All photos you upload are placed in your "shoebox" and are visible to everyone. A unique URL (web address) is assigned to your shoebox that you can give to others or place in your blog or Google+ or Facebook page.
You can see my public shoebox at http://1000memories.com/richard-eastman-812184. When you first go to that page, you see a menu of options. Clicking on UPLOADS displays the photographs. So far, I have only uploaded one photograph.
The 1000Memories web site is an interesting mix of family trees and photographs. You can build a family tree online. While not required, the intent appears to have at least one photograph accompany each person's information. You are prompted to add each person's name, (optional) date of birth, and the person's email address. You can enter ancestors going back hundreds of years, should you wish to do so, although the earlier ancestors obviously won't have pictures or email addresses. I suspect that most users will instead focus on adding information and photographs of more recent ancestors, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and others.
1000Memories has several other available options. For instance, you can use it as a guestbook where family and friends may write public messages and notes. You can use 1000Memories to collaboratively raise funds for a charitable purpose, such as medical research, a local church, or to establish a scholarship.
You can also download photos from 1000Memories.com, meaning the scanned photos you upload can easily be transferred to a desktop, laptop, or handheld computer.
Using 1000Memories does not require the use of an iPhone running Shoebox. You also may directly upload photos from your computer or import them from Facebook or Picasa.
In short, Shoebox for the iPhone is a great tool when combined with the 1000Memories web site. The software is free, the web site is free, and the results are worthwhile. Please keep in mind that everything you upload is visible to everyone on the Internet. I would not upload pictures of other people without their permission and I would suggest you always be sensitive the the privacy concerns of others. In my mind, that is simple "Internet etiquette" that applies to all web sites, not just to 1000Memories.com.
For more information about Shoebox for the iPhone, go to http://1000memories.com/shoebox or use your iPhone to visit the iPhone App Store and search for SHOEBOX or watch the Shoebox commercial on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/v/szS5q85cC7E and another at http://www.youtube.com/v/Io7h8pSqDC8
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