Declutter By Converting Owner's Manuals into iPad "Books"

A day spent going through documents in our office closet made us realize we had accumulated quite the collection of product manuals. A previously forgotten and random assortment of booklets of every shape and size taking up a significant amount of space. Maybe, it's time to go digital with these things and send their paper versions off to the recycle bin...

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If you haven't noticed already, it seems nearly everything is now available online. This includes the majority of product documentation for tech devices, appliances, and other products, so why not tap into that resource to save some paper estate?

Find your product manual's digital counterparts
It's guaranteed after you declutter the closet or desk drawers of product manuals, a week later you'll suddenly need it. So don't just toss your manuals into the recycle bin. Take a few minutes and simply check if they're available online first.

For most manuals a simple Google search using the keywords, "INSERT-PRODUCT-NAME-HERE owner's manual" will do. You'll likely be taken to the manufacturer's website where you can download the appropriate PDF file and keep it stored on a cheap flash drive or on a mobile device (below). Once you've got it saved, you're safe to toss that manual aside. Proceed like this for all your manuals that have any foreseeble usefulness.

What about those IKEA manuals though? You're likely never going to need to rebuild that cabinet again, right? For IKEA items, if the piece features fabricated parts — such as hydraulic pistons, custom hinges, or pulleys — it may be a good idea to download and archive the manual. This digital copy could come in handy in the event you need a replacement part for an item IKEA has since discontinued (and removed from their site). Having a copy of the manual in this scenario will give you a shot at IKEA rounding up the part from one of their stores.

Archive Manuals in iBooks
Now that you have all the digital manuals you think you'll need, let's put them on the iPad.

  1. Transferring instruction manual PDFs into your iTunes Library.

  2. This is as easy as opening iTunes and clicking File -> Add to Library. Select the documents you need and click OK.
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  3. Sync your iPad
    • Connect your iPad to iTunes and select it in the "DEVICES" section on the left.
    • Go to the "Books" tab, and make sure "Sync Books" is selected.
    • Now scroll through the documents in the Books list and select all the new manuals you just added.
    • Click "Sync" and when finished disconnect the iPad from iTunes.

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  4. Make iBooks Categories
    Now your manuals are digitized on the iPad. But lets add some order to the mix.
    • Open the iBooks app on the iPad.
    • Now click the "Collections" button on top left, then "Edit."
    • Click "New" and type in a category name for your manuals to reside — so they are out of sight and mind when browsing other books or PDFs you may have. We divided them into two categories - Home and Electronics

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  5. Categorize your Manuals
    • Click the "Edit" button on the top right.
    • Select the manuals you want to move to a specific category, then choose the "Move" button on top left.
    • Now select the new category you made and click "Done."

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  6. Sync and manage
Now let's sync again so iTunes is aware of your new categorization. After your iPad has synced, you can now selectively choose which manuals to store on the device — by simply unchecking the manual in the Books tab in iTunes. This action will remove the books from the iPad, but not iTunes, saving precious storage space on your tablet. In the event you need to access the manual, simply sync your iPad again, select the necessary file, pick up and go — the categories will stay intact.

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Having a digital manual is great. You can search for words, find diagrams by scrubbing through the page navigator, and everything is formatted to fit the entire screen. Best of all you can recycle the manuals in hope they get used again to make something great.

Now what are you going to do with all that paper space you freed up?

Images: Chris Perez

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