Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ruler Card for Hipster PDA

A couple of weeks ago, the great 43 Folders
had a post about a set of interesting PDF templates made by John Norris for the Hipster PDA. One of the templates was a ruler, which I thought was a great idea but poorly executed because they looked like bitmaps that were fuzzy. So I decided to make my own crisp PDF versions. Since I don't know how to write PDF directly, I wrote a PostScript file that I then converted to a PDF using ps2pdf.

This is what it looks like.

Index card ruler

(I've since learned that the original source of the ruler John Norris used is a nice collection of PostScript and PDF rulers made by Michael Vendian. Somehow it got converted to a bitmap when John made up his templates. It's possible that had I learned this earlier I would have tried adapting one or two of Vendian's rulers. I'm glad I didn't because the format of mine is different enough that adapting would have been more effort than writing from scratch.)

A few notes on the construction and use:

  • I found that my printer (an HP LaserJet 2200) prints a bit small. When I held an actual ruler up to my first version of the index card rulers, the 4.5 inch mark on the index card was less than 4.5 inches from the zero. So I stuck in a fudge factor of 1.0035, which I called adjust, near the top of the PostScript file and used it to spread out the marks. If you find that your printer doesn't print the index card ruler accurately, you can change this value to whatever works for you.

  • Both the PostScript and PDF versions have the ruler positioned near the top center of a letter-sized sheet of paper. This works for me when printing the rulers on a manually-fed index card. If your printer works differently from mine, you'll have to adjust the initial position of the rulers; You'll find it on line 60 of the PostScript file. The comment above line 60 explains what it does and should give you enough info to make the changes you need.

  • After printing, I slice off the blank margins so the hash marks run right to the edge of the card, which makes it more like a real ruler. The card is now about a half-inch narrower than the others in my stack, so it's easy to locate quickly.

  • Within the PostScript file is a function, called hashmarks, that I wrote in a pretty general way. I've just reused it to make a temperature conversion card that I'll post about tomorrow. I see it being useful for making other conversion cards, too. I'm decent at mental arithmetic, but a simple dollars<=>pounds conversion card would have been a big help when I vacationed in London a couple of years ago.


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