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  1. Adding MasterCook-Formatted Cookbooks or Recipes
  2. Corrupt Recipe After Import
  3. Duplicate Recipes
  4. Import Recipe Titles Displayed in Bold
  5. Mac Cookbooks
  6. Mangia! Recipes
  7. Micro Cookbook Recipes
  8. More Than One File at a Time
  9. Previous MasterCook Version Cookbooks
  10. Recipes From AOL
  11. Safe Importing Guidelines
  12. Scanning Recipes (Part 1 - Acquiring a Scanner and Software to Accompany It)
  13. Scanning Recipes (Part 2 - Using the Scanner to Convert Recipes)
  14. Scanning Recipes (Part 3 - Cleaning Up Before Importing)
  15. The Keyword Format Loads More Fields
  16. Using Masterlist with File Import
  17. Web Import Bar Doesn't 'Save to MasterCook'
  18. With or Without Categories
  19. Yahoogroups Recipes


1. Adding MasterCook-Formatted Cookbooks or Recipes

Q: I have some MasterCook cookbooks and MasterCook export files that I have downloaded. I would like to import them into a particular MasterCook cookbook - can this be done? When I click on the file it immediately opens to MasterCook and want me to name the cookbook. If I try to import it, MasterCook does not read it as a file that can be imported. How do I handle this?

A: For cook*book* files, you need to add the cookbooks to MasterCook first. Then you can move the recipes to whatever other cookbook you like and delete the original cookbook. The MasterCook Export files can be imported into MasterCook in your chosen cookbook.

You need to know the actual file extension so you can see how to deal with the files. If Windows is not showing you the file extension of the files, you can change this. In Windows Explorer, while you have the folder containing your downloaded files highlighted, Tools > Folder Options, then the tab for View. Scroll down the list. In a section called Files and Folders, UNcheck the option for "Hide file extensions for known file types." Then OK out.

MasterCook cookbook files have the following extensions:

.mcf (if the cookbooks are in MasterCook 2/3/4 format), or
.mc2 (if the cookbooks are in MasterCook 5/6 format).

If the file extension is *.mcf , you need to add the cookbooks to MasterCook 5 (and greater) by going to the main MasterCook menu and choosing File>Open, then directing MasterCook to those cookbook files. MasterCook will make its own copy, so the original *.mcf file can be deleted.

If the file extension is *.mc2 , you add the cookbooks by using Windows Explorer to move or copy them to an MasterCook collection folder on your hard drive. Then open MasterCook and press F5 or Tools>Refresh file list for the cookbooks to be displayed in your cookbook browser. If you just double-clicka mc2 file, MasterCook will open the cookbook and register its location. Ordinarily, you would want this cookbook to be in a folder with your other cookbooks, so you can back it up easily.

For the "MasterCook Export" files (these will have the .mxp or .mx2 extensions), you should open MasterCook and then choose "Import" and direct MasterCook to those files. Do this with the target cookbook highlighted or open, and MasterCook will place them there. (TIP: Always import to a special cookbook first, just in case there is something corrupt in the recipes.) If you just double-clicka MasterCook Export file, MasterCook will open and want to create a separate cookbook for the recipes, even if there is just one recipe in that file.

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2. Corrupt Recipe After Import

Q: How come after I import a recipe from MasterCook 5 (and greater) into a previous version, when I go to view the recipe, I get a "recipe corrupt error?"

A: This more than likely isn't due to the XML code in the recipe, but rather because previous versions of MasterCook DON'T support the longer fields, such as in the ingredient and prep sections of the recipe nor numbers in the prep section.

Preps longer than 20 characters and what earlier versions considers extra numbers in the prep field will cause problems.

MasterCook3 has that problem of wanting numbers - integers in the units field and will bump them there if we give it the chance.

For example, MasterCook 5 (and greater) will export an ingredient line like this:

3/4 cup butter or margarine -- (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature

If you change it to 1.5 or 1+1/2 sticks, MasterCook 3 will accept it in the prep field.

To work well in MasterCook3 (and 4) try substituting this:

3/4 cup butter or margarine
or 1+1/2 sticks -- room temperature

This is how the MasterCook version 4 for MAC will import the above ingredient line:
3/4 cup butter or margarine -- (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature

If there are NOTES :

MasterCook 3 and 4 will keep importing stuff into the notes field until it reads something that stops it. like "Per serving."

Five underlines (+++++) will stop MasterCook 4.

There is no stopper for MasterCook 3; it just keeps loading until it (a) runs out of room in the note or (b) reads something it recognizes, like the end of the file or words in the e-mail header (which comes in handing when importing from a digest).

This ONLY happens with notes.

Also, the fields in MasterCook 5 (and greater) are much longer than the fields in 4.x, such as a long recipe title, and may be cut off in some instances when being imported into earlier versions of MasterCook.

Recipes with several thousand characters in the directions field may also be reported as corrupt when opened in MasterCook 4.x.

Please also remember when saving e-mail, it needs to be saved in text format, not HTML. HTML will cause problems too when importing recipes.

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3. Duplicate Recipes

Q: How does MasterCook handle duplicate recipes during import?

A: At the end of the import process it shows you which recipes have duplicate names. This information is displayed in two side by side windows, original recipes and newly imported recipes. You are then able to preview both recipes (by opening) and choose whether to keep them both (the new one will have a '2' after it) or delete the duplicate. "REMOVE" is only intended to remove the recipe from the list of duplicates - not from the cookbook.

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4. Import Recipe Titles Displayed in Bold

Q: Does anyone know why some recipes are listed in bold while others are in plain text while viewing the list of recipes in the Import window before importing them?

A: I figured this out by clicking on the question mark in the dialog box and then clicking on the recipe names. It states the recipes in bold are the MasterCook 4.0 formatted recipes. The recipes that are NOT bold are the MasterCook 5 (and greater) formatted recipes.

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5. Mac Cookbooks

Q: I previously had my recipes on a MAC computer using MasterCook. Now I have a PC and am using MasterCook Deluxe 5 (or greater). Will I be able to import all the recipes I have in files that I have created? If so, how?

A: This is straight from the MC4 User's Manual, page 37, if you have that version. They are talking about the .mxp and .mcf formats, which MC used up until the introduction of MasterCook 5.0:

Because both MasterCook for Windows and MasterCook for Macintosh use the same file format, each program can read cookbooks created or edited with the other. . . . If you're using Windows, all you have to do to read a MasterCook for Macintosh cookbook file is:

- Give the cookbook file an "eight and three" file name -- an eight-character file name followed by a three-character file extension, with the file extension ".MCF".

- Save the cookbook file on a disk formatted for DOS/Windows.
[end quote]

So once you have your Mac cookbooks properly named and saved on a Windows-formatted diskette, you can start MasterCook on your PC, and then choose Open from the MasterCook 5 (and greater) File Menu and direct the program to your floppy drive. MasterCook will make its own copy of the cookbook.

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6. Mangia! Recipes

Q: How do I get my recipes transferred from Mangia to MasterCook?

A: Unfortunately Mangia doesn't allow you to import or export recipes from it. If you can't export your recipes (get them out of the program), then you aren't going to be able to import them into another program like MasterCook. MasterCook cannot read Mangia's cookbook files (*.ckb) so it cannot open them either. What others have done is select all the recipes inside one of their Mangia cookbooks and use the Generic/Text Only print driver to print the recipes to a file (*.prn). Then they edit that file (*.prn) to get the recipes into a format that MasterCook recognizes and save the file as a plain text file (*.txt) to import into MasterCook.

The best way to make sure you get all the information included in the recipe from Mangia is to select a layout that shows the most recipe sections before trying to print to file. For example, double click on a recipe to open it up. From the Recipe Card menu choose Select Layout. If you use 16" Display Layout you will see most of the recipe sections (course, servings, method, etc.) However, if you use Just Recipe (letter size) it will NOT show the course, method, etc., therefore it will not print to file either.

For more information on printing to file separate entry "Printing - Printing to Text File for Sharing".

For more information on importing recipes into MasterCook 5 (and greater) see this web page:

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7. Micro Cookbook Recipes

Q: I have Cookworks Micro Cookbook 5.5. All my recipes are loaded on this software and I want to import these recipes into MasterCook. How can I do this?

A: The two programs don't share exactly the same fields, but Micro Cookbook will export to MasterCook file format. You could then rename it so that your text editor will open this file.

This from MasterCook version 4 README.TXT file. I'm including all of Micro Cookbook's versions for the record. I see that Micro Cookbook version 5.5 is newer than the ones listed here so you will need to search the menus and help file in Micro Cookbook to find a way to export recipes to a plain text file. See if it will export in MasterCook or Meal Master format. Edit the resulting file so that MasterCook will import it. Check out this website for more info about the MasterCook format:

* Problem: How do I export a recipe from Micro Cookbook 3.x? (Windows version)
* Solution: Click on File in upper left corner of the screen. Click on Open Cookbook. Select a cookbook by highlighting it and clicking on Open. Highlight a chapter to select it. Click on the arrow to the left of the cookbook name to see a list of recipes within that cookbook. Choose a recipe to be exported by highlighting it and double-clicking to view the recipe. Click on File, then select Export as Text. Create a name for the file to be exported and click Save.

* Problem: How do I export a recipe from Micro Cookbook 3.x? (DOS version)
* Solution: In main menu press the <F1> key, to Select a Recipe from an Index. Using the arrow keys, select the recipe by highlighting the name and clicking on Enter. In the recipe view use the arrow keys to highlight FUNCTIONS in the lower right hand corner. Click on Enter. On the drop-down menu use arrow keys to highlight F8 Export Recipe and press enter or <F8>. Create a name for the file to be exported (up to 8 characters), or use the default name that appears. Click on Enter.

* Problem: How do I export recipes from Micro Cookbook 4.x?
* Solution: Highlight a cookbook to view recipes. Click OK. In the Recipe window, type a recipe name to search the database or use the scroll bar to search for a recipe. Click on the recipe(s) you want to export (the box to the left of the recipe will be marked showing which recipes you've selected). Click the View button to the right. Click the printer icon on the tool bar. In Print Options window, click on the box next to "Print to Text File". Click OK.

* Problem: How do I export recipes from Micro Cookbook 5.0?
* Solution: At the start, click on Recipes. In Micro Cookbook 5.0 Categories select a category by clicking on the View button in the lower right corner. Select a recipe by highlighting it and clicking again on View. In Recipe View click on the Print icon located on the tool bar. In the Print window click on the box located next to "Print to File", then click OK. In the Print to File window, type a name for the file you will be exporting. Select a drive and/or directory and click OK.

The main thing that is different about the two formats is Micro Cookbook lets us put the preparation before or after the ingredient. MasterCook expects the preparation to follow the ingredient, so that can mess up import unless you edit your Micro Cookbook recipes with MasterCook in mind. Another difference is Micro Cookbook also has subtitles and MasterCook doesn't. You could move the subtitle to Micro Cookbook's note field or somewhere in the directions to make sure you don't lose that.

Use Import (from the File menu) into MasterCook, not the Import Assistant. The categories, serving sizes and author should export. I recommend you try exporting a few Micro Cookbook recipes to an MXP file and importing them into MasterCook. The results will give you some hints on how to edit Micro Cookbook recipes to import into MasterCook with fewer problems.

You might want to check out NoteTab, clipbooks and MC-TagIt, too.

NoteTab is a versatile plain text editor. Clipbooks make it great.

MC-TagIt is like MC Buster. MC-TagIt is a freeware utility written by Gail. MC-TagIt is a tool that converts recipes (generic and mxp) into MasterCook 5 (or greater) tagged format - MC-TagIt recognizes the new fields in the new MasterCook.

Pat Hanneman wrote a clipbook to prepare recipes for MC-TagIt. Look for Pat's clipbooks here: CLICK HERE Check out THINGS MASTERCOOK along the left of that web page.

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8. More Than One File at a Time

MasterCook can import many recipes at one time, but it can only look in one file at a time. So what do you do if you have saved your MasterCook-formatted recipes in individual files?

Do you have Word? You could use Word's Insert>File to combine several files into a larger one. You might be able to find or construct a macro to do this. If you really have a lot of files, the macro would be worth investigating.

Do you have NoteTab? (You can get a free version by download at CLICK HERE) I find that the tabs at the top help me keep better track of where I am when I do copying and combining. Open multiple documents at a time in one step. You can use the right-click "copy all" choice to quickly copy an entire file to the clipboard, then hop over to the "master document" tab to paste -- same screen and very easy to see. Or designate your "master document" as a paste board (Document > Use as Paste Board) -- anything you copy will automatically be pasted on your "master." This saves having to select the text first -- one step saved! And you can easily change the default document folder so your folder of choice opens up first and you don't have to surf to it. Keep Windows Explorer open at the same time so you can move the finished files right out of the queue.

And a really old-fashioned way -- use DOS. This assumes that all your files have the same file extension (such as *.txt) and that they are all in the same folder/directory/drive. Open a DOS window and change to the directory/drive where you keep your files (the new combined file will be created in the directory you start with). Then type:

copy *.txt allfiles.doc

Note that the two file extensions are different. It doesn't really matter too much what they are as long as they are not the same. This will create a new file (allfiles.doc) that contains your individual txt files, and you will still have the individual files unchanged. One source indicates that this will not work unless the total file length of the new file is less than 64,000 bytes, so you may end up moving files and folders around to make several larger files (allfil1.doc, allfil2.doc, etc.) of the appropriate length. Then you can use Word or another text editor to copy and paste together (or use Word's Insert>File).

MORE: The copy command seems to work better from within a single drive and directory (folder).

So set your txt files up in a single folder (directory) -- only 64,000 bytes total in each folder. Then exit to DOS, then change directories with the cd command until you are in the same directory as your files -- all *before* actually giving the copy command. (Prior experiments indicated that this procedure didn't work as well if the individual files and the new combined files were on a different drive. So stay in the same drive, and work with files within the same directory (folder) just to be on the safe side.)

When using the DOS method, make sure:

You have enough room for the new file
The file extension of the new 'master' combined file is different from the extension of the files you want to aggregate.
You rename the new combined file to have a *.txt extension before you try to import into MasterCook.

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9. Previous MasterCook Version Cookbooks

Do you have cookbooks from a previous version of MasterCook that weren't converted when you installed MasterCook 5 (or greater)?

You can open cookbooks written by MasterCook versions 2, 3, and 4. Select Open from the MasterCook 5 (or greater) File Menu and point it to your *.mcf files. MasterCook will make its own copy, leaving the cookbook intact that it converted from.

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10. Recipes From AOL

AOL 4 uses HTML and rich text -- that makes it's hard to import recipes into MasterCook. Hard because it won't save as plain text.

Because I use AOL 4.0, I can't just save a MC-Recipe post as a .txt file and then import it (like I used to do with AOL 3.0) because it carries HTML tags that cause MasterCook 3.03 to choke. So what I have to do is "select" the text of the e-mail and then save it to a file in NoteTab Std (or Microsoft's Notepad). I don't even have to use NoteTab's "strip HTML tags" function. I just can't use the "Save As" function with the entire e-mail.

So I "selected" the entire message, including all the XML stuff, the MasterCook 4.0 and the MasterCook 5.0/6.0 format and then copied them to a new folder in NoteTab. Saved the folder and opened MasterCook 3.03. No problems--recipe imported just fine and MasterCook 3.03 ignored all the XML.

Whatever the import problem from AOL to MasterCook 5.x/6.x, I don't think it comes from importing directly from an e-mail folder, because AOL's folders are not plain text. So, for AOL users the only option is to cut and paste the body of the e-mail into a separate .txt file and then import. I've only tried this a few times to see if it worked (normally I use Buster to edit and clean the recipes first).

A: When I download one of the digests, the download manager in AOL allows me to select save as a text file and what folder to save it in. It opens automatically in NotePad, and if it's too big, it asks if I want to open in WordPad. I have no problem importing from there.

A: The trick with AOL is that you can't use the File|Save As function with your MC-Recipe e-mails, because there are rich text/HTML tags that AOL sends along that cause MasterCook (all versions) to choke.

So what you have to do is open a new file in MS Notepad or WordPad (go to Start|Program|Accessories and then chose either--but note that WordPad allows you to have a bigger file). Then go back to AOL and "Select" the text of the recipe you want to keep (including the * Exported from MasterCook * header) by dragging your mouse diagonally over the recipe while you hold the left button down, then go to Edit|Copy (or use your right mouse button to chose "copy"). Hop back to your Notepad or WordPad file and "Paste" (either using Edit|Paste or right mouse button "Paste"). Leave at least one blank line between each recipe you copy and paste.

When you've got a bunch of recipes pasted, save your file (I use the date for identifying files, so I save as: 17June99.txt. Save it to a folder in your directory where you can easily find it. You can create a new folder by going to Start|Windows Explorer. Then choose the drive where you want to save your recipes and go up to File|New and create a new Folder. I created a folder for "MC Recipes" right on the D: drive. (These directions are based on Windows 95--I'm assuming it's similar for Windows 98).

Now open up MasterCook 5 (or greater) and open your Import Cookbook. (It's best to have a special cookbook just for the temporary import of recipes. Once you're sure they've imported OK you can move them to a final destination cookbook and delete the recipe from the temporary import cookbook). Go to File|Import and you will get a screen with a window showing the contents of your hard drive on the left. Scroll down until you find your MC Recipe folder. Then you should see in the box on the right your saved .txt files. Select the one you wish to import and you should see a list of the recipes appearing in that file in the middle box. "Select All" and Import. Voila--all the recipes should appear in your cookbook.

One more tip. There is a neat text-editing program called NoteTab Standard (or NoteTab Pro), which is available for about $10.00 from This is a wonderful help for the above procedure! One of the best features is you can open a "New" document and then go to the menu bar and choose Document|Use As Paste Board. Once you've done this, everything that you "select" and "copy" in AOL is automatically pasted into this document (without your having to hop back and forth between programs). Also if you were to "save" an e-mail that's not a recipe (say something from the MasterCook chat list) and wanted to read it later, you would open it in NoteTab and use the Modify|Strip HTML Tags in order to make it readable.

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11. Safe Importing Guidelines

Some points to remember:

* You should at least give the eagle eye to any recipe before importing it.

* Use a special cookbook just for newly-imported recipes. That way, if something corrupts it, you haven't lost all your treasured collections. Try searching through this cookbook to make sure it functions just fine. Also select Refresh File List from the Tools menu to make sure all the cookbooks are accounted for. If there is a corrupt one, it will have problems refreshing the screen.

If you do have problems refreshing the screen shut down the program. Then go into the collection folder and remove the problem child to another place on your computer. Go into the MC Tools folder and delete the MC World.mcw file. (This file will be recreated the next time you start up the program.) Now start back up the program. If it runs fine, then you know your cookbook is corrupt.

* The "safest" recipes are those that were exported from MasterCook without using an e-mail program (SMTP). Using an e-mail program (either Simple MAPI or insert by cut-and-paste) leaves the recipe vulnerable to mis-wrapped lines, broken tags, among other things. If a recipe does have mis-wrapped lines, at best you will get a funny-looking import; at worst, your cookbook will be corrupted.

* If using an e-mail program, compact/compress your mailbox(es). This gets rid of the bits and pieces that hang around after you delete e-mail or move it to another folder.

* Save all your e-mail as text files, including the headers (if you want them). You can do this directly through some e-mail programs, or use copy/paste into Notepad or other text editor.

* Run the text files through MCTagIt or Buster. They could catch some problems. Import the tagged or busted file.

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12. Scanning Recipes (Part 1 - Acquiring a Scanner and Software to Accompany It)

Part I - Acquiring a Scanner
Part II - Using the Scanner to Convert Recipes
Part III - Cleaning Up Before Importing

Part 1 - Acquiring a Scanner and Software to Accompany It

This section is for people starting out. You want to be able to easily take already printed material and have it "magically" appear in MasterCook.

Well, "Magic" takes a lot of hard work (just ask David Copperfield or Lance Burton). But we'll try, in this 3 part series, to make "Magic" a reality!!

The first item of business is to decide on what type of scanner to buy. Part of that buying decision involves opening up the wallet and counting how much green is stashed there that your significant other doesn't know about (ignore the moths, they won't get you a thing!!).

There are tree basic types of scanners, ranging from narrow hand held devices capable of scanning a single column of magazine or newspaper text, to giant flat- bed scanners capable of handling the largest documents imaginable. We probably want to eliminate the devices at both ends of the scale.

Starting at the low end of the scale (and disappearing rapidly from the scene) are the hand held devices that you roll across a page by hand and which scan the entire width of the page. Smaller units, which can span only a single column of text are no longer economically feasible (even if they sold for under $5.00). These hand held devices have only one advantage. If you are trying to scan a thick magazine or a book, they may be able to do a better job of rendering the text next to the binding.

In the middle are the sheet fed scanners. Often they are combined with a PC fax machine and copier combination. If you don't already own these other devices, you can get your scanner FREE by shopping for the right combo unit. The advantage of these units is that you can pile in a lot of documents and the scanner will automatically feed, scan, and convert these documents without human intervention. The drawback is that each document must be a single sheet. (Do you want to rip up that $1200 rare collector's edition of the cookbook from the Mayflower in order to avoid typing it in by hand??)

At the top end are the flat bed scanners. You position the document on a glass/plastic plate, just like early (and some small modern) copy machines. The document is then scanned into the computer. Up until recently, flat bed scanners tended to be VERY expensive. Now they come as part of multi-function machines just like sheet fed systems. These scanners may have problems getting an accurate image near the binding of books and magazines. However, because the source document is stationary, and the moving mechanism very accurate, these scanners produce the best overall image, leading to the most accurate OCR output. Prices on stand-alone units are as low as $99 for a bargain basement unit, $129 for a reasonably good quality unit, and on up from there. I've seen one for $7300.00!!!

For our purposes, we also need to consider the software that comes packaged with the unit. Some will have NO extra software, some will have a very basic image editor, similar to Paint. Others will include a stripped down OCR program and maybe a little better image editor. More expensive models may come bundled with top notch programs of both types. My $399 (special at Office Depot) Xerox Xi70 Work Center (PC fax, copier, color inkjet printer, and flatbed scanner) came with Pagis Pro scanning and image index management, fully integrated Textbridge OCR, and MGI PhotoSuite image manipulation. These are all GOOD programs and would serve you well.

The trade-off is if you feel that you are going to wind up investing in more capable software to save you time and hassle (see Part 2 for more info), then try to save money by getting the BEST hardware with the LEAST software. But if you want to take care of the whole works in one shot, then look for Textbridge, Presto, or OmniPage OCR software in the bundle.

Considering the range of units available in all three types, I couldn't begin to put all the necessary information you need in this write-up. So I'm going to supply you with some links and turn you loose to do the detailed research yourself.

PC Magazine:

PC World:,1377,Scanners,00.html

PC Computing:,6605,2386482,00.html

Or get wild and crazy (I'm a Steve Martin Kinda guy) and enter the following on ANY search engine:

Scanners AND review

Then follow the links for another 100 years, at which time it won't matter any more - EVERYTHING will be digital!!

Happy Scanning, Enjoyable Cooking, and Good Eating to all!!

Bryan C=[8-)}

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13. Scanning Recipes (Part 2 - Using the Scanner to Convert Recipes)

Part I - Acquiring a Scanner
Part II - Using the Scanner to Convert Recipes
Part III - Cleaning Up Before Importing

Part II

Using the Scanner to Convert Recipes.

This section assumes that you have acquired a scanner in some fashion and now want to use it to automatically "type" recipes from magazines, newspapers, recipe cards, cookbooks, etc. for you.

This process usually begins with someone asking a question like the following:

"I got a scanner for Christmas (Birthday, Ground Hog Day, etc.). Now how do I copy a magazine (newspaper, cookbook, etc.) recipe and have it placed into a cookbook?"

First of all, a scanner only creates a computer-readable picture of the material being scanned. The scanner itself cannot tell that there are any characters on the page. Another program, called an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) program is required. An entry-level version of such a program may have been included in the software package that came with your scanner. This program has the gihugeic task of trying to "read" this picture and turn it into text characters in an order that resembles the order in which they occur on the page. It has to be able to recognize photographs, graphics, and other items that won't get converted to text. It has to recognize columns so that it can "read" down one column and then start over again at the top of the next column. In view of the complexity of the task, it's a wonder that it works at all!! And sometimes we have to help it along a little.

This commentary, by necessity, must be general in nature. You will need to frequently reference the manual that came with the equipment. It may be a manual printed on paper or an on-line manual accessible through the program.

The first step is to actually scan the document. Most scanners allow some choice in selecting what type of document is being scanned. You should choose 300 dpi black line scanning. In some cases this is called "letter" scanning. You may have to set configuration options to reach this criteria. Higher dpi levels are desirable only for type faces smaller than 10 points. Most OCR software is optimized for 300 dpi.

In my opinion, the three "biggies" in OCR software are OmniPage, Presto! and TextBridge. An entry level version of one of these programs may have been supplied with your scanner. Depending on the results you get, you may want to upgrade to the "complete" version of one of these packages. Cost to upgrade is typically around $99 with some of the companies offering special deals if you will switch from one of their competitors.

Once the initial scan is completed, you are usually offered the opportunity to intervene manually in the process. One scanning package allows you to manipulate a rectangle to define which portion of the initial scan you want to have re-scanned and processed. Another package defines a number of "zones" on the page, each zone typically comprising a specific typeface. You can manipulate the boundaries of these zones, eliminate zones, or renumber the order in which the zones will be placed in the output.

At this point the actual converted stream of text characters is created. Some packages have a built-in dictionary and will present obvious errors along with an enlarged view of the original document so that you can specify corrections on the spot. Some packages have a "training" mode. If the program consistently fails to recognize a certain character or characters correctly, then you can teach it the correct interpretation. Usually, however, such attempts at "training" only seem to make matters worse overall. This is because the program gets locked into the training file and lacks flexibility in consulting other alternative interpretation files when it encounters difficulties with "untrained" characters.

This stream of output characters can be directed to a Text Editor (NotePad, WordPad, NoteTab, ClipPad, etc.) or a word processor (MC Word, Corel WordPerfect, XYWrite, etc.). This may happen automatically based on configuration information supplied to the program or you may be required to specify the destination program of file location after each scan. I have found that best results are obtained by sending the stream to a Text Editor and then saving the file as Text Only. At a later time I open the file with a work processor so that I can use Macros, Spell Checker, and other functions not generally available in a Word Processor. With some OCR programs, if you send directly to a Word Processor, the column formatting is retained, creating very short lines of test - not what you want to import to your cookbook.

Using the Word Processor to cleanup the OCR errors in preparation for importing to MasterCook is the subject of Part III.

You will get widely varying results depending on the quality of printing of the original document, what form the original document was in (recipe card, cookbook, newspaper, magazine, etc.) and what type of scanner you have. Here is an example of particularly bad results:

oatmeal cookies aTe da~4 into a ~nilla
Nonstick spray coating
~ cup margarine, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
~ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
I egg
~ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/'4 CUpS all-purpose flour
1Y4 cups regular or quick-cooking rolled oats
A1 cup raisins
1A cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk
'A teaspoon vanilla
Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick coating; set cookie sheet aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat the margarine with an electric mixer on mediU'n to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda. Beat mixture till thoroughly combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and applesauce. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop dough by rounded tea-Spoons 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake in a 3750 oven for 8 to 10 minutes or till edges are light brown. Remove cookies from cookie sheet. Cool on a wire rack.

F~r glaze, stir together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. Dip cooled cookies into glaze. Let dry on wire rack. Makes about 30.
Per Cook~
CaJo'ie~ 88
Total Fat~ g
&itumLedfat <ig
cboiesterol 7mg
Sodium~35 mg
ccirtohyd~Ie lsg
Fiber (ig

Now, no matter how bad this looks, if you count the number of actual errors, it is still a rather small percentage, about 8-10%. If you are as bad a typist as I, then this may give you a better result than typing the whole recipe by hand. As you can see by this example the cleanup process can be significant (especially from newspapers). Once the recipe is cleaned up and ready, it must be saved as an ASCII DOS Text file (AKA plain text).

I know this sounds like a complicated process (and it can be). But once you do a few, it becomes much easier. I personally scan in preference to retyping every time. And remember that the above bad example is about as bad as it gets.

There are several things that you can do to help your OCR software do a better job. You never notice how faint some magazine printing can get, but your scanner sure sees the difference. If you have trouble only with a few recipes from a given magazine, try photocopying them, enlarging them as much as possible and getting the best contrast possible. If you have trouble with an entire publication, then it is usually the typeface used. In that case, try to find someone else with a different OCR program and try converting with that. Almost ALL newspapers need to be photocopied before trying to convert. At even then it's'a crap shoot; newspaper print quality is not meant to be high grade!! Documents printed by high quality printing processes are most suitable for OCR. This includes laser printers, printing presses, and books. Pages printed on inkjet printers as well as newspaper articles will give good results, but there will be more mistakes than with laser printed originals. Items printed on dot matrix printers and FAX machines do not produce good results with OCR software.

Trying to scan bound materials on a flatbed scanner can cause problems at the bound edge of pages. See section I on advantages and disadvantages of different types of scanners.

Many thanks to all those who contributed, knowingly or unknowingly, to this section, including, but limited to Jim Bryant and Brenda Adams.

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14. Scanning Recipes (Part 3 - Cleaning Up Before Importing)

Part I - Acquiring a Scanner
Part II - Using the Scanner to Convert Recipes
Part III - Cleaning Up Before Importing
Part III - Cleaning Up Before Importing

This section deals with the unique problems created by OCR scanning and addresses some methods to reduce the drudgery.

OK, so by now you have managed to figure out your scanner hardware and software and have actually produced a text document. But it doesn't take much looking to figure out that we aren't nearly out of the woods, yet!!

Depending on the quality of the document scanned and the "goodness" of your OCR software, your results are going to range from "pretty darn good" to "what in the heck IS this trash"!! If it's really bad, either give up and enter it by hand, or go back to the scanner, adjust settings, try to improve the document quality, etc. If it's really good, you may be only a few keystrokes away from perfection.

But WATCH OUT!! You have to be very careful and inspect those fractions that show up. You will usually get the single character version of the fractions 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, and 3/4. And a lot of the time they will be WRONG. So double-check those carefully.

As far as rearranging the data for MasterCook format, that is another whole subject, fully addressed is several other places. What we are looking at here is the steps that need to be taken before the file is ready to be finalized into MasterCook format.

The first problem is those pesky fractions. MasterCook doesn't recognize the single character version that we have in many places in our scanned recipes. So these have to be converted to the 3 character version. And the average input page is going to have a fair number of "typos" created by the scanning process (in addition to any that made it past the proofreader in the initial publication process). There are several approaches that we might take to handle these problems, depending on how much material we are scanning and trying to import.

One approach is to use a text editing program or a word processing program that will handle text only documents without screwing them up. We can now use the Find and Replace functionality of this program to locate the fractions and automatically change them to the correct form. And very quickly you are going to get tired of doing the same 4 Find and Replace steps in every document put out by the scanner. That's when you learn how to record or input a macro which then allows you to do these 4 steps with 1 special keystroke (typically). And as you go along, you will find yourself adding to this macro or creating others to reduce very repetitive operations.

Your Text Editor or Word Processor should have a spelling checker. And the spelling checker can be "taught" to recognize and correct errors introduced by the OCR process. The only problem is that these programs are a lot dumber than you might imagine. You would think that once you had taught it that "sguar" is really "sugar" it could remember that and make the same correction automatically for every new document created. And it DOES with most programs but ONLY if you are typing the words in from the keyboard. This function is called AutoCorrect or AutoReplace in most programs. So each time you go to process a new document, you have to again "teach" it that "sguar" is really "sugar" all over again and then it behaves nicely for the rest of the checking, IF you specify Change All (or Replace All, depending on the program).

One way to eliminate some of this work is to make very large documents out of a bunch of small ones (kind of like a digest). As you finish scanning each document and have it in text only format, just cut out all the information from the new document and paste it onto the end of the preceding document(s). You are going to have to do this, at least to some degree, anyway since recipes will not always end at the end of a page, but continue onward to the next page. Now you only have to teach it the correct spelling of a word once at the beginning of the large document and not multiple times at the beginning of a bunch of the single pages.

Now once you have this process down pat and have proceeded onward to getting everything where it belongs so MasterCook can import it, you are probably going to start grabbing everything ever printed and running it through your scanner (it's addicting - I know: I'm a recovering "scanner"). And you are going to get bogged down in a lot of necessary, repetitive detail. And it's going to get boring, and tedious. And the fun is going to diminish or go away entirely. But wait!!! There's still hope!! Now you need to find out about some truly Magic Programs.

The first bit of Magic is a freeware/shareware program called NoteTab. It's a great Text Editor with a lot of very nice features. And to get all the features I highly recommend getting the $9.95 version called NoteTab Standard. In the meantime you can download the free version, NoteTab Light, and start getting ready for some serious (and fun) business. NoteTab has a programming language that can be learned very easily for what we are going to do with it. We are going to create a true "AutoCorrect" spell checker. Once we teach NoteTab the correct version of a misspelled word, it will AUTOMATICALLY correct that word in every new document we produce. And it can help us take care of some of the formatting chores also. And make our recipes look just the way we want them. One nice(??) thing about the errors that scanners make is that they are pretty consistent, at least within a given publication. In some typefaces the OCR software may consistently confuse the letter "n" and the letter pair "ri". And this may go both ways. As we use our normal spell checker, we note which words are encountered most often and then add these to our "automatic" checker in NoteTab.

Now when we finish scanning a document, we load it in NoteTab and run our version of "AutoCorrect", and then use NoteTab's Spell Checker (not available in NoteTab Light) to find some more words that we may need to add to our "AutoCorrect" list. The more documents we process, the fewer errors for the regular Spell Checker to find. So pretty soon we're flying again!! And having a ball!! And our significant other can't drag us away from the scanner and threatens to have us committed.

Well, actually, before we get to that point, we hit another stumbling block. There still is a lot of work to be done so that when MasterCook imports the recipe, it is all nice and clean and all the information is where we want it, just the way we want it. (I'm really anal about everything being "just so" in my recipes)!! Again, NoteTab to the rescue along with another Magic Program called MC-TagIt. Unfortunately, MC-TagIt doesn't work for anything prior to MasterCook 5 (fortunately there's a program called MC Buster that does much the same thing for MasterCook 4 and prior).

Now, in my recipes, I consider "1 cup onion, chopped" to be a totally different quantity than "1 cup chopped onion". (Measure a cup of whole onions, take them out, chop them up, and then see if you have 1 cup). This can be particularly true when you take something like a tablespoon of parsley. There is a tremendous difference between a tablespoon of parsley and a tablespoon of chopped parsley. And some of the ingredients in the Ingredient List in MasterCook reflect this difference. Depending on exactly how you state the ingredient name, the nutritional analysis may vary significantly. Check boneless pork, then check pork ribs. Now what happens if you enter pork ribs, boneless?? You are going to be way off.

My trick to take care of these problems is to treat these instances as "spelling errors". In my "AutoCorrect" function in NoteTab I have taught it to replace "pork ribs, boneless" with "boneless pork ribs". And then in MasterCook I have copied the information from "boneless pork" into a new ingredient named "boneless pork ribs". (You COULD merely create a synonym for boneless pork called boneless pork ribs, but then on your shopping list it would just say "boneless pork" and you might not remember that you needed to get the boneless ribs).

There are also two freeware libraries, designed specifically for use with MasterCook recipes, available for NoteTab. These can help tremendously in getting past the drudgery of getting everything ready to import by automating many of these steps and reducing others to just a keystroke/mouse click or two.

So now you know what you need to do, all you need is the information on where to get this good stuff. So HERE it is:

NoteTab Light and NoteTab Standard:

MC-Tagit for MasterCook 5 (or greater) courtesy of Gail Shermeyer:

NoteTab Clip Libraries for MasterCook 5 courtesy of Pat Hanneman of KitPatH:

MC Buster courtesy of Glen Hosey

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15. The Keyword Format Loads More Fields

Another way to set up recipes in a text file is the keyword format. It lets you import 8 parts of a recipe and works in versions 3 and greater.


These keywords correspond to MasterCook's Title, Number of Servings, Author, Categories, Preparation Time, Notes, Ingredients and Directions.

In the example, highlight all of the recipe starting with NAME: Thai Chicken Thighs and ending with Crescent Books (1994: New York)

Copy and paste that selection into MasterCook 5.0 Import Assistant (IA) . Use [Auto-Fill] to import all the text into the proper fields.

Like the 5@ method, you can import recipes with this format from a text file by using Import.

------------[keyword example]--------------

NAME: Thai Chicken Thighs
SOURCE: Grilling Step by Step
COURSES: Appetizers, Poultry
COMMENTS: Prep 20 min; marinate 1 hr; cook 20 mins
2 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Trim the chicken thighs of excess fat and tendons.

2. Place garlic, peppercorns, cilantro and salt in food processor bowl. Process 2030 seconds or until the mixture forms a smooth paste. (This can also be done using a mortar and pestle.)

3. Place chicken in shallow nonmetal dish. Spread garlic mixture over chicken. Stand chicken at room temperature 1 hour.

4. Barbecue chicken on hot, greased grill or griddle 510 minutes each side, turning once. Serve with a Chili Garlic Dip.

Storage: Chicken can be marinated, in refrigerator, 1 day in advance. Dip can be made 3 days in advance.

Ref: Step-By-Step Grilling Cookbook, by Susan Tomnay (Editor) Crescent Books (1994: New York).

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16. Using Masterlist with File Import

I was pulling together my collection of recipes by one author. For a change, I wanted to import directly into the book that I started.

So I opened the MASTERLIST. That put its window on the taskbar. Then I opened the FILE IMPORT window -- which took over the full screen. I opened the file I wanted to import then clicked the [Masterlist] task.

I don't think this would work well for books with gazillions of recipes but it works fine for this purpose.

Usually, I import into "My Imports" book. Edit there. Then drag and drop recipe(s) from the browser view to a book on the masterlist.

- ML/file import comparison of titles. -

This method of comparing titles to be imported with titles that exist would work in small books. Or in this example, it works mostly because the recipes are all from the same author: "Paulette Mitchell"

Chances are that two recipes with the same title are duplicates. I would still compare the two recipes. See which one is better formatted. Which has more information. Make sure they are from the same book. etc.

When comparing recipes - the "edit view" of the recipe is in one column so it would resize to half the screen. (The display view is spread out too much to size easily.)

It might be easier to compare the recipe displayed in MC with the recipe in the text file, because the text file's window would be resize-able. and you could view both (text and MC) at the same time.

But this won't work well for large collections of mixed author/source recipes that might have the same titles.

Personally, I don't mind dups. In fact I create dups on purpose sometimes! For example, I like to maintain cookbooks of all the recipes sent to one of the lists. I know what's in their archive. I keep the recipes that I sent to that list in their own source book.

When importing new recipes into a list-cookbook, I let MC number the dups so that I can eye ball them and delete/rename them. I've found no way to catch the same recipes with different names.

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17. Web Import Bar Doesn't 'Save to MasterCook'

PROBLEM: The web import toolbar works fine up until I press the 'Save to MasterCook' button. It doesn't do anything.

SOLUTION: Start up MasterCook. Select to export a recipe in the MC 5 format (See Export and Mail from the File menu.) and save it to your Windows Desktop. Close MasterCook.

Double-click on the .mx2 file that you created on the Desktop. Does MasterCook launch? If not, there is a file association problem, which is most likely the root of your troubles. The .mx2 file extension needs to be registered to MasterCook.

To resolve the file association problem, you need to REPAIR the installation. (Back up your files FIRST!) Do that by opening the Windows Control Panel. Open Add or Remove Programs. Select MasterCook and press the CHANGE button. When the InstallShield Wizard appears, use the REPAIR option.

If MasterCook does start up fine when you double-click on the .mx2 file, there most likely is an issue with the web bar not being able to perform, i.e. perhaps a WinXP security setting or browser security setting or virus software preventing the launch, for example? See the topic called "Web Import Bar Doesn't Work" in the MC 5+ Error Messages FAQs for further tips.

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18. With or Without Categories

Q: How can I import recipes without their categories?

A: When you import recipes into MasterCook 5.x/6.x, there is a place near the left middle edge of the Import window where you can put a checkmark which will Include Categories when you import recipes. Remove the checkmark from this box to exclude the categories when importing.

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19. Yahoogroups Recipes

You will have better results importing the recipes from yahoogroups e-mail lists <> if you subscribe to these lists in the plain text format and NOT HTML. Each e-mail list has its own settings.

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