In this day and age of high-tech, the notion that our offices and businesses still need to rely on paper as much as they do is just wrong.
Whether you want to use the environmentalist argument, or just the one about clutter – the reasons for going paperless are many. For me, it has more to do with the overhead and annoyance of storing paper files. Moreover, if you’ve ever experience the joy of finding a receipt or some other item out of your filing cabinet, you’ll love what I’m going to show you today.
I am currently making a transition to a paperless office. My two big tools for doing it are:
If you don’t use Evernote, I highly invite you to check it out. To call this a “notes application” wouldn’t do it justice. Evernote is basically a big digital brain, where you can drop everything from notes, documents, audio notes, photos – everything. All of it is then archived, searchable, tagged, etc. It is synced with Evernote’s servers, so you have cloud access as well as local access. If you have multiple computers, you keep it all synced easily. You can even access your data from a mobile phone or the web.
Evernote is free, and that includes up to 40MB of upload transfer to their servers per month. 40MB might not sound like a lot, but in practice, it lasts most people a month quite easily. If you do need more bandwidth, a premium account goes for $45/year. I went ahead and upgraded my account, because it makes for PDF searching (very handy in making that paperless office), higher bandwidth, as well as SSL secure transfer of your documents.
The ScanSnap s1300 scanner is a great little scanner by Fujitsu. It is small and compact and designed to be portable. In fact, you can even power this little sucker off of your USB port (although it will be slower if you do that). But, it is a pretty good quality, full duplex document scanner. I power mine off of AC power because it works faster that way.
Making The Scanner Talk To Evernote
As part of setting up the scanner on your computer, you’ll install their ScanSnap software. This software runs all the time and is activated whenever you open the lid on the scanner to scan a document. So, here’s what you need to do to get it working with Evernote:
- Go into the ScanSnap preferences and, first, turn off the “Use Quick Menu” option.
- Next, go to the “Application” tab. You’ll see an application dropdown. If Evernote is not listed there, simply press the “Add or Remove” button, go find the Evernote application on your hard drive and add it to the list. Then, you’ll have Evernote selected there.
- Go to the “Save” tab and choose a location on your hard drive where you want raw PDF scans of your documents archived. What this does, then, is archives your documents in one place while ALSO putting them in Evernote.
What many people do is set all scans to save to an external hard drive, while also being sent to Evernote. It is complete redundancy.
The Gorgeous Part of Going Paperless
In and of itself, going digital versus going paper isn’t really a matter of time-saving when it comes to the act of filing something. It takes me about as long to file something away as it does to scan it and file it into Evernote.
The REAL convenience is in search. With Evernote and the s1300, all your PDFs are searchable. Not only that, but you can tag and describe any document however you wish. If I need to search for a particular receipt, I don’t have to wade through a pile of receipts and scan them all until I find it. Instead, I just plug a search term into Evernote and a PDF scan of my receipt pops right up. What could sometimes take up several minutes now takes a few seconds.
Making The Transition
It takes some changes to the way we do things to go paperless.
First thing I did was log into all of my bank accounts and switched to paperless statements. So, I will no longer get bank statements in the mail, but instead get PDF documents. All I have to do, then, is print the PDF document directly into Evernote (or just drag and drop it). See, Evernote sets itself up so that, instead of printing to a printer, you can print a PDF directly into Evernote. So, now I get my statements piped right into my Evernote archive without me having to print anything, scan anything, or deal with any paper.
When I get a receipt or some other thing that should be filed, I’ll now use the scanner to put it into Evernote. Then, I can either throw it away or shred it (if the information is sensitive).
Some many wonder about the legal part of this… For example, if the IRS bothers you, will documents stored digitally satisfy the requirements of documentation? Yes, it will and the IRS has actually confirmed that.
Obviously, there are some documents I wouldn’t throw away (passports, for example). Some things require original paperwork, so you’d need to hang onto that. Most things, however, won’t have that requirements and you can just scan it and shred it.
Lastly, if you have a bunch of paper files already, you’ll have to decide how to handle that as you make the transition. You can either just make a clean break and go paperless from this time forward, or you can go on a scanning spree and start converting your old files to digital.
Definitely look into this, however. I find that most people who look down on this idea are just clinging to their old ideas. People who’ve always dealt in paper have a hard time changing. But, give this a shot. The convenience is awesome.
The PCMech.com weekly newsletter has been running strong for over 8 years. Sign up to get tech news, updates and exclusive content - right in your inbox. Also get (several) free gifts.