This is the first post in my new series of weekly tips on going paperless. These tips are based on my own experience and what has worked best for me. If you are interested in finding out why I went paperless in the first place, you can read about it here. At this moment, I have about 20 weeks worth of tips posts. I hope to accumulate more before I run out. The first few weeks will be on basic topics and then I’ll move into other areas of interest. All of these tips can be found under the “Going Paperless” category on this blog. If you have any suggestions, let me know.
After more than a year of going paperless, I’ve found that there are three essential tools that I probably couldn’t have gotten along without. These are my tools of the trade and I’d recommend them for anyone considering going paperless. First, I needed a place to store the “paperless” (or digital) documents. Second, I needed a way of scanning in existing paper to digital form. And finally, I quickly discovered I needed a way of removing staples from all those old paper documents.
1. Evernote – my digital filing cabinet
Evernote1 is software that allows you to capture notes in a variety of forms. These notes are stored locally on your computer, but can also be accessed in the Cloud. Evernote has applications that work on most mobile devices as well, including iPads, iPhones and Android. With Evernote, you can organize your notes in notebooks and tag them. You can capture images, audio and video notes, and attach documents like PDFs to your notes. With Evernote’s premium service, your scanned PDF documents can take advantage of Evernote’s “PDF Search” capability which makes your scanned PDF’s searchable, a very useful feature, I’ve found.
I chose Evernote because it met all of my high level requirements for paperless storage:
- It works on a Mac.
- It can store your data in the Cloud so it is accessible to you anywhere.
- It works on iPhones and iPads
- It is highly flexible when it comes to organizing your documents
- It has a robust interface for capturing notes
- It makes it very easy to search your documents
- It provides enough security2 to satisfy my own security requirements
I use Evernote’s premium service which costs $45/year and gives you a number of additional features, like the PDF searching. It also gives you and additional monthly upload quota of 1 GB/month. Evernote does not have any limit to how much data you store, only a limit to how much you can upload in a given month. That said, you can use Evernote for free with a smaller monthly upload quota.
There are other products out there that perform similar functions and I looked at several of them. But for my needs, Evernote came out on top.
2. Canon ImageFormula P-150M scanner
Of course, to go paperless, I needed a tool that would allow me to scan existing paper to digital form. Since I’d already picked Evernote as my filing cabinet, I started to look at scanners that would work with Evernote. I wanted something small, but something that could do multiple pages at a time. I also wanted a scanner that would do duplex scanning (scan both sides of a page). What I found was the Canon ImageFormula P-150M. I’ve written about this scanner before.
It is a portable scanner, very lightweight. While it is not a heavy-duty scanner, it meets my needs quite nicely. It can scan 14-15 pages per minute. It can do duplex scanning in a single pass (it has two imagers). Best of all, it has a scan button that can be programmed to scan into a variety of programs, one of which is Evernote. This made it a no-brainer for me. Part of the purpose of going paperless was to make life a little easier. I knew I wouldn’t stick with it if scanning in paper became too complicated. With my Canon scanner, all I have to do is set the paper and push a button. The document is scanned into a PDF, which is sent automatically to a note in Evernote. I can then title and tag the note and move on. And because I use Evernote’s premium service, that scanned note becomes searchable within minutes of scanning it in.
The one downside to the P-150M that I’ve noted (and I’ve now used it to scan in hundreds of papers) is that the page seperator doesn’t always properly separate the pages. That is, sometimes it will try to pull through two pages at once, instead of one. I’ve discovered this most often happens when the pages have been folded or creased in some way. Smoothing out the folding before scanning usually fixes this.
3. Staple remover
When I started to go paperless, I’d hardly ever used a staple remover in my life. But I found that I occasionally had to scan in documents that had been stapled together and having a staple remover has been a godsend. I pluck out the staples, smooth out the pages, scan them in and move on.
Bonus tools: a good shredder
One other tool I’ve obtained, but certainly isn’t required, is a good shredder. After I scan something in, I make a quick determination if I need to keep the original or not. If I don’t, I toss it into a pile, which I ultimately shred a couple of times a week.
There you have it. 3 essential tools for going paperless. Next week, I’ll be posting tips on a daily “process” for going paperless, based on my own routine that I’ve worked out over the last 16 months.
- I should say up front that I am Evernote’s Paperless Ambassador. I was so impressed with Evernote when I first started using it that I wrote several blog posts about it. Eventually, I was asked to become part of their ambassador program, which I was happy to do because I think it is a great product. I am not an employee of Evernote. ↩
- I get a lot of questions about security concerns with storing data in Evernote. Rest assured, I will cover some “security tips” in a future topic. ↩