One of the sets of questions I get asked with a fair amount of regularity has to do with what settings I use to scan documents into Evernote. Do I prefer PDF or JPG? What resolution do I use? Do I prefer one page per note or a multi-page scan? So I thought I’d use this week’s post to talk about my own scanning preferences and settings, and to provide a little insight into how much scanning I actually do these days.
My home office scanner: Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i
To set the baseline, my primary scanner is the Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i, which I have been using ever since mid-2012. The scanner is connected to my iMac, and configured to scan directly into Evernote at the push of the scan button on the device. I have not looked at any other desktop scanners since getting this one because this one does everything that I require of a scanner. It performs duplex scanning in a single pass, scans in color and at high resolution, has excellent paper-feeding, and seamlessly integrates with Evernote. I’m sure there are lots of scanners out there that do the same. The Fujitsu just happened to be the most recent one that I tried and when I found that it did everything I needed, I felt no need to keep looking.
My scanning requirements
As I often do in these posts, I will list my requirements for scanning because they play an important role in the settings I use on my ScanSnap. I think it is an important exercise to consider your requirements before making these kinds of decisions because your needs help shape those decisions. In rough terms, here were my requirements for scanning:
- Had a need to scan 10-20 pages per day, initially.
- Did not want to have to feed pages individually: scanner must have a page feeder.
- Did not want to have to re-feed pages often: scanner must have a reliable page feeder.
- Needed to be able to scan both sides of a page.
- Needed to be able to scan pages quickly.
- Needed to be able to scan to PDF format.
- Needed to be able to scan directly into Evernote.
- Needed my scans to be searchable once they were in Evernote.
Obviously, the requirements should help drive the decision for the device you choose, but I’ve found that many of the scanners available today can perform most of these functions. Meeting these requirements is really more a matter of fine-tuning the settings of the scanner and the scanning software.
My scanning settings: some tips for scanning into Evernote
For the most part, I use the default setting that came with my Fujitsu scanner. I made only a few minor modifications to those defaults to meet my own requirements. The Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i had a page feeder that can hold something like 12-15 pages at a time, and has never given me any trouble. The pages always feed smoothly and I can’t think of a single occasion upon which I have had to re-feed a page. It also does duplex scanning, and will skip blank pages, which is nice.
One thing I’ve noticed is that it sometimes scans a blank pages because of light marks that show up on the page, or because the paper is thin and the text from the printed side bleeds through. But this doesn’t really bother me. It doesn’t affect my searching of the document. I never print so it doesn’t waste paper. And if I really want to get rid of that extra page, I can open the PDF in a PDF editor, like Adobe, and remove the page, resave the document and add it back to my note in Evernote.
Let me walk through some of the settings of my ScanSnap so you can see for yourself how I configure things to meet my requirements.
First and foremost, my ScanSnap is set to scan directly to Evernote. This profile is tied to the button on the scanner so that when I hit that button and initiate a scan, the resulting scan goes into a note in Evernote:
The scanning software has the ability to make a searchable PDF. In other words, at the time I scan the document, the scanning software performs some OCR on the scan and embeds the search text within the PDF file. I have deliberately turned this option off:
I have turned this off for two reasons:
- When this option is turned on, it takes a lot longer to complete the scan. This is because two separate operations have to be performed. First, the document has to be scanned. Then, the document had to be processed for searches and that latter operation can take a little while. My requirement is to scan as quickly as possible, so I turn this off.
- Evernote does this for me. When I scan a PDF to Evernote, it automatically makes it searchable, and it does so while its sitting on the Evernote servers, essentially performing the task somewhere other than my machine, so that I am free to move on to the next scan. It does mean that there is usually a lag of a few minutes before the search data is downloaded to my machine, but so far, I have never scanned in a document and then needed to perform a search on it that instant.
Note that this option was turned on by default on my scanner so I had to go into the settings (see image above) and turn it off.
Regarding the speed of the scan, the resolution at which a document is scanned can make a difference. I have found that I don’t really need high-resolution scans for my purposes. I am scanning so that I can get rid of paper, not produce more, so I virtually never print anything I scan. I have found that the default settings for resolution and DPI are fine for my needs, including the OCR that Evernote performs. So I have left these settings as the defaults:
I almost never scan to JPG. 99.99% of everything I’ve scanned into Evernote has been in PDF. That is a personal preference, of course. A lot of people scan old photos, but I haven’t scanned many old photos. Most of what I scan are documents and I’ve found the PDF to be the most convenient format for documents. My settings for the document, therefore, look like this:
Again, note that I have disabled OCR on the local scanning to help speed up the scanning. But once again, I rely on Evernote to make the PDF searchable, and usually within a few minutes, I see a notification alerting me that the search data has been downloaded for the PDF.
I scan a document at a time, regardless of how many pages that document is, and I like the results to be compiled as a single PDF per document. If I have a 10-page document, I want a single, 10-page PDF, not ten 1-page PDFs. So I’ve adjusted my settings accordingly:
Here are some of the miscellaneous settings I use for my scanning:
The effect of going paperless on my scanning habits
One side-effect of going paperless, for me at least, has been a general reduction in my need for scanning in the first place. Two years ago, when I started going paperless at home, I developed a daily process to ensure I did my scanning each day, usually after I picked up the day’s mail. Back then I estimate that I’d scan anywhere from 10-20 pages of new paper each day. (I still have not gone back to scan my file cabinet of old paper because I never once have needed it.)
Today, I find that if I scan 10-20 pages in a week, it is a lot. I suspect this is a result of becoming more selective about what I scan, based on what I use and I need access to within Evernote. I also suspect it is a result of my deliberate efforts to reduce incoming paper by signing up for electronic statements, and doing a lot more through email and other electronic means. I still get paper, but not nearly as much as I received two years ago.
The result is that I spend substantially less time scanning than I used to, which tells me that I am doing something right.
If you have tips for your own scanning, settings, suggestions, hints, let’s hear them in the comments.
If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.