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Take Control of Your Paperless Office
Learn the best ways to cut back on incoming and outgoing paper!
Join Joe Kissell as he helps you clear the chaos of an office overflowing with paper. With Joe’s guidance you can develop a personal clean-up strategy and choose your Mac-compatible tools—a document scanner and the software you need to perform OCR (optical character recognition), devices and services for storing your digitized documents, and tools to categorize, locate, and view your digital document collections. Once you have your gear in hand, Joe then shows you convert your paper documents to digitized files and gives you ideas for how to organize your office workflow, explaining how to develop the day-to-day techniques that reduce the amount of time you spend pressing buttons, launching software, and otherwise managing your war on clutter.
In addition to all of the above, Joe clues you in to these paper-reducing tasks and skills:
How to scan or photograph documents you find while out and about—business cards, receipts, menus, flyers, and labels—so that you keep only digitized versions. Joe discusses a variety of mobile scanner options, with particular emphasis on using a camera-equipped iOS device, and lists similar options for employing Android and BlackBerry smartphones.
How to create a digitized image of your signature so that you can create, sign, and share documents digitally, rather than printing them for the sole purpose of signing them with a pen.
How to set up your computer to send and receive faxes so that you can avoid using a physical fax machine with paper input and output. Joe describes both using a fax modem and taking advantage of various online fax services.
How to use common techniques for reducing paper—paperless billing, online bank statements, and more—and less common practices, such as using paperless postal mail services and check depositing services. Joe also gives effective tips for reducing the amount of catalogs, junk mail, and paper that you receive.
The book answers numerous burning questions that you undoubtedly now have, including:
iPad & Kindle
About the Author
Joe Kissell has written numerous books about the Macintosh, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He's also Senior Editor of TidBITS and a Senior Contributor to Macworld, and previously spent ten years in the Mac software industry.
Table of Contents
Read Me First
This book guides you in the process of eliminating paper clutter, replacing many printed documents with digital versions—with special emphasis on the Mac-compatible hardware, software, and process needed to efficiently scan documents and create searchable PDFs. It also helps you find clever ways to reduce both incoming and outgoing office paper, and capture documents even when no scanner is available. It was written by Joe Kissell, edited by Tonya Engst, and published by TidBITS Publishing Inc.
My feelings about paper might best be described as ambivalent. As I write these words, I’m sitting in a library surrounded by books of the old-fashioned paper kind. I’ve written several such books myself, and I’ve often formed opinions about people based on how many books (and which ones) are in their homes. Had paper never been invented, I imagine many other aspects of modern life as we know it would never have developed. Paper facilitated the recording of history, the dissemination of knowledge, the spread of literacy, and a great many other virtuous things that I’m grateful for.
On the other hand, I’ve also written a couple dozen ebooks like the one you’re now reading, and have shifted most of my professional and recreational reading to books in digital formats—an activity made considerably more enjoyable by my iPad and iPhone 4 (especially with the latter’s Retina display). I like the fact that I can search, annotate, and back up my books now, and that I can accumulate as many as I want without running out of shelf space, as is a regular occurrence in my home.
But I truly lose all tolerance for paper when it comes to office paperwork—letters, forms, invoices, bank statements, receipts, business cards, flyers, note cards, catalogs, handouts from meetings and trade shows, photocopies of library book pages, and anything else that might end up on my desk in printed form. I used to have several filing cabinets full of the stuff, and overflowing—and yet, despite what I thought was an intelligent filing system, it frequently took me a long time to find what I was looking for. And because every day more of it would appear (some of it coming from my own printer), it was difficult to keep on top of it. The clutter became unmanageable, and I found that I spent far too much of my time managing paper rather than accomplishing useful tasks.
Never is the scourge of paper clutter more apparent than when I move, which I tend to do every few years or so. I get tired just looking at all those paper files, and I find myself cursing all those paper books that I love to surround myself with, because they’re so heavy and bulky.
But most of my struggle with paper, I’m happy to say, is in the past. For a few years now I’ve been moving toward a paperless office. I now receive, and generate, only a tiny fraction of the paper I once did. And virtually every paper document that comes into my life is scanned, converted to a searchable format, and digitally archived—so I can find nearly any document I need with a few keystrokes. And, because everything is backed up, I don’t worry about my papers being wiped out by a fire or other catastrophe.
In this ebook, I explain how you can do what I do when it comes to paper. By carefully examining where and how you use paper and looking for suitable digital alternatives, you’ll find that your productivity and happiness increase, while clutter and stress decrease. You might even save some money and benefit the environment.
What I describe here is a multi-pronged approach to strategically eliminating paper. Of course, even if you avoid generating your own paper clutter and reduce the paper other people send you, some paper will still find its way to you—and you may have many thousands of pages already sitting around. So one of the central features of the plan I discuss is scanning your paper documents and processing them in a way that retains their physical appearance while also letting you index, search, select, and copy their text. I also talk about using devices such as the iPad, iPhone, and Kindle (as well as smartphones and digital cameras) to maximum advantage—and doing clever things you may never have thought of, like paperless postal mail and fax.
Let me be clear, though: I’m not going to tell you to get rid of all your paper, or that resorting to paper for any reason is somehow a moral failure. Paper has many noble uses, and I wouldn’t pretend otherwise. You may choose to adopt all my recommendations, or only a few—everyone’s different, so by all means, do only what works for you.
The plan I cover in this book is appropriate for a home office or small business. If you aspire to take a large corporation paperless, I applaud you—but that sort of project is beyond the scope of this ebook.
Finally, I assume that you have at least one Mac at your disposal. While everything I discuss can be accomplished in a comparable fashion with other operating systems, in this ebook I focus on Mac-compatible hardware and software.
This book shows you how to reduce the use of paper in your home or office and use digital representations of documents instead (or in addition). You can learn about these topics in any order, but most of the chapters follow a logical progression, so I encourage you to read linearly. In any case, I urge you to start with Meet Your New Paperless Office, which provides useful background information.
In the roughly eight months since the initial version of this ebook was published, a number of significant developments have occurred—new OCR and scanning products have been released, Apple has unleashed Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, and readers have written in with suggestions and corrections. This version brings the book up to date and corrects some oversights, but keeps all the basics intact. We plan to release a more substantial revision of the book at some point in the coming months.
The major changes in version 1.1 are these:
The ebook assumes that you are using a Mac, so some topics are Mac-centric, especially those that describe scanning software, OCR software, PDF-manipulation software, and other tools that you'd be using on a desktop computer. However, the discussions of scanner hardware, features to look for in scanning/OCR/PDF software, overall workflow, online storage options, and integration with handheld devices would be (nearly entirely) equally applicable.
Honestly, I (Tonya) wondered the same thing until I started editing the manuscript. However, while editing, I learned that there is such a thing as a document scanner. Unlike the flatbed scanner built into my printer, a document scanner whips through piles of paper in almost no time at all. I am planning to purchase one, and I am excited about digitizing about 25% of my filing cabinet—papers that I want to keep but it wouldn't be a crisis if my backup system ate them. And, that will save me from instead having to buy a new filing cabinet! By editing the manuscript, I also finally learned how to digitize my handwritten signature and use it on PDFs so that I can sign and fax documents without paper.
The book mentions EagleFiler, but because it doesn't do OCR, it's not discussed at any length. However, DEVONthink isn't discussed at any significant length either because we have the other book—it gets more mentions because of the OCR aspect of things, but I don't think you'd have trouble applying the recommendations to EagleFiler.
The "Paperless Office" ebook is broad—it talks about choosing a scanner, setting up an office workflow, capturing documents with an iOS device or digital camera, backing up and sharing digital documents, cutting down on incoming and outgoing paper—lots of topics. It says a few things about DEVONthink, but really only enough to help you decide if that's a tool you'd like to use for OCR and/or document management. If you already use DEVONthink, or suspect that you are DEVONthink kind of person, then you'll probably want both ebooks.
The DEVONthink book, on the other hand, is deep—it tells you everything you need to know to use that particular tool effectively. But it doesn't say much about all the other paperless office topics.
There are lots of great ways to read our ebooks on these devices. For more details, please read our latest Device Advice.
Feel free to ask us if you have a question about this title!
How could we not publish such kind words? If you'd like to send us your comments (good or bad, though we hope they're all good), just click the Feedback link on the cover of your copy of the ebook. Be sure to let us know if we can publish your comment. Thanks!
July 29, 2011 - Now that we've released a version 1.1 update to this ebook, we are thinking about creating a second edition with expanded content. We'll post more information here once our schedule firms up a bit, but we are thinking maybe late 2011 or early 2012, though we really haven't made a firm plan. [It's now June of 2012... the status of updating this ebook is that we would all like to update it, but other ebook projects keep jumping ahead of it in the queue. —Tonya]
November 12, 2012 --
Reader Travis R. wrote in to ask, "In your next edition, please address the issue of how to quickly retrieve statements from web sites. Most of my billers make statements available, but I have to go get it. Are there any tools that will automate the retrieval process?" It turns out that Adam Engst ran across just such a tool at Macworld last January, and he mentioned it in the article Cool Products at Macworld | iWorld 2012, in TidBITS. The product, which was in beta testing at the time (and apparently still is), is FileThis Fetch. Although none of us has tried it, from the description it seems to offer the service for which Travis asked.
—Michael E. Cohen
July 25, 2012 --
Most of the material in Take Control of Your Paperless Office is still valid in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. However, please be aware of the following:
In addition to these items, I've accumulated a fairly long list other things in the book that could use updating. So, I've been thinking about writing a second edition, and that will almost certainly happen sooner or later, although I can't yet say how soon or late.
April 13, 2011 --
Recently, Scott R. wrote to ask for more information about multifunction printer/scanners: "I am trying to go more paperless at home (not an office) and most of the scanners are out of my budget. I am looking into various MF printers as I need to replace a failing printer as well. It would be nice to have some information on using MF printers for the scanning."
Here's Joe's take on multifunction devices: "I have two main problems with most multifunction devices: they usually don't do duplex scanning (and when they do, it almost always requires two passes), and they're usually comparatively slow. Also, you're less likely to find them bundled with good OCR software. For all those reasons, they just aren't ideal for turning an office paperless. The portable Fujitsu ScanSnap I discuss is one of the cheapest duplex scanners, and really quite a nice one—plus you can probably find it at a discount if you search a bit. Other than that, all I can really say is that yes, there's some expense, but you'll recoup it in saved time. Good luck!"
—Michael E. Cohen
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