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Take Control of Your Paperless Office, Second Edition
Digitize your documents while reducing 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 shows you convert your paper documents to digitized files and gives you ideas for how to organize your office workflow, explaining how to develop day-to-day techniques that reduce the amount of time you spend pressing buttons, launching software, and managing your digitized documents.
In addition to all of the above, Joe clues you in to these paper-reducing skills:
Scanning or photographing documents you find while out and about—business cards, receipts, menus, flyers, and labels—so you keep only digitized versions. Joe discusses a variety of mobile scanning options, with an emphasis on using a camera-equipped iOS device, and lists similar options for employing Android, Windows, and BlackBerry smartphones.
Creating a digitized image of your signature so you can sign and share documents digitally, rather than printing them for the sole purpose of signing them with a pen.
Setting up your computer to send and receive faxes so you can avoid using a physical fax machine with paper input and output. Joe describes online fax services and using a fax modem.
Common techniques for reducing paper—paperless billing, online bank statements, and more—and less common practices, such as paperless postal mail services and check depositing services. Joe also shares effective tips for reducing the amount of catalogs, junk mail, and paper that you receive.
The book answers numerous questions, 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 not been invented, I imagine many other characteristics 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 worthwhile things that I’m grateful for.
On the other hand, I’ve also written a few 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 the Retina displays on my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro. 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 often occurs 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 several 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.
Tip: Wondering why all offices aren’t paperless already? Cecil Adams offers some interesting perspective in The Straight Dope.
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 (and even 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.
I also 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.
If you read the first edition of this book and have already taken steps toward a paperless office, read Reassess Your Paperless Office Strategy first; it tells you what you might want to reconsider.
Learn about the goal and the steps you’ll take to reach it; see Meet Your New Paperless Office.
Stop the flood: Head Off Most Paper before It Reaches You.
Decide on the most important tool for creating a paperless office; read Choose a Document Scanner.
Learn what features you need in Mac software to accompany your scanner in Choose OCR Software.
Configure Your Software for optimal efficiency and quality.
Figure out the most convenient way to process papers you receive in Create a Workflow for Incoming Paper.
Devise a plan to scan all those paper documents already in your files; read Work Through a Backlog.
Capture digital copies of documents even when you’re away from your scanner; see OCR on the Go.
Learn how to break the printing habit painlessly (at least sometimes) in Avoid Common Printing Needs.
Discover digital signatures; see Sign Documents without Paper.
Say goodbye to your fax machine and hello to another 300 square inches of desk space; see Fax without Paper.
Version 2.1 is a minor update, which reflects changes in software and services made since version 2.0 was released, fixes several small issues, and adds a few interesting new pieces of information. Major changes include:
Added Hubdoc to the list of online statement aggregators, and included a note about security when using such services. See Sign Up for Paperless Billing.
Mentioned Square Cash in the sidebar Other Electronic Payment Options.
Clarified that the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 can now scan wirelessly to Macs as well as to mobile devices. See Consider Important Scanner Features.
Added a tip about PDFiler. See Name and File after the Fact.
Included Microsoft OneNote in the list of document managers. See Use a Document Manager.
Updated links to information from the IRS about recordkeeping. See Prune Unnecessary Documents.
Repaired many broken links, especially to items in the iTunes Store.
It’s been two years since the last update to this book. Although my basic strategy for running a paperless office hasn’t changed much in that time, significant changes have occurred in the hardware, software, and online tools available. In addition, numerous readers have made suggestions, asked questions, and proposed additional topics. This heavily revised second edition attempts to address as many of those things as possible.
The major changes in this edition are these:
Added a chapter for people who have already taken steps toward a paperless office and want to know what they should take a fresh look at; see Reassess Your Paperless Office Strategy
Included a sidebar about creating editable Word documents from scanned images; see Converting Scans to Microsoft Word Format
Updated Consider Storage Options to cover the latest interfaces and cloud storage options, as well as SSDs
Added new services in Sign Up for Paperless Billing that can fetch PDF statements for you and listed more options in the sidebar Other Electronic Payment Options
Expanded Explore Other Paperless Options and Get Paperless Postal Mail to include additional services, including several for Canadian residents
Revised my advice about multifunction devices in Learn Why Document Scanners Are Different
Heavily rewrote instructions for how to Pick a Mac-compatible Scanner and Choose OCR Software, and, in the process, moved numerous details into online appendixes
Reorganized and expanded the information about configuring scanner settings, with much more detail about how to achieve optimal results; see Choose Your Main Scanning Options
Updated the sidebar ScanSnap Manager and OCR to cover the latest version of Fujitsu’s software
Significantly revised Set OCR Options to include additional important settings and considerations
Expanded Use a Document Manager to discuss further features, such as syncing and sharing
Updated the Automate OCR topic and (to a lesser extent) the AppleScripts that accompany it
Thoroughly updated Pick an iOS Scanning App and Use Other Smartphones to reflect current offerings
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.
2014 update: I bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 document scanner. I wrote about how much I like it in a TidBITS article, Dragging School Papers into the 21st Century with a ScanSnap. Although I still don't have a paperless office in the sense of no paper, I do have a paper-less office with far less paper than I would otherwise. And, I find that the firms and contractors who I work with are becoming increasingly comfortable with sending me PDFs from the get-go, so more of my "paper" arrives digitally.
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.
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June 4, 2014 -- We just released version 2.1 of this ebook, bringing it fully up-to-date. At the moment, we aren't planning another update for any particular, known time in the future.
—Tonya J Engst
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