Digitize your documents while reducing incoming and outgoing paper!

Take Control of
Your Paperless Office

Third Edition
Joe Kissell

Put your paper online and keep it there with help from Joe Kissell! Assess your situation, develop a strategy, and learn clever techniques for keeping more paper at bay—with an emphasis on the Mac-compatible hardware, software, and processes needed to get the job done.

All Take Control books are delivered in three ebook formats—PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle)—and can be read on nearly any device.


Note: This book was last updated in 2017, and as such, it does not cover newer scanner models or more recent software releases. Although the general advice in the book is still entirely valid, some of the specifics are out of date. We plan a major new edition of this book in the second half of 2022 to cover newer scanning hardware and software and more recent operating systems (as well as adding coverage of Windows).

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 scanner and the software you need to perform OCR (optical character recognition)—plus 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 how to 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 documents.

Bonus! The book also comes with downloadable “folder action” AppleScripts that simplify the process of OCR-ing PDFs in Adobe Acrobat, ABBYY FineReader Express, PDFpen/PDFpenPro, and Readiris. Save or move a PDF in the appropriate folder, and the script does the rest!

You’ll master these paper-reducing skills:

  • Scanning or photographing documents you find while out and about—business cards, receipts, menus, flyers, and more—so you keep only digitized versions. Joe discusses a variety of mobile scanning options, with an emphasis on using a camera-equipped iOS device, but with mention of a few options for Android 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 (note that fax modem support is not available in macOS 10.12 Sierra).

Joe also discusses standard techniques for reducing paper—paperless billing, online bank statements, reducing unwanted catalogs and junk mail, and more, as well as less common practices, such as paperless postal mail services and check depositing services.

“If you still have multiple banker’s boxes filled with old docs, this is the e-book for you. Like all the Take Control books, jargon-free, accessible, invaluable.” —Lars Hoel

You’ll find answers to numerous questions, including:

  • What is a searchable PDF, and why is it key to a paperless office?
  • What differentiates document scanners from other types of scanners?
  • What’s a book scanner?
  • What if I need a mobile, portable scanner?
  • What does TWAIN stand for, and should my scanner support it?
  • Why do I need OCR software, and what features should I look for?
  • What scanners and OCR products does Joe recommend?
  • How can I automate my workflow for scanning documents?
  • How should I name and file my digitized documents?
  • What paper documents should I keep in physical form?
  • How do I use common tools to add a signature to a PDF?
  • How can I access my digital documents remotely?
  • How should I back up my important digital documents?
Joe Kissell

About Joe Kissell

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He formerly wrote for publications such as Macworld, Wirecutter, and TidBITS. He lives in Saskatoon with his wife, his two children, and his cat.

What’s New in the Third Edition

This edition brings the book up to date with the latest technologies and advice. The most significant changes are as follows:

  • Revised What’s New in the Paperless Office to cover changes in scanners, OCR software (including Acrobat Pro DC), cloud services, and more

  • Expanded and updated descriptions of desktop, convertible, and portable scanners in Pick a Mac-compatible Scanner, and added a new category: Book Scanners

  • Updated Pick a Mac OCR Package to cover Acrobat Pro DC and Vuescan, as well as newer versions of Evernote, Neat, and Readiris

  • Added a Scan to Notes sidebar about automatically adding scanned documents to Apple’s Notes app

  • Included a topic that outlines my own process for naming and saving scanned documents; see How I Name and File Scans

  • Updated Automate OCR, and the various AppleScripts it refers to, to cover Acrobat Pro DC, ABBYY FineReader Express, and newer versions of Readiris

  • Updated recommendations for various categories of mobile apps in Pick an iOS Scanning App, and removed coverage of BlackBerry and Windows Phone

  • Completely overhauled the instructions to Add a Signature with Acrobat Pro to support Acrobat Pro DC

  • Modified Use a Modem for Incoming Faxes and Use a Modem for Outgoing Faxes to address the fact that macOS 10.12 Sierra no longer directly supports fax modems

Is this book useful to me if I want to work with a Windows computer?

The book 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.

The paperless office is a myth. Why did you bother publishing this book? And, why should I bother to read it?

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. In fact, I ended up I buying 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.

Also, I finally learned how to digitize my handwritten signature and use it on PDF. Being able to sign and return PDFs without ever printing them has saved quite a bit of time and bother.

Is this book agnostic about filing software? I ask because I know that you've published a book about DEVONthink, and I am a committed EagleFiler user.

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 of Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2—DEVONthink gets more mentions because of the OCR aspect of things—and because I use DEVONthink to store scanned documents—but I don't think you'd have trouble applying the recommendations to EagleFiler.

Should I buy Take Control of Getting Started with DEVONthink 2 because I will need DEVONthink 2 in order to use the Paperless Office book?

Take Control of Your Paperless Office 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, including a look at my scanning workflow in DEVONthink, but it barely scratches the surface of all that DEVONthink can do. If you already use DEVONthink, or suspect that you are DEVONthink kind of person, then you'll probably want both books.

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.

  • Read Me First
  • Introduction
  • Paperless Office Quick Start
  • Reassess Your Paperless Office Strategy
  • Meet Your New Paperless Office
  • Head Off Most Paper before It Reaches You
  • Choose a Document Scanner
  • Choose OCR Software
  • Configure Your Software
  • Create a Workflow for Incoming Paper
  • Work Through a Backlog
  • OCR on the Go
  • Avoid Common Printing Needs
  • Sign Documents without Paper
  • Fax without Paper
  • About This Book
  • Joe Paperlessly Documents His Revised Book on MacVoices

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen on March 28, 2017

    Joe, sporting a refreshed version of his purple “Joehawk,” returns to MacVoices to fill Chuck Joiner in on what is new in his latest revision to the paperless office book, including information on new scanners (book scanners seem to be hot these days), revised scripts, a fresh look at online services that help with your paperless office quest, and more that we could tell you about if we hadn’t forgotten to scan our handwritten notes before we shredded them…

    April 30, 2022—This book was last updated in 2017, and as such, it does not cover newer scanner models or more recent software releases. Although the general advice in the book is still entirely valid, some of the specifics are out of date. We plan a major new edition of this book in the second half of 2022 to cover newer scanning hardware and software and more recent operating systems (as well as adding coverage of Windows).


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