You can achieve the Ultimate Paperless Office with judicious use of scanning. Learn how with Get-It-Done Guy.
Computers were going to save the world! They promised a "paperless office." It would be the future. No more paper ever.
And now, it's the future. And guess what? I need you to print up 95 copies of the handouts for my 200-page PowerPoint presentation for next week's update on "How to Use Work Supplies Efficiently." Thanks!
Our offices have more paper than ever before. When I work with clients on turbo-charging their careers, they send copies of their 3600 evaluations, performance appraisals, resumes, cover letters, and so on. All by paper. After 14 years, my client filing cabinet is about to burst.
How do I deal? The same way I deal with everything in the 21st century: the Cloud. Documents created on computer go easily into the Cloud. But what about my filing cabinet? That, I scan. Before you go on, check out my previous episode on what to scan and what to keep as paper.1
Scanning is Easy
There are many ways to scan stuff. I have a flatbed multifunction printer/fax/scanner that's my usual go-to. It will scan a whole stack of paper at once. The Mac's built-in scanning software is buried in the Preview program, and the interface is horrible beyond words, so I won't bother to describe it. Suffice it to say it's crufty (that's a nice way of saying something the Quick and Dirty Tips network won't let me say in a podcast).
Up until now, my solution has been to use Adobe Acrobat's Scan to PDF function. It handles scanning large, 2-sided documents where you have to stop in the middle to reload the scanner. You can scan the front side of a stack, flip it over and scan the back sides. Then Acrobat interleaves the scanned pages properly.
Adjust Your Scanner Settings
Your scanner settings make a huge difference in how fast you can scan stuff. I scanned a full-color document. Once. It took 16 hours per sheet, and the scanned file took up 917 hard drives. Not feasible for an entire filing cabinet.
My client files are mostly black and white, like most business writing. The best scan settings seem to be: 200 dots per inch, black and white text or line drawings. You get good scanning speed and modest-sized, readable PDF files. For fine detail or photographs you can use 300 or 600 dpi, or try grayscale instead of black and white. Personally, I never bother unless it's super-important.
Once the PDF is created, I upload it to the Cloud. The Cloud is like a safe, warm puppy bed, where my files are safe and sound. If I want the NSA to read my document immediately, I put it in Google Drive. If I want to give them a little more time, I use a slightly less-universal service like Dropbox or Box.com. Financial documents go straight to my bookkeeper, who probably prints them out for his filing cabinet.