Sunday, January 17, 2010

Paperless in Paradise

My home office has a large desk with a fairly hefty-sized "all-in-one" Printer/Scanner/Copier taking up the quite a bit of space. The rest of the space, seems to have increasingly been taken up by documents of every size, shape, and form-- expense receipts, bills, warranty documents, owner/user guides, magazine articles, etc.

The piles of paper grew because I absolutely hated the slow, tedious chore of scanning the paper to electronic documents. Submitting expense reports was also a royal pain in the backside because not only did I have to scan all the tiny little receipts, but I also had to then print and sign the final report summary and then scan it to combine with my other electronic scanned pages into a completed report for emailing. So, needless to say, it took hours to do this chore and required both a scanner and a printer. I needed a better and faster solution not only for my home office, but my mobile RV office as well.

Fortunately, I found it!

I've now replaced my big All-in-One Printer/Scanner/Copier with a small, portable, ultra-fast scanner, a pen tablet, and some software solutions that allow me to quickly scan incoming paper and then manage it completely electronically after that. So far, after using the new system 3 months, I've not needed to print anything!

My new paperless solution involves the following:

    • Fujitsu Scansnap S300 Scanner - At $240, it's not cheap, but Fujitsu is the leader at making rock-solid scanners that can duplex scan (both sides at once) incredibly fast. In less than 30 seconds, I can scan a double-sided document and create a PDF document with searchable text. As an added bonus, this scanner folds up small, weighs less than 3 pounds, and can even run fully off of USB power if needed--- the perfect solution for mobile work!

    • Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet - This little tablet ($54) requires no batteries and runs off of USB power. It allows me to annotate and sign documents that are already in electronic form without printing and re-scanning them. The tablet is also great for electronic artwork and photo editing and is small enough to easily fit inside a laptop bag.

    • PDF-Xchange Viewer - This FREE software allows you to open any PDF file, annotate/draw/sign it, and then re-save it as a PDF. A perfect solution when you need to get your real signature onto an electronic document without having to physically print and hand-sign it. The software also supports custom bitmap "stamps" so I can take one image file of my handwritten signature and stamp/resize it onto PDF files without having to get my pen tablet out. I opted for the Pro version of this software that allows you to also add/delete/move pages of a PDF file among other features. This software, combined with my free PrimoPDF "Print-to-PDF" software, allows me to replicate just about all Adobe Acrobat functionality for less than $35 bucks. WOW!

    • Evernote - My online virtual file cabinet! Not only can I upload all my PDF files for easy access from any internet-connected computer later, but I can also upload and view web page clips, images, audio files, and any other file type as well. Best of all, I can upload and view these from my iPhone as well! While they offer a Free service, I upgraded to the $40/year Premium account to get more online storage and features. I use Evernote every day-- if I'm out shopping and see a product that looks interesting, I can take a photo of it with my iPhone and save it to Evernote for later reference. Alternatively, if I'm grocery shopping and want to buy ingredients for a favorite recipe, I just have to pull up the recipe in Evernote from my iPhone to remember what to buy.

    Scansnap is fully integrated with Evernote, so I can quickly and easily scan any new paper I receive into PDF documents that are accessible and searchable from any internet computer or mobile phone I happen to be at. Here's a little example of how fast this system works:

    My paper file cabinets have now been completely eliminated, and I can now take my entire home office with me anywhere I go!


    1. Hey Lynne, these are great solutions, thanks for the info. Digital nomad technology changes like the wind, it's so hard to keep up!

      When we hit the road, we left without a printer or scanner. After having our digital printing business for so long, the last thing we wanted to think about was paper and ink. We lived for 2.5 years without either, and it wasn't until last summer when someone gave us a printer. We were tempted to bring it with us on the road this winter, but opted to leave it at home. That printer you found though, is sweeeeet. We might just have to look into one of those.

    2. Very helpful article - thanks!


    3. Hi Lynn, loving your blog! I want so much to become paperless! I am researching the scanner and pen tablet!

    4. Thanks. Since getting my iPad, I've now got another option for signing and annotating PDF documents-- an iPad app called iAnnotatePDF. If someone emails me a PDF that I need to sign, I just go to that email message on my iPad and open the file in this program, sign it, and email the new file to whereever I need to send it.


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