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!