The Tools & Toys Guide to a Paperless Office

“Going paperless” is one of those terms that gets tossed around the Internet. While the term is often used rather vaguely, we here at Tools & Toys have the advice you need to make the idea of leaving paper behind much more concrete.

Below is an overview of all the tools you need to set up your paperless office. In short, it’s not much more than a document scanner, a paper shredder, and a folder on your computer to save your scanned files.

Scanners

If you’re going to start digitizing piles of paper, you’re going to need some gear.

  • Doxie One If you’re looking for something small and simple, we recommend the Doxie One. It’s one of the best entry-point document scanners out there. The Doxie One scans full color sheets at 300 DPI in 8 seconds and stores them on an SD card.

    To import, simply plug in the scanner to your Mac or PC, and the bundled software will allow you to rotate files, combine multiple pages in to one document, and export them as PDFs. The Doxie software can even embed OCR information in your PDFs.

  • Doxie Go: It has all the same features as the Doxie One but with a rechargeable battery and onboard storage. If you need to scan documents while on the go, or you want a scanner you can bring with you from home to work, then this is the one for you.

    Because you have to feed each page through manually, the Doxie One and Go are best if you plan to scan less than a dozen documents per week, or if you need a scanner while on the go.

  • Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500: If you need something faster and easier, the ScanSnap iX500 is the king of the hill when it comes to document scanning.

    The SnapScan is way faster than the Doxie One, clocking in at 25 double-sided pages per minute. The scanner can send files to your desktop, notebook or smartphone, and even services like Evernote and SugarSync. We recommend this if you digitize dozens of documents a week, or if you have a mountain of paper you need to get through.

  • If neither of the above options look appealing, there’s nothing wrong with an old-fashioned flatbed scanner. The Canon CanoScan LiDE110 is an inexpensive, simple scanner that is USB-powered.

Software

Scanning is only half the battle. Once you get your PDFs, what should you do with them?

Naming files correctly is critical to keeping things nice and neat. Personally, I start every file name with the date in the YYYY-MM-DD format, followed by a dash and a descriptive file name. From there, I sort files into different folders. For my business, I keep one for receipts and one for invoices, for example. My wife and I keep one for bills related to the house and another for bills related to our cars.

If you deal with the same types of documents over and over (monthly bills, etc.) then Hazel can manage the naming and sorting of all your files for you. All you have to do is scan them in. (If you’re not sure how to take full advantage of Hazel, check out Shawn Blanc’s post on how he uses Hazel to automatically organize his incoming document scans.)

Where should you store those files?

  • Dropbox is a great service. Available on all major platforms and the web, Dropbox’s approach of syncing a single folder and its contents on your computer couldn’t be simpler.

    Dropbox’s mobile apps don’t allow you to keep entire folders for offline access, however. For Wi-Fi iPad owners, that might be a deal-breaker.

  • Evernote is a big hit in the paperless crowd, and for good reason. The everything-bucket has loads of ways to organize data, built-in sharing and runs on just about every platform you can think of.

    For $5/month, Evernote Premium gives you PDF searching, faster image recognition, a larger monthly upload capacity, and offline access for iOS and Android devices.

    Over the last six months or so, I’ve been moving tons of stuff in to Evernote, and while the app might not shine as a note-taking platform, for storing, searching and sharing PDFs, nothing I’ve found beats it. If you want to really get your hands around the service, check out Brett Kelly’s book, Evernote Essentials.

Shredders

Once your documents are digitized, don’t keep the paper around. Shred it!

  • For an affordable but high-quality shredder we recommend the The Fellows Powershred W-11C. It has an 11-sheet capacity, does cross cut shredding, and can even chew threw staples.

  • If you need more horsepower and more class, check out the Fellows Powershred 79Ci. It will chew through 13 pages at a time, has a 6 gallon bin that pulls out (rather than a motor which sits on top), an indicator light letting you know the capacity of the basket, and it claims to be extremely quiet and 100% jam proof.

Getting started

Look at what comes across your desk, and think about what you could store digitally. For me, there are very few things I have to keep hard copies of anymore. In a world where I get most receipts emailed to me anyways, I find myself scanning less and less.

If you want to read more about going paperless, look no further than David Sparks’ definitive ebook, Paperless.

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