A Little Document Preparation Goes A Long Way

A Little Document Preparation Goes A Long Way

201006080859.jpgThe other day I was having a conversation with a consulting client, and we got to talking about things to do with your paper before you scan it.

I’ve written a lot about scanning documents and what to do after you scan them, but I haven’t written too much about document preparation.

One of the great things about a double-sided automatic document feeding scanner like the Fujitsu ScanSnap (and others) is that you can just throw a stack of paper in it, hit the scan button, and you are good to go.

This is great, but I have found that if you have a decent amount of paper coming in and want to have a more effective process in place, it helps to do a bit of preparation up front.

In case you are interested, here is what I do right now. I find that if I take a bit of extra time to organize before scanning, the scanning and processing part goes a lot more quickly.

  • I have four profiles set up in ScanSnap Manager. They have changed slightly from this old ScanSnap Manager workflow post, but the basic concept is the same: Stack of Single, Stack of Double, Single All-in-One, and Double All-In-One.
  • When I am ready to scan my stack of documents, I separate them out into piles that match the 4 profiles: a stack of single page documents that I only want to scan one side of, a stack of double sided single-sheet documents, a stack of multi-page single-sided documents, and a stack of multi-page double-sided documents
  • Then I run the stacks through the scanner, choosing the appropriate ScanSnap Manager profile before each run.

By doing this document separation before running it through the scanner, I make the actual scanning process quick and easy, and also avoid scanning things like the fine print on the back of bills and statements that I don’t need and that waste space and OCR-ing time.

How about you, what kind of document preparation rituals do you have? Let us know in the comments so we can all get some ideas.

Image: ifindkarma

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 5 comments

HomelessOnWheels - May 21, 2011 Reply

I'm late to this one, but thought I'd thank you for the multi-profile idea. Especially the single vs multiple page. It might not be obvious to some (hence the comments not understanding why), but if I did it all automatically, I would either have to manually start each scan job (even if only a single page), else go back later, open the single PDF, and then export each page as a separate file. If you scan many documents that are only a single sheet, a profile that saves each sheet in its own PDF file saves a lot of work, since you can load the whole stack of them, push the button, and walk away!

    Brooks Duncan
    Brooks Duncan - June 3, 2011 Reply

    Thanks! Yes, it is not really intuitive and hard to explain, but once you start doing it, it is pretty great. I appreciate the note.

Ed Eubanks - June 9, 2010 Reply

I'm curious: why have different profiles for single-page vs. multiple-page documents? Why not just sort them and let the ScanSnap do its thing? (For that matter, why simplex vs. duplex, when the ScanSnap will automatically ignore blanks?)

I ask because I wonder if I'm missing something in my own workflows. I have multiple profiles, too, but they all have to do with software-side results with the PDFs my ScanSnap has already generated.

When it comes to single-pages, multi-pages, simplex, and duplex scans, I just stagger-stack my documents and feed them in whatever order they are stacked. I let the hardware do the work of determining how many pages and whether there is something to scan on the backside.

Is there something I'm missing?

    Bob - June 24, 2010 Reply

    It's not Single-page vs multi-page profiles but the combinations of single/multi sides AND single/multi page. THAT is a problem. Unless you want to open and tweak scansnap manager for every document, you need profiles. This article address a solution for the most common variables in paper documents.

    Your "profile plan" dramatically affects time wasted. Not enough specificity and you're constantly tweaking scansnap manager. Too may profiles and you're spending a lot of time (and desk space you don't have) organizing paper into the right piles. And finally, profile settings combine to dramatically affect how much hard disk space is used. Here is how I strike that balance:

    In my case I scan "2 kinds" – receipts & everything else. Receipts often have junk on the back that I don't want. Then my "regular" docs come every which way. On top of that I generally want higher resolution "regular" docs but do not need higher res receipts. I currently have 2 profiles: one for receipts – single sheet, single sided, lower res in black & white. And one for documents: multi-sheet, multi-page, higher resolution, auto detect color. From a disk space perspective these are pretty good. From an speed perspective I simply do not tweak the settings so I'm always working fast.

    As for pre-scan organizing there are two piles: receipts and documents. That's it. If a "regular" doc is more than a single sheet I simply lay it sideways on the stack so I can easily grab it.

    The one concession I make is that I always feed all my documents & receipts one at a time. I gave up trying to stack receipts in the feeder – it's too unreliable for a variety of reasons. My "regular" document profile is set to multi-page so I have to feed docs one at a time but it's very easy to keep up with the computer's processing.

    Bottom Line:
    Scanning is all about speed. Pre-scanning paper handling & profile tweaking takes way more time than hand feeding 1-document-at-a-time from a single pile of paper. My profiles emphasize only two broadly defined document types, and the settings emphasize a compromise of potential future need for that paper and disk space. I simply do not change these profile parameters – I have a separate profile for customizing jobs; but use it very rarely.

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