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Organize Electronic Files The National Archives Way

Hard Drive Light EffectsOn the DocumentSnap Facebook Page, awesome reader Corey Adams shared this great video from the US National Archives.

The video is titled “Let’s Get Organized! Setting up your Electronic Files”, and is by Donna Read from the National Archives.

The presentation is a little geared towards agencies and larger organizations, but it still has solid tips for file organization, naming, and some of the challenges we face when organizing electronic documents.

It makes some great points about why organizing electronic documents up front is more important than with paper files.

Thanks for the tip, Corey!

(Photo by Matt Rudge)

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Scanbot Is One Fast Mobile Scanning App

ScanbotThe other day I was on the radio up here in Canada sharing my tips for the best apps of the week. One of my choices was a new scanning app for iOS and Android called Scanbot.

“Another mobile scanning app?” you might say. Yes, another scanning app, but this one has taken a bit of a novel approach – they are going for pure scanning speed.

As with all scanning apps on DocumentSnap, I took it to my local Starbucks to test it in real world conditions. The fact that it is Earth Day and I received a free coffee doesn’t hurt either.

Quick Capture

If you have used mobile scanning apps in the past, you will be familiar with the need to have your phone positioned just right, then work your finger over to hit the camera button. In the grand scheme of things this is not the world’s biggest problem, but it can occasionally be tricky and is one extra step.

Scanbot attempts to address this by detecting when it is lined up for a good image, and it automatically snaps the picture. If you don’t have the camera quite right, it will tell you to move it closer or adjust the angle. When you have it right – snap!

Scanbot Capture

Like any scanning app, I found this worked best when there is lots of light, and the auto-detection feature worked best when there isn’t any wacky page layout going on.

If it can’t detect the page, not to worry – you can adjust the page borders yourself if you need to.

Cloud Integration

Scanbot can make it easy to upload your scans to the cloud (if you want). You can set it to automatically upload your captures, or it has built-in integration with Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, OneDrive, Box, and Yandex.Disk[1]

Scanbot Cloud

Quality

I find the quality of Scanbot pretty good, though not quite up to the level of other apps like Scanner Pro and Genius Scan. Since quality is a subjective thing, here are a few scans that I did at my table at Starbucks.

In the end, it depends what you are looking for from your app – the fastest capture/upload or the highest quality.

Design and Other Features

I don’t know if it is because I am an evil or unproductive person, but I love and respond well to the color red, so I am probably biased towards Scanbot’s flat red interface.

Scanbot Documents

One cool feature that you don’t see in a lot of mobile scanning apps is annotation. Scanbot has basic annotation abilities to mark up your scan before saving it.

Scanbot Annotate

At the time of writing, Scanbot is .99 for iOS and for Android, and is working its way into my rotation of scanning apps.


  1. I don’t know what that is either.  ↩

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Genius Fax 2.0 Can Now Receive Faxes

Genius FaxOn the rare occasion that I need to send a fax, more often than not I use the Genius Fax app which I have written about in the past.

Just two weeks ago I needed to sign and fax something, and I did it all from my iPad.

The makers of Genius Fax have just released version 2.0 of Genius Fax, and it is a nice update. A new feature is the ability to receive faxes.

Genius Fax Receive Faxes

For $3.50-$4 per month (depending on how long you sign up for) you can have a reserved fax number in the U.S. or Canada. Receiving faxes will use the same credits that you use to send faxes.

Speaking of credits, they’ve also lowered their prices. Now if you buy credits in bulk, they can be as low as .40/page.

I like the products the Grizzly Labs puts out, so it is nice to see Genius Fax get some new development.

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Scan To Box With Fujitsu ScanSnap

Box LobbyAs far as cloud providers go, Box has carved a niche for itself as a service for business. 97% of the Fortune 500 use it, and from my experience even smaller businesses like bookkeepers, financial planners, and even individuals have started to flock to it.

Unfortunately, the Fujitsu ScanSnap does not have Box integration built in. There is software you can buy to connect the two, but it is easy to set up ScanSnap-to-Box scanning yourself for free using the tools that both companies provide. Here’s one way to do it.

Install Box Sync

Box provides a tool called Box Sync that will allow you to synchronize files between Box and your Mac or PC. This is what we will be using.

When you log in to Box, you will see a button on the right that says Install Box on your computer. Click that and download the software.

Install Box Sync

Warning: When you install it, any files you have in the “root” of your Box account (in other words, not in a folder) will be copied down to your computer. If you don’t want that, move those files to a folder first.

Once it is installed and you have logged in with your Box credentials, you will see the Box Sync screen.

Box Sync

Of course, it will look a bit different on Windows but the concept is the same.

Find Your Box Folder

Box Sync will create a folder on your computer, and that is where we will be scanning to.

When you go to the Settings tab, you will see your Box Sync folder listed. Make a note of that because we will need it later.

Box Sync Folder Location

Decide Where Scans Will Go

If you want to just scan documents to the root of your Box account (in other words, not in a folder), you just need to make a note of the above folder and you can skip this step.

If you want your scans to go to a specific folder in your Box account, there is one additional thing you need to do.

In Box, find your folder (in my example it is called Box Inbox). Click the little downward triangle and choose Sync Folder To Computer.

Box Sync Folder To Computer

Once you do that, your folder should appear on your computer inside that Box Sync folder you made note of earlier.

Set Up ScanSnap To Scan To Box

If you use the Quick Menu with your ScanSnap (that little window with icons that pops up after you scan), you can just scan a document, choose Scan To Folder, and choose your Box Sync folder that you made note of earlier.

If you use ScanSnap Manager, you can create a Profile that will send scans right to that folder without your involvement.

To do that, create a ScanSnap Manager profile (in my case I am being original and calling it Scan to Box). On the Applications tab, you can either choose Scan To Folder if you want it to pop up a window allowing you to name and save it, or if you want it to be more automated, choose None (Scan To File) and it won’t prompt you at all.

Box ScanSnap Scan To File

On the Save tab, choose the Box Sync folder that you made note of earlier, or the subfolder that you selected to sync to your computer.

Box ScanSnap Save Tab

Set up the rest of the ScanSnap Manager Profile however you’d like. If you need assistance setting up profiles, you can read the ScanSnap manual or may I humbly suggest my Unofficial ScanSnap Setup Guide.

Scan Away!

Once my profile was set up, I scanned to my Box Inbox folder that I had selected to sync. You can see the document here.

Box Inbox Computer

The document automatically appears in my Box.com account.

Document in Box account

Here is it using Box’s very nice PDF viewer.

Box Preview PDF

Once you have all this set up, scanning to Box with a ScanSnap is fast and easy. Do you have a different method to scan to Box? Let us know in the comments.

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How To Automate Evernote

How To Automate EvernoteA few weeks ago, a gentleman named Kosio Angelov contacted me about a new book he has released that takes you through how to “automate Evernote, save boat loads of time, and make your life easier and more organized”.

Nothing like a modest claim. On the flight down to Macworld I finally had to read it on my iPad, and it is quite good. Kosio’s book is called How To Automate Evernote.[1]

It is a quick read (76 pages) without a bunch of filler. I like how it is broken down between universal tips, Mac tips, and Windows tips. That way you don’t need to waste your time with tips that don’t apply to you.

If you are a super Evernote power user already, there are a lot of things you will be familiar with, but my test for these types of books is “did I learn something new?”

I’m happy to learn that I did pick up some ideas that I hadn’t thought of doing before. There’s some clever stuff in there, especially around calendars and import folders.

You can learn much more about How To Automate Evernote on Kosio’s site. It’s $7, so whether that is worth it to you depends on how much you want to supercharge Evernote.


  1. That’s a referral link by the the way. If you pick up the book you’ll be buying me a coffee so thank you.  ↩

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Readdle’s Web Of Interconnected Apps

Readdle Booth At Macworld 2014On my trip to Macworld/iWorld 2014, one my first stops was the Readdle booth. My goal was to get an answer to a question that has been on my mind for a while: what is the difference between the free Documents 5 and the paid PDF Expert 5? What is the deal with having two apps?

In talking to the Readdle folks, what they are up to is more interesting than I had expected. The question is not the Seinfeld-esque “what is the DEAL with all these apps?” but the real question is “where is all this going?”

Instead of thinking of Readdle’s products as a bunch of standalone apps, it makes more sense to think of them as an interconnected web of applications that can work together, each one accomplishing specific tasks.

I Love You iOS, but…

iOS is a great mobile operating system, but it has some limitations. These are arguably for the user’s benefit security-wise, but they can be annoying. For example:

  • You don’t have access to a “file system” on the iPad the way that we are used to with computers. Each app is siloed and can only access its own data.
  • Apps have an extremely limited ability to talk to each other. Usually this is accomplished by the “Open In…” menu option, but that isn’t ideal because it creates a whole other copy of the file in the target application. Whatever changes you make are not reflected back in the original app.

Hub And Spokes

Readdle Documents 5

Readdle intends to address these limitations by having Documents 5 act as the iPad’s file system. You can store any type of file in the possibly-unfortunately-named Documents 5, and use that app as a hub.

In addition, they have baked in the ability for their apps to talk to each other and send information back and forth.

In Documents 5, Readdle calls their other apps Add-ons. These apps are all fully featured applications on their own, but when Documents 5 detects that they are installed, it exposes additional menu options.

Readdle Documents 5 Add-ons

I first noticed this ability in Scanner Pro, one of my favorite mobile scanning apps. I was using it on my iPad, and after I had installed PDF Expert 5, I noticed a button I hadn’t seen before.

Scanner Pro PDF Expert 5

When I pressed the button, it opened the scanned PDF directly in PDF Expert 5 for storage/annotation. No need to go through the whole Open In… dance.

Call And Response

Having a one button document transfer is nice, but what is more interesting to me is the way that Readdle has given their apps the ability to pass data back and forth.

For example, if Documents 5 detects that PDF Converter is installed and you are viewing an image, Word doc, HTML file, or the like, you will see a Convert to PDF menu option.

Readdle Convert To PDF

When you tap that, it will send the file to PDF Converter, let it do its magic, and then bring the PDF back to Documents 5, all within a second or so. No muss, no fuss.

Their Printer Pro app works similarly. If Documents 5 detects that it is installed, you can send your file there instead of relying on an AirPrint printer.

Readdle Printer Pro

The interesting thing about this is that they have somehow embedded the Printer Pro functionality inside Documents 5.

One Ecosystem To Rule Them All

This is the first time I can recall seeing an app vendor create such a tightly integrated web of apps. Each one works perfectly well on its own, but it becomes even more powerful and convenient when they work together.

Do you have any other examples of apps that work together like this? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Photo Organizing Tips From An Expert

Stack of PhotosA surprising number of awesome DocumentSnap readers write me and ask for photo scanning and organizing advice.

A look at my iPhoto library will tell you that I am absolutely not the person to ask about this subject, but as luck would have it I went to the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers in New Orleans last year and met Christie Gelsomino. When I found out she is both a Professional Organizer and a Certified Personal Photo Organizer, I begged her for her card. Little did she know I’d be bugging her for advice someday, and today is that day.

I asked Christie for photo scanning and photo organizing tips.

What equipment do you need to scan in your photos?

FlipPal (portable to take to clients), Kodak upright (large projects), Canon and/or Epson (flat bed scanning).

The best resolution to scan at is at least 600 dpi.

Is it better to use a scanning service? Any recommendations?

The scanning services are good to use as well, if you just don’t have the time or the equipment. I use them for larger projects and for a faster turn around time then what I might be available to do for my clients.

Fotobridge in NJ, ScanDigital in CA. No company that will then send your photos overseas to be scanned. Keep your photos in the USA.

Brooks note: Obviously this applies if you are in the USA to start with. If you know a comparable service in your country, please let us know in the comments.

What are some tips for organizing physical photos?

  1. Know your goal for the completed project. Break that goal into smaller goals. Stay focused. Get help.
  2. Gather all the physical photos into one general location of the house.
  3. Created a timeline of events/people/yearly activities to help label the photos.
  4. Group by theme or by date or a combination of both.
  5. It’s ok to TRASH bad pictures.
  6. Become a detective with the photos to find the clues that you need.
  7. Use archival, photo and lignin free products to store your photos. Albums or photo boxes.
  8. Use post-it notes and archival safe writing tools to make notes with your photos.
  9. Scan the physical photos as a “back up”, not to get rid of the physical photos. Consider the physical photos a form of a back-up.
  10. Share the photos, create gifts, display your organized photos and tell the stories that go with the photos.

What are some tips for organizing digital photos?

  1. Know your goal for the completed project. Break that goal into smaller goals. Stay focused. Get help.
  2. Gather all the digital photos into one general location. Computers, memory cards, devices etc…
  3. Create a timeline of events/people/yearly activities to help label the photos.
  4. BACK-UP first before starting your digital photo organizing, then BACK-UP again at the end of the work session. PictureKeeper is great for this.
  5. It’s ok to DELETE bad pictures.
  6. Group by theme or by date or a combination of both. Use the Number system 1.2.3 to label the files. ex. 1 January 2014
  7. Use the provided software that is already on your computer (PC: Picture Viewer, Mac: iPhoto).
  8. Additional software: Picasa, Shutterfly, Flickr, Photoshop/Lightroom, Panstoria.
  9. PRINT some of your best digital photos not just to share but to also have them as a back-up.
  10. Share the photos, create gifts, display your organized photos (digital photo frame) and tell the stories that go with the photos.

Any additional information you’d like to share?

Get Film Reels, VHS tapes, Slides and Negatives transferred to DVD’s, CD’s or a Hard Drive so you can view these great stories.

Keep the originals because we don’t know how long DVD’s, CD’s or a Hard Drive can last. VHS tapes are an exception, they are already deteriorating.

Thanks so much Christie! If you have additional photo tips or questions for Christie, please leave them in the comments.

Christie Gelsomino is the owner and operator of Vision to be Organized (2006) and Scrapbook Designer (2003). She is a Professional Organizer, a Certified Personal Photo Organizer, a Certified Home Movie Expert and a Personal Scrapbook Designer. Christie is a NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) National Member, a NAPO Los Angeles Chapter Member and a NAPO Virtual Chapter Member. Christie serves currently as the Marketing Director for the NAPO-LA Chapter, has been the Chapter Historian for the NAPO-LA Chapter since 2007 and is on the Professional Development Committee for the NAPO Virtual Chapter since 2012, she is also a NAPO Golden Circle member and a member of the NAPO Technology Sig. Christie is also a member of APPO (Association of Personal Photo Organizers) as a Certified Personal Photo Organizer. Christie has assisted as a Professional Organizer on the A&E show “Hoarders.” Christie focuses her organizing business on residential organizing while specializing in photo organizing.

(Photo by Alex)

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Macworld/iWorld 2014

Macworld iWorld 2014Well, I have made it home safe and sound from my annual pilgrimage to San Francisco for Macworld/iWorld 2014. It sounds like I just managed to avoid a crazy storm, but between flying out of the Oakland airport for the first time and enjoying a propeller plane ride between Seattle and Vancouver, it all worked out.

I always enjoy my trip to the Macworld show. It is a great opportunity to chat with vendors, fellow technology geeks, and DocumentSnap readers.

There was a lot there, but here were some of the highlights for me personally.

The Booths

I don’t know the numbers, but I felt like the show floor was a bit smaller this year. Some vendors that are usually there weren’t, but that’s OK. There were new ones to take their place.

ScanSnap

As usual, the Fujitsu ScanSnap booth was hopping. I tried to keep my harassing them to a minimum because they were always talking to customers.

ScanSnap

From what I heard, there was a lot of excitement about the ScanSnap SV600. It sounds like it is doing very well for them.

Transporter

Speaking of packed booths, the Transporter booth was completely insane every time I walked past. This picture doesn’t do justice to how busy it was.

Transporter

They were doing a lot of demonstrations of how the Transporter works, and the Transporter Sync in particular was the center of attention. It was my first time seeing one live.

Transporter Sync

Readdle

I had an interesting chat with the Readdle folks. I am a big fan of their apps like Scanner Pro and PDF Expert.

It is really interesting how they are creating an ecosystem with their apps, so watch out for a future post about that.

Backblaze

I have no idea why, but I haven’t given Backblaze a lot of virtual ink on DocumentSnap over the years. Part of it was my (completely misguided) belief that it was Mac only.

I have no idea why I thought that, but Backblaze is in fact cross-platform with native Mac and Windows clients.

BackBlaze

They had their famous storage pods there, and it turns out the guy I was talking to at the booth was the CEO, Gleb Budman. His passion for the product and secure online backup was great to see.

As an aside: this is one reason why I love going to shows like Macworld. You get to talk to the people that run and make the product.

Canon

Canon had a booth for their scanners, so I dropped by and annoyed them. I came away very impressed with the imageFORMULA P–208 which is very small but can take 10 sheets (!) and scan double-sided (!!).

They gave me a hard time about writing too much about ScanSnap, and I gave them a hard time about not letting me know about their new products. Hopefully we’ve made up and between the two of us I’ll have more Canon coverage going forward.

NetHero

I dropped by the NetHero booth for a demo of their product that helps you diagnose, manage, and tune the devices on your network and see where you have network issues.

I have some disaster areas in my house wireless-connection wise, so I am hoping to give NetHero a try to try and fix that. It looks very cool, and is free.

Western Digital

During the show, Western Digital launched the My Passport Pro, a portable RAID storage device that comes in 2TB and 4TB versions. It has a Thunderbolt cable built in, so all you need is a Thunderbolt port and you have completely bus-powered portable RAID storage.

Western Digital My Passport Pro

It looks pretty amazing.

FileThis

FileThis was at the show demonstrating their service that will help take the annoyance of signing up for paperless billing. Instead of you having to go in and download all your statements, it can grab them for you and save them to your computer or the cloud service of your choice.

FileThis

I use it to automatically download my Amazon statements and it works really well.

Sessions

As usual, there were all sorts of sessions on every conceivable topic around using and managing your Mac or iOS devices. I wasn’t able to make it to as many as I would have liked, but here were a few highlights.

Mac Power Users

David Sparks and Katie Floyd from the Mac Power Users podcast (of which I had the pleasure to appear in episiode 172) did a great session running through their favorite tips from throughout the years.

Long time MPU listeners will be familiar with most of them, but I learned a few things, like how to reboot a Mac automatically even with FileVault enabled (nice).

I think they may have finally convinced me to get around to trying OpenDNS.

Brett Terpstra Session

There are few people who have contributed to the technology geek community as much as Brett Terpstra, so I was excited to see he was doing a session of tips.

He didn’t dissapoint, and I learned a lot. Did you know that Emacs text shortcuts were available almost everywhere you type text on a Mac? I did not.

David Sparks Paperless

The final session I attended was by David Sparks on… going paperless.

It was a great session, and he did a live scanning demo. Brave man. For whatever reason I have not yet tried out PDFpen Scan+, but I think David has finally convinced me.

App Camp For Girls

Unfortunately, I had to leave for home on Saturday morning so I was not able to attend the Saturday events.

This made me very sad because my friend Jean MacDonald from App Camp For Girls put on a reportedly amazing session.

I’m extremely sorry I missed it.

The lack of women in the technology industry is an important issue, and it is awesome to see organizations like ACFG addressing that.


Macworld/iWorld

I had an excellent time at Macworld/iWorld and am glad I made the trip down to San Francisco. Thanks to the organizers, vendors, and presenters for putting on a great show.

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SimpleRev – Pursuing Simplicity

SimpleRevThere’s an interesting-looking new conference coming up that I thought I’d share, since I know a lot of DocumentSnap readers are into simplification and minimalism.

It’s called SimpleRev and it is taking place October 3–4, 2014 in Minneapolis, MN.

According to the site, here is what will go on:

There will be intimate workshops, inspiring main-stage action, community-sourced meetups, and evening connecting shindigs. You’ll also talk with mentors, new friends, and potential project partners … not to mention have a ton of fun.

SimpleRev is being put on by Joel Zaslofsky from Value of Simple and Dan Hayes of Simple Life Together fame. I notice my friend Mike Vardy is speaking too.

The first batch of tickets went on sale today if you are interested in checking it out.

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Farm

The Paperless Farm

FarmIf you a city dweller like myself, you might have this image of a farmer thumbing through his copy of the Almanac that is hanging from a nail while he looks up at the weather vane to see what is going on.

The truth is, farming has become incredibly high tech, and it is an industry (like many others) that is going through a paperless transformation.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the March issue of Country Guide Magazine, which is Canada's oldest farm publication and is “about the business of farming, providing farmers with strategic business thinking”.

The digital edition is online, so click here to read The Paperless Farm.

My dad grew up on a farm, so I guess this is as close as I am going to get to carrying on the family business.

(Photo by Nicholas Tonelli)

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