Going paperless is about the little wins, and one area where I’ve been really successful is with with our family grocery list. Not only have I eliminated the paper, but (for us), the paperless grocery list works much better.
Here are some ways that you can accomplish this.
A Shared Low(ish) Tech Solution
My friend Michael Schechter has posted about his family’s solution: an app called Listary.
This is an iOS app that has the usual list-making and checking-off functionality, but what makes Listary work for them is the ability for his wife to send him items for the list without her messing around with the app. From his post on the subject:
Best of all, when my wife sends me a list of thirty completely disordered items from the supermarket, I can copy the text, paste it in one box and as long as she hit enter on her phone between ever item it parses every line as a unique entry. Within seconds of receiving her text, I can add and completely reorder the list based on where things are in the store (something she has deemed irrelevant).
They like an app called OurGroceries because it works on iOS, Android, and Blackberry.
I don’t have experience with OurGroceries, but they seem to like it.
What I Do
I use the stock Reminders app that comes with iOS. I like it because it seamlessly syncs via iCloud, and therefore whether I have my Mac, my iPad, or my iPhone within reach (which is 100% of the time), I can quickly add items.
When I get to the store, I like checking off the items on my iPhone as I throw them in the cart. It makes it easy to see what I have left to find.
Even better, with Siri I can quickly add items to my list by just holding down the Home button. If I say “Add kale to Grocery list”, it will add it to the correct Reminders list. My kids like walking around saying “Add chocolate chip cookies to grocery list”, but fortunately they haven’t figured out the Home button part yet.
This video shows how this works, and it also shows the ability to have shared lists with a family member. I don’t personally use that feature as my wife does not have an iPhone.
I’m sure many of you have your own paperless grocery list workflow. I’d love to hear about it in the comments. It’s been great for my family.
When going paperless, there is the eternal balancing act: how do you have access to the document that you need when you need it, but also have it safe and secure?
Many people would like the ability to have their documents accessible in the cloud, but (understandably) don’t feel comfortable having them on someone else’s server.
I’ve been testing out a cool new device called the Transporter by Connected Data. It is a hardware device that you plug in to your router, and it gives you secure online file accessibility without having your data on third party servers. Everything lives in your home or office.
When I first saw the Transporter at Macworld, I knew this was something I needed to check out for going paperless. The Connected Data folks hooked me up with a driveless review unit so that I could try it out.
If you buy the version with a drive pre-installed you don’t need to worry about this, but I wanted to try the whole experience. The device is well made and installation was extremely easy.
I just snapped in a 1TB drive, screwed the top back on, and I was good to go.
To hook up the Transporter, you just plug an ethernet cable into the back and plug in the power.
If needed, it will format the drive, and when it is ready you will see the glowing blue light of justice. Right now I have it on my desk. Here’s an idea size-wise.
Speaking of the light, it has a large and bright light that serves as a status indicator, which is handy but some may find annoying. Fortunately you can adjust the settings so that the light is dim or even off altogether if that is your preference.
There are Mac and Windows client applications that you use to interact with the Transporter. You don’t need to use them to access your files as the device supports SMB, but the company recommends that you do.
Once you have the software is installed, you can create top-level folders on the drive that will hold your stuff.
In this example I’ve created one called Document Archive. You can see in the web-based management interface that I have one top-level folder on called Document Archive that lives on one Transporter (more on this in a bit), and at the time of this screenshot it held 12 megabytes.
A Connected Data drive appears on your computer, and you can see that I have the aforementioned top-level Document Archive folder as well as a few folders I dragged in on my Mac.
As soon as I dragged those folders and files into that Document Archive folder, they were copied to the Transporter sitting on my desk. If I wanted to, I could have deleted the originals from my Mac.
I fired up my Windows machine, installed the Transporter software, and voilà: there is my Transporter represented by a Z drive, my Document Archive folder, and the files and folders underneath.
Local Storage and Remote Access
Everything that I’ve described so far was done at home in The Dungeon on my local network. What if I want to access my files when I am oot and aboot?
For starters, you can have the Transporter save some or all of your files locally to your hard drive. By default it will cache local copies of your stuff for any folders smaller than 10 Gigs. You can adjust this up or down in the settings for each computer.
What if you are accessing your files and don’t have the local copies? This is one area where the Transporter is really impressive. Using the Transporter software, it will find its way over the Internet back to your device, letting you get at your stuff without having to store your files on their servers.
I am writing this article at Starbucks, and I dragged a file into my Document Archive folder.
It connected to my Transporter back at home and uploaded the file to the device.
Then I fired up the Transporter iPhone app over 3G (I believe an Android app is coming), and here’s the file:
I have not tried this yet, but the Transporters can work together. You can have multiple devices in multiple locations, and they can automatically back up to each other.
You could have one Transporter at home and one at work, or a device in each branch office, and even if something happens to one device, all your stuff will still be on the other one.
You can share files and folders with other users whether they have Transporters or not.
The only catch is that they need to sign up for Connected Data accounts, so these are not public links the way you might be used to with Dropbox etc. Hopefully this is a feature that the company will add soon.
Not an insignificant amount, but this is just a one time fee. There are no ongoing subscription fees like with online synchronization services.
So far I am really liking the Transporter and I am looking forward to digging into more of the features. If you have any questions or experience with the product, please feel free to share in the comments and I will get them answered.
It’s early days still, but I could see myself shifting a lot of my cloud storage use to this thing.
That’s an affiliate link. You can just go to filetransporter.com too, not a problem. ↩
This is a guest post from Craig Hollingum from Micro Com Systems, a Vancouver-based document imaging company. I was interested in hearing from him because I find the whole scanning outsourcing business fascinating.
If you’re like most people, then you probably don’t enjoy such bureaucratic processes as filing and archiving financial documents. The problem is that such dislike for paperwork often causes you to simply shelf documents in one of your drawers or file cabinets without organizing them. Needless to say, this isn’t the most efficient way of going about your business. So, how do you archive your financial documents such that managing them becomes a lot easier? Read on to find out.
Perhaps the first thing you need to know is exactly which financial documents should you keep and for how long? Here is a quick rundown:
Tax-related Records – You may keep these documents for about seven years before discarding.
IRA Contributions – These documents need to be kept permanently.
Retirement Plan Statements – Quarterly statements need to be kept until your annual statement arrives. Check if the numbers match and if they do, you can discard the quarterly statements. The annual statements need to be kept permanently.
Bank Records – Bank documents that aren’t that important can be kept for a year before discarding. Important bank documents should be kept permanently.
Brokerage Statements – These documents should be kept until your sell the securities, at which point your can discard the documents.
Bills – Most bills can be discarded once they’re paid in full or when you receive a cancelled check. For big items such as a car, however, it’s best to keep the bills permanently.
Credit Card Receipts – These receipts can be kept only until you can reconcile them with your statements, at which point you can discard the receipts and keep the statement for seven years before discarding.
Paycheck Stubs – You need to keep these until you get your annual tax statements.
House Records – These documents need to be kept permanently.
Bear in mind that the best way to discard financial documents when you no longer need them is to shred them first before throwing them out with the trash. Now that you know which financial documents to keep and for how long, here are some tips on how you can effectively archive these documents:
1. Choose Your Medium
You need to take into consideration the fact that your financial documents will be stored for a long period of time. This makes it imperative for you to choose an archiving medium that can last for as long as you need your documents. If you choose to keep your files in tapes, remember that tapes of the best quality last for just about ten years. This means you may have to transfer the files to new tapes or to another medium before the ten years are up. Optical storage devices may be a better option for documents that need to be kept permanently, since these can last for an indefinite period.
You should also consider the accessibility of your chosen storage device a number of years from now. To illustrate, there are people who stored important documents in zip disks several years back. These disks are now practically extinct and you’ll most probably have a hard time trying to retrieve data from a zip disk, if you can retrieve them at all. Of course, there’s really no way you can predict which device will last. It may be a good idea to transfer your files to a newer device every ten years or so.
2. Choose a Data Format
The application you use today to archive your financial documents may no longer be supported ten years from now. There have been many cases where archived files can no longer be recovered because the format used has become obsolete. To avoid such a problem, you could archive copies of your chosen installation media and the necessary license keys along with the data itself.
3. Select a Scanner
Paper records need to be converted to digital images. Scanners that were once expensive and difficult to operate, install and maintain have improved considerably over the past 20 years. The newest models are very simple to install (USB interface) and many come bundled with rudimentary scanning applications. Features to consider include Automatic Document Feeders, scanning speed (as rated in pages per minute), color/black and white options and flatbed capability to capture damaged documents and photographs.
4. Set Up a Retrieval Method
Bear in mind that there’s always a possibility that you’ll need to refer to some of your archived files from time to time. This is why you need to devise an efficient retrieval system for your archives. For example, if you choose to store your files in tapes, you need to make sure the tapes are properly indexed. This makes it a lot easier to locate files that have been indexed years ago. The good news is that there is now plenty of archival software that simplifies the task of retrieving data from archives.
It’s only logical for archiving and storage devices to change over time. This is why it’s a good idea to revisit your archives annually to see if there’s a need to transfer some files to a new storage medium. Let’s say, for example, that you decide to store your files in CDs. You never know if CDs will someday become obsolete, so you need to be always aware of evolving trends in terms of storage innovations and be sure to transfer your files before your chosen medium completely becomes outdated.
6. Make Copies
Don’t make the mistake of storing just a single copy of your data. What if something happens, causing that copy to get damaged? In the same way, you should avoid keeping the copies of your files in one place. What if your hiding place gets flooded? The essence of making several copies is to make sure you have a backup for your files, so it only makes sense to keep the copies separately.
7. Need to convert lots of paper records? Consider outsourcing.
There are companies that specialize in converting paper documents to digital images. These firms, typically known as service bureaus, perform the service of record conversion on behalf of clients that prefer not to incur the costs and expense of operating scanners and learning and maintaining specialized scan capture software.
The criteria for selecting a document conversion service bureau are fairly straightforward. Ask potential service bureaus if they have clients with material similar to your own. Will they show you their facility and equipment? Do they have multiple stations using similar equipment? How long have they been in business? What about references? Do they have the equipment in-house to satisfy every facet of your conversion project, or will they use subcontractors? Most well established service bureaus will create a sample set of images using your own paper documents at no charge to make certain the output will match your expectations.
Having an organized archiving system enables you to manage your finances a lot more easily. Now financial paperwork doesn’t have to be such an ordeal anymore.
Craig Hollingum has been in the Document Imaging business for well over half of his life. He has been involved in Micro Com Systems Ltd. on an evolutionary path as an employee/partner/sole owner since 1982.
As someone who writes a “how to do stuff” type site, it can be hard to find that balance between talking about what to do and why you might want to do it in the first place.
I always try to focus on how what I write might actually help people, which is why I am really intrigued by the new project by my friends Mike Vardy and Michael Schechter: Workflowing. (You might recognize those names from the Mike Techniques podcast I did recently).
All too often, attempts to do better get lost in learning how to do better. While we will certainly help you find the tools, tactics and tricks that will help you along the way, we decided to put something at the core of this site that will help us all to focus on the bigger picture.
This looks really great. I’ve subscribed to both the RSS feed and the newsletter. We’ll see what they come up with.
When people ask me for Windows document management software recommendations, I more often than not point them to Lucion FileCenter. I’m a Mac user myself, but everyone that I have pointed to FileCenter likes it.
It’s very full featured, has nice automation tools, and best of all, it stores your files in the normal Windows filesystem and not in some proprietary database.
The company has recently released FileCenter Version 8, and I’ve been playing with the new features. Stay tuned for some deep dives later, but for now here are some highlights of the new version.
You have always been able to define a cabinet as an inbox for incoming documents, but FileCenter 8 has promoted this to a new tab and button on the toolbar. They’ve also added some new functionality.
You can click the Inbox button to define a Windows folder as your inbox, and then you can even add multiple folders and switch between them. This is handy if you have scans coming from different locations.
There’s also a new File Item button so that when you have a document (or multiple documents) highlighted, you can click the button and file it away out of your Inbox.
FileCenter 8 has improved the ability to edit PDFs. When you are viewing a PDF in the application, you can hit the Edit PDF Image button.
When you do this, you are brought into the Image Editor where you can straighten, crop, redact, and generally edit the content of PDFs. It’s not as full featured as Adobe Acrobat, but it does much of what you might need.
A great feature of FileCenter has always been its Naming Rules which let you automatically name documents based on criteria you define.
With FileCenter, they’ve added some new tokens such as Date Created and Date Modified, which can be handy when naming files.
While, as I’ve said, you have always been able to define tokens for automatically naming files, sometimes it can be helpful to have a list of static names to choose from.
In Version 8, you can define these Custom Lists. For example, I created a list of Utilities:
This gets really powerful when you combine it with the aforementioned tokens. You can built a filename with both dynamic tokens (for example, the date or folder name) and static text from your lists. Handy and consistent.
There are a few more new features, but those are the biggies for me. Apparently if you bought FileCenter 7 in the past 12 months you should be eligible for the FileCenter 8 upgrade (a year seems pretty generous to me).
If you don’t fall into that, you can contact [email protected] or call 801–722–7099 for upgrade pricing.
Or, of course, if you’re happy with FileCenter 7, there is nothing forcing you to upgrade. Keep on going until you’re ready to take the plunge.
The article has some good advice for going paperless, including some ideas that I had I had never considered such as using mindmaps to plan out your file structure.
Surprisingly it can be quite hard to create a system whereby every single piece of paper that lands on your desk, or is scrunched up in your pocket, has a pre-determined pathway to a digital existence.
For those of us that think visually one suggestion is to try Freemind.
It also covers some familiar hardware and software products, and some new-to-me tools such as the HoverCam. I look forward to learning more about that one.
On the subject of Ian Hardy, he also recently wrote a great article about tagging, not the easiest subject to explain. I recommend checking that out too.
The company (wisely) reset everyone’s passwords, which for most people went smoothly.
However, there were a number of people for whom the reset did not go so well, and they lost (yikes) any notes that they had un-synchronized.
This has unsurprisingly caused a lot of distress for some Evernote users, but yesterday on the Evernote Forum, user Dr. Jackie posted a solution that worked.
After sending a couple of e-mails to the EN staff, and getting a response the very next day with the same suggestions, I sent my last e-mail and got a life-saving answer from Martin Schoffler. I have so much to thank him. He gave me two options on retrieving my notes, without reassuring me 100% that they would be there. The steps he gave me to follow made me hopeless because I couldn’t find my notes, but when I kept on looking just about everywhere (in this software I’ll tell you about in a moment) I finally found them.
The forum post has step-by-step instructions, but involves using a program called iExplorer to dig around in your iOS device.
If this works for you, I’d love to hear about it. If you found another way to recover your lost notes, please let us know in the comments as well. Hope this helps.
As most DocumentSnap readers know, I am all about the automation.
What you may not know is that I am an old-school Unix command line geek. I do most stuff in the GUI these days, but one of the reasons I love Mac OS X is it gives you the ability to drop down into its Unix underpinnings and get stuff done on the command line as our forefathers did.
For both of these reasons, I have been intrigued by a new tool by Joe Workman called simply Paperless.
It’s an extremely flexible and geeky command line paperless automation tool. Here’s what the Readme has to say:
Paperless is command-line tool that will help you automate your paperless workflow from your scanner to your e-filing cabinet. That could be the filesystem like Finder or apps like Evernote or DevonThink. Paperless analyzes your scanned documents and processes them through a set of user defined rules. These rules determine how and where to file the document. The entire process is entirely automated so that all you need to do is press the scan button on your scanner!
You can do all sorts of cool stuff like have it (via the tool of your choice) OCR, rename, and move your documents.
I am pretty invested in my Hazel rules, so I haven’t quite wrapped my head around when I will use this for myself, but I really look forward to playing with it. If you are similarly geeky, you might want to give it a look (best of all, it’s free!).
Joe has made a nice 11 minute video taking you through the features. It’s very impressive. You can view it below.
There are many, many ways to extract a page out of a PDF and create a new document from it.
The other day I was speaking at a conference, and an awesome DocumentSnap reader asked me a question. I think I surprised her when I pulled a page out of one of my existing documents and sent it to her right there at the table.
I used an app called PDFpen on my iPad to do this, but I could have done it on my iPhone as well.