Over the years, I have seen some mistakes made over and over (and have even made many of them myself):
1. Relying On A Slow Scanner
Nothing makes people give up going paperless quite like the annoyance of having to sit there feeding paper into a scanner.
We all have all-in-ones that have a flatbed scanner, and that is fine to start with.
However, if there is any volume of paper at all (especially if it involves double-sided pages), people have been most successful when they use a fast scanner with an automatic document feeder that scans double-sided. This way you can just put a stack of paper into the scanner and hit go.
How to avoid: If you can afford it, pick up a scanner that is designed to scan documents. I personally use a Fujitsu ScanSnap, but there are many others out there.
2. Not Naming Files Properly
You know how you take pictures with your phone or digital camera and end up with hundreds of files with names like IMG_3164.JPG?
With electronic documents, it is the same thing. When you scan a document, your scanner will probably kick out a file named similar to 2013_06_18_09_38.pdf.
On the rare occasion that people do rename their files, they might put it in a June folder and call it comcast.pdf.
None of these situations are good if they want to be able to find these documents later.
How to avoid: When naming your electronic documents, take a moment to give it a consistent, descriptive name. Even better, include the date in the name so that you can search by title and date.
3. Waiting For The Perfect Folder Structure
Many people get very, very stuck coming up with the “right” folder structure to store their paperless documents in.
Everything grinds to a halt while they think, research, analyze, and research some more.
Remember, these are electronic files and folders. We can start with one structure, and very easily change it as our needs evolve.
How to avoid: Start with a basic, high level folder structure with your main categories of documents. If needed, mirror your paper file structure to avoid confusion.
4. Letting The Pile Return
It is a great moment when one’s paperless process is sorted out and that pile of paper becomes under control.
Unfortunately, the reality is that a ridiculous amount of paper will still be coming in to our lives and businesses, and there is a danger that the pile will grow again.
How to avoid: Have a plan for your ongoing paperless processing. Have a central inbox where paper and electronic documents go, and put a time on your calendar where you process your documents on a regular basis.
5. Not Having An Automated Backup
Everybody knows that they need to back up their computers, but almost nobody does it.
When going paperless, backing up at least the important documents is not optional. It is absolutely required. The best approach to take is to assume that something will happen to your documents, because it probably will.
Notice how I said “not having an automated backup”? I am of the opinion that if a backup is not done automatically, it is not really a backup.
How to avoid: At the very least, have an external hard drive plugged into your computer and use the backup software that is built into your operating system. Even better, have at least two backups: one local (your external drive) and one offsite. I personally use CrashPlan for this, but there are lots of options.
You’re Not Alone
Have you made one of these five mistakes, or are you in the process of making them?
Don’t worry about it – you are absolutely not alone, and we all do it.
The key is to look for at least one way that you can improve things, and then tackle that. You can worry about the rest later.
If you have other mistakes that you or others have made, please share in the comments.
I’ve recently started bringing these two together, and sometimes use Drafts to capture my grocery items and then send them off to iOS’s stock Reminders app. This video shows how I do this, especially for things that are e-mailed into me.
The not-so-nice thing about OpenMeta is that it has never been officially supported by Apple, so knowledgable taggers were always waiting to see if the next version of OS X is the one that finally kills it.
These carrier sheets are handy for scanning small, oddly-shaped, or delicate documents, but what is less known is the ScanSnap’s built-in ability to let you fold a document, put it in the carrier sheet, and have it automatically stitch the PDF back together.
Let’s see how it works.
Set The ScanSnap Carrier Sheet Settings
You probably don’t need to do anything to get all this to work. The ScanSnap Manager software detects when you are using the Carrier Sheet and should act appropriately.
However, if you want to have some control, go into your ScanSnap Manager Profile, and go to the Paper tab.
You’ll see a button titled Carrier Sheet Settings…. Click it.
A pop-up window will appear, and it will guide you through the rest of the way.
For our purposes, in the Save as drop-down, we will choose one double-page spread image, which will stitch together the two sides of our folded document.
If you are scanning delicate or small documents, you will probably want the other setting. That’s not what we’re doing here.
You can also adjust the paper size if you need to. I just leave it at Automatic detection myself.
Fold, Insert, Scan
Once we have our ScanSnap settings sorted out, it is time to get started.
I am personally impressed with how it stitched the two halves together. You’ll notice that there is a slight line down the center. This will be more or less pronounced depending on how good you are at lining things up on the right-hand side.
I suspect that many ScanSnap owners leave that Carrier Sheet sitting in the box. I recommend that you play around with it if you have a scanner that supports it. It is quite handy.
Well, it certainly wasn’t my intention to post about Evernote two days in a row, but the company just released an update that I need to give you a heads up about: they’ve significantly beefed up their security by offering Two-factor authentication.
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is a combination of something you know (your Evernote username and password) with something you have (in this case, your mobile device).
Premium users can now set it up so that in addition to your credentials, you will need to enter a special code sent via SMS to your phone or generated by Google Authenticator. If you are familiar with Google or Dropbox’s implementation, it works very similarly.
Apparently this will be rolled out to free users soon, but for now it is just for Premium users (they say they are doing it this way to start it off with a smaller audience for such a big change).
I’m really excited to be doing some more speaking events as part of Steve Dotto’s ProTECHtivity series in June.
ProTECHtivity is a seminar series that is designed to “massively increase your productivity”. Canadians will know Steve from his long-running TV and radio shows, and so far the first two events have been great with great speakers. I’ve learned something every time myself.
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. ↩