Reader Story: Controlling Data and Designing A Paperless Workflow

Control KeyThis post is part of the paperless stories feature at DocumentSnap. Some stories are from readers that have successfully gone paperless, some are still going through it. Would you like to share your story too?

Today’s featured DocumentSnap reader is Maryon Jeane from Shropshire. She can be found on Twitter at @MaryonJeane.

What problems were you trying to solve by going paperless?

After moving from a large Victorian farmhouse with a huge attic to a small (but beautiful) cottage with a lot of land but very little space inside, I had a paper problem. With the accumulated paperwork of a lot of years and quite a few businesses, I needed to do a major sort out and rethink. Going paperless was the obvious answer – and as I was going to sort everything out anyway (plus I could barely move in the office), I had the spur I needed to go paperless. So I cleared two weeks of work (I am self-employed) and got to grips with the task big time.

What were the biggest stumbling blocks?

The size of the project was daunting, but once I committed to it and made the time it became exhilarating. However the biggest thing was decision-making – it was exhausting! Every single piece of paper had to be examined and a decision made: discard, archive physically, scan and archive, keep extant physically, keep extant in scanned form, OCR or not?

Tell us about your paperless workflow

I drew up a main plan, but was careful not to make it too rigid. I’ve seen people tidy up (their desk, their office, their cupboards, their homes, their garages) and everything looks amazing and they’re so proud – then six months later it’s all back to Square One. This is because they’ve created a system which is just too rigid, too difficult and time-consuming to maintain.

So the outline was:

Incoming documents: initial decision made as to whether it’s worth anything (reading, keeping, etc.); then date stamped; then either dealt with immediately (all basic mail, for example, is skimmed, date stamped if worth keeping or shredded if not), then either scanned or (usually if it’s quite large, as with a legal document, and I’m short of time) put in a scanning folder for attention later (you can scan while you’re on the phone!). Only documents which have a very definite reason for being kept in physical form make their way into the filing cabinet.

Outgoing documents are all digitally created and so are kept digitally (some very few are printed out if, again, there is a legal or statutory reason for this) and/or are forwarded or copied to other people in that form.

Documents are highlighted for keywords before scanning but, in most cases, I allow the scanner software to OCR the entire document. These days computers have enough memory and storage space and scanners (I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap) are so fast even when using OCR that I think that the slightly slower scanning speed detriment is worthwhile, given that it’s then possible to find anything at all by just searching on a word or phrase.

At the heart of a paperless office or home has to be a database – and one that works with humans and not makes a human contort everything to fit into the way it works. It must be freeform, searching the whole database on anything a human remembers as significant, not just on defined keywords. Evernote is very good indeed and that was my first choice – but it let me down. Twice. It deleted some data each time due to a bad upgrade (over which you have no control as your data and most of the program is in the Cloud), and this is the worst thing a database can do, obviously. So I changed to AllMyNotes and I’m very happy with it.

What I needed from a database was that it would be freeform, would handle all sorts of data (scans, typed notes, tables, photographs, graphics, attachments, etc.), would have a reminder/alarm facility, and would be able to find things fast with just a few words. Both Evernote and AllMyNotes fulfil these criteria, but Evernote is in the Cloud, costs quite serious money, and is not under your complete control. Evernote has a lot of communication facilities which AllMyNotes doesn’t (you can e-mail documents to Evernote, or clip straight to it and share the clip on social media sites, for example) – but actually this doesn’t make a lot of difference because you can easily set up ways of working with AllMyNotes for yourself. With Evernote you can give other people access to particular folders (which actually turned out to be disastrous because, certainly in the earlier days of Evernote, this access couldn’t be restricted and someone happily deleted everything in one shared folder because she’d “finished with it”!), but then your personal data is all in the Cloud – forever. With AllMyNotes (which is a one-off price for unlimited personal use and unlimited updates) you can set up the same sharing (I use BitTorrent Sync) with complete privacy, a faster speed – and it’s free!

I have clients, a partner, and a personal life which all need organisation, so often data does need to be shared. If I receive a letter, for example, in the morning mail and I need to let my partner have a copy, share some of the information (but not all) with a client, and file it for future use, then I date stamp the letter, highlight keywords if necessary, and then scan it. As soon as the document is on the computer it’s filed into a ‘bucket’ folder which I use for anything which will end up in the database. Then I e-mail the file to my partner and either cut-and-paste the salient bits and e-mail them (I use a program called ABBYY Screenshot Reader to grab small bits of text from PDFs), or open up the file in a PDF program, redact the parts of the letter I don’t want to share with my client and annotate as necessary, and then e-mail the redacted version on. If I’m going out and want to do anything with the letter when I’m away from my desk I will also copy the letter into a folder which is synced with my netbook.

As my e-mail program is key to my paperless life I don’t rely on Outlook (in fact I don’t rely on any Microsoft product except for Windows, which I’m unable to avoid!) but use ‘The Bat!’ Professional. This is easily backed up and – key to all the programs I use – is light on resources. The searching facility in The Bat! is awesome: fast and flexible, so you’re never caught on the hop when someone telephones you as a follow-up to an e-mail conversation (and there’s no giveaway sound of rustling paper of course!).

Backups are absolutely vital. Fires don’t happen to filing cabinets and offices too often, but hardware meltdown and software idiocies are rife and frequent. Again, I don’t trust the Cloud any more, having been let down by two different Cloud backup companies, and so backup to an external drive, a USB key (which I can take out of the office for keeping elsewhere if I’m going to be away for any length of time), and my netbook. I use Cobian 11, which is excellent, straightforward – and again free! Backups are also essential in case you accidentally overwrite something, which is a mistake not made in the physical paper world but easily done in the digital.

There is a need and a time for ‘paper and pen’, even in the paperless office. So I have a Livescribe pen, and on my desk in front of me at all times I have an A5 Livescribe notebook. When I’m holding telephone conversations, or having a discussion with my partner about something domestic (or business, we do a few joint things on that front) I jot down notes and reminders etc. I prefer to keep a pen-and-paper ToDo list as well, a weekly one, which helps to keep me on track and motivated because there’s nothing quite like crossing something out once it’s done and dusted! I also keep a small Livescribe notepad in my bag and take my Livescribe pen everywhere with me when I’m out and about. When I upload the data from my pen it’s immediately turned into searchable text by one of the apps in my Livescribe desktop, so then even my handwritten notes become paperless (and also can be accompanied by spoken notes. For example after I’ve finished a telephone call I will often expand on my notes by voice-recording a fuller version of the conversation – which it would take too long to write or type). The pen is also amazingly useful in meetings and interviews (I sometimes interview people for clients) where it’s just not OK to use a keyboard or keypad (and, again, the recording facility is invaluable in this type of situation).

Is this for a business? Tell us about it

I am what was called, in the ’80s, a portfolio worker. My aim is to work completely from home and online, so I do whatever fulfills that aim and interests me.

My background is in teaching, working temporarily in offices during the academic holidays, and in various areas of IT (helping people make the best use of technology, training people in its use, that type of thing), so I just approach people with my various skills on offer to see if I can help them. At first it was hard because people wanted ‘bums on seats’ and middle management particularly had a problem with employing people they couldn’t see and control; now it’s easy and people are more than happy to work with people they only have to pay on results. People approach me with all sorts of projects with which they need help, and I’ll give anything legal (!) my best shot. I don’t often now have to approach people cold (I do it, but only because an idea takes my fancy) because I’m ‘known’.

Right now I’m taking some time out to concentrate on my own work, a writing project, which is exciting – if a little nerve-wracking!

Is There Anything Else We Should Know?

I’ve signed up with everyone possible for paperless billing and notifications etc. and it’s also in my client terms and conditions that everything between us is conducted in digital form. My legal clients still print things out at their end, but what can you do?!?

I make a point of ringing people who send brochures through the post (these are companies with which I already have a trading relationship – I’ve opted out of junk mail) not to do so, telling them that I will be shopping with them online unless they keep sending brochures, in which case I will blacklist them! (Some people need dragging into the twenty-first century…)

I ask people not to send user manuals with things, but this is only partially a success: if I’m buying something from an eBay seller then they’re only too glad to keep the manual in case someone else loses theirs, but bigger businesses have no way of extracting the manual from a box they usually don’t even see before it goes out. If I have to scan a manual I rip it up first to extract all the other-language versions and any other useless bits – then the physical manual is put with the appliance (for example on top of the washing machine or under the printer), particularly where someone might need to look something up while they’ve got dirty or wet hands (not a good idea with computers…).

My average laser printer cartridge lasts two years.

I have one three-drawer filing cabinet in my office which holds not only office files but also all the domestic files – and it’s not full!

Thanks Maryon! I loved this story because it covers a lot of products that I haven’t explored on DocumentSnap in the past. I also like how she made a conscious decision where she wants her data to be and who can do what with it.

If you have questions for Maryon, leave a comment and I will try to get them answered.

(Photo by Faramarz Hashemi)

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ScanSnap On Yosemite – Your Experience?

yosemite240So OS X 10.10, called Yosemite, is out.

Whenever a new release of an operating system (Mac or Windows) is released, there is always that nervous period where you try to figure out if there are any glitches with the software and hardware that you are currently using.

I will probably be installing Yosemite this weekend, but (as I do with every OS release) I want to put this post up to collect your feedback. I’ve searched online and haven’t seen any concrete problems yet.

ScanSnap Yosemite Compatibility

The short version is, all modern ScanSnap models are supported.

If you want further details, here is the support page for each model:

  • ScanSnap iX500: Supported. See this page and the instructions below.
  • ScanSnap iX100: Supported. See this page and the instructions below.
  • ScanSnap SV600: Supported. See this page and the instructions below.
  • ScanSnap S1500/S1500M: Supported. See this page and the instructions below.
  • ScanSnap S1300/S1300i: Supported. See this page and the instructions below.
  • ScanSnap S1100/S1100i: Supported. See this page and the instructions below.
  • ScanSnap S300M: Supported. See this page.
  • ScanSnap S510M: Not Supported. See this page.

Preparing Your ScanSnap For OS X Mavericks

If you have a ScanSnap iX500, iX100, SV600, S1500/M, S1300/S1300i, or S1100/S1100i the best way to go is to do an online update.

To do that:

  • Right-click on the ScanSnap icon in the Dock
  • Go to Help > Online Update
  • Follow the instructions

If you want to see this in video form, I’ve created a short video.

ABBYY FineReader For ScanSnap

If you check out the links for each model, you will see that all ScanSnap software is supported, but under ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap, it has this slightly disturbing message:

A problem of failing installation is confirmed. Update Schedule: last week of November

I haven’t been able to determine whether ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap doesn’t work on Yosemite, or if it just has problems installing on Yosemite.

I haven’t seen any reports of people having issues. I’ll update this section when I upgrade, but in the meantime if you have already upgraded, please leave a comment and let us know how it is going.

Your Experience?

So, how is your ScanSnap and related software working on OS X Yosemite?

I’d appreciate it if you left a comment either way. I’ll update this post as new information becomes available.

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I Spoke About Going Paperless To A Paper Loving Audience And Survived

Burrowing OwlI have done my fair share of public speaking, but it has generally been in a business context and mostly to professionals who want to learn how going paperless can improve their business or their life.

This time was different. This time I was about to take the stage at SimpleREV in Minneapolis, and I was much more nervous than usual.

It could have been the fact that I was on 3 hours of sleep (thank you Sun Country). It could have been that I was coming from 31 degrees in Southern California to 3 degrees in Minnesota and was trying to recover from a brutal cold.

Truth be told, the main reason was that I knew that this audience was different. This was an audience that not only uses paper, but loves paper.

Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist was there. Mike Vardy from Productivityist was there, and just a week earlier he had done a podcast about his love for paper. David Delp from Pilot Fire was handing out stacks of index cards to the audience.

Patrick Rhone was there. Patrick freaking Rhone, who amongst many other activities runs a site called The Cramped, which is “dedicated to the pleasures of writing with analog tools”.

In other words, this was not a group of accountants or real estate agents. So what the heck was I doing there?

Partially it was to support my friends Dan Hayes from Simple Life Together and Joel Zaslofsky from Value of Simple, who are doing great work and are creating a movement.

Mostly it was because I truly believe that it is hard to focus on simplicity and being mindful if you have “stuff” all over the place and don’t know where anything is.

To me it is hard to live a contented life if you have to dig through piles of paper to find that one crucial document, or if you have to worry, even subconsciously, that you are one hard drive crash away from losing your entire digital life.

Thankfully, no one threw rare Japanese pens, artisanal notebooks, or staplers at me. The aforementioned Patrick Rhone was kind enough to sketchnote my talk, and here were his main takeaways:

My focus, other than the tactical aspects was:

  • Going paperless does not necessarily mean a total absence of paper or taking away activities that you love to do. It is just about being mindful of the paper that you use and the paper that you keep.
  • Think about what it is you are actually trying to achieve.
  • Think about how you are actually going to find these documents later.
  • The most important thing is to make sure your documents are protected, and this means backing up to more than one location.

My goal for my talk was to have people put some thought into how they store and find their digital documents, and most importantly to make sure that their digital lives were backed up. I was pleased to see that at least one person took action.

It is always good to do some things that are outside of your comfort zone, and speaking at SimpleREV was definitely one of them. If nothing else, I learned the origin of the name of Flin Flon, Manitoba.

(Photo by Mitchell Gerskup)

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Easily Save Web Pages To Evernote On iPhone Or iPad In iOS8

Evernote iOS8 ExtensionSaving web pages to Evernote on an iPhone or iPad has historically involved annoying workarounds like third party apps or hacked up bookmarklets.

When iOS8 was announced, one of my big hopes was that the new extensions feature would make it easier to save content to Evernote, and I’m happy to say that is has. You can now save a web page (or any other content you find on the web) right to Evernote from Safari. Here’s how to do it.

First, when you have something you want to save in Safari, hit the Share button. It is at the bottom of the screen on the iPhone and at the top on the iPad.

Tap Share Button.

A “share sheet” will open up. You will see some icons for apps that you have installed that you can share this web page to. You most likely will not see the Evernote icon there, so swipe to the see the information off to the right.

Swipe

If you haven’t already enabled the Evernote extension, you still won’t see the Evernote icon. What you will see is a More button. Tap that.

Tap More

Find Evernote in the list and tap the switch to enable it. You will only need to do this once.

Enable Evernote

You should now see the Evernote button in the list. Yeah! Tap that.

Evernote Button

A little window will pop up where you can give your new Evernote note a title (it will use the title of the page by default), and you can assign it to a Notebook. I really wish you could assign tags here too. Tap Save when you are done.

Save To Evernote

Once you hit Save, it will work for a while and then when you fire up the Evernote app on any platform, your clipped web page should appear.

In Evernote

I love the extensions in iOS8, and they will make capturing and saving information much easier between apps. Finally an easy way on iOS to save to Evernote.

If you’re just getting started with Evernote, check out Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly. It is The Guide to Evernote and will save you tons of time. I refer to it often.

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Smart File Naming With Scanbot Mobile Capture

Scanbot IphoneI am a big believer in having naming conventions for your files.

Usually you need to capture a document and then rename it later, but it is always nice when you can have your file named as much as possible at the point of scanning. It saves work later.

Scanbot is a popular scanning app that is available for iOS and Android.

It recently added some Pro features that are available via a $4.99 in-app purchase, and one of them is the ability to define your own “smart file name”. You can have your scans named the way that you want, and you don’t need to rely on whatever the app kicks out.

To start with, go to the settings by clicking on the gear icon.

Scanbot Settings

If you have unlocked the Pro features, you’ll see an option for Default File Name. Tap that.

Scanbot Default File Name

Now the fun begins. You can build your default file name by either typing in text, or you can use Scanbot’s predefined variables. Since I usually date my files yyyy_mm_dd, I set that up. Just for fun, I added the text MyScan and my city and neighborhood.

Scanbot Custom Name

There are variables for date, time, location, and some predefined words like “Scan” and “Scanbot”.

Scanbot Scans

Once Scanbot has captured the document and uploaded it, you can see I have nicely captured PDFs named just the way I defined in the settings.

It probably would have been smarter to include the date and time in the name to avoid duplicate names, but you can see that the app caught my error and added “ –1” at the end.

It’s nice to see scanning apps adding little touches like this beyond just the capturing of the documents. Anything that makes mobile capture more efficient is a win.

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Dropbox Selective Sync – Save Space On Your Computer

Dropbox At The DoorIn Summer 2014, Dropbox started offering much more storage for Pro customers. $10 a month now gets you 1 Terabyte of space.

This is great, but there is one small issue. Many of us are stuck with small hard drives – how do you take advantage of 1 TB of storage space if you only have a 250 GB hard drive?

Dropbox’s automatic synchronization, which is usually awesome, becomes a problem in this case.

Your friend is a slightly hidden feature called Selective Sync. It allows you to control which folders stored in Dropbox get copied down to your Mac, Windows, or Linux computer.

Dropbox has a Help page called How do I save space on my computer? that shows how to enable and use this feature.

By default it will show you the instructions for the computer you are accessing the page from, but in the top-right of the screen you can switch between Mac, Windows, and Linux instructions.

Selective Sync is also helpful if you want to install Dropbox on a computer but don’t want to have certain sensitive folders copied to the hard drive (just remember that theoretically someone could just go in and check the folders and still get at your stuff).

Dropbox’s Selective Sync is one of those really handy features that not many people know about. Definitely check it out if you are space constrained.

Dropbox and the Dropbox logo are trademarks of Dropbox, Inc.

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ScanSnap Receipt – Initial Overview

ScanSnap ReceiptI mentioned in my recent ScanSnap iX100 Review that while the scanner is good, what made me fall out of my chair was the under-the-radar inclusion of a new software feature called ScanSnap Receipt.

This is something that ScanSnap users have requested for a long time – the ability to scan a receipt and have the ability to categorize and export the data for taxes, expense tracking, and the like.

The new ScanSnap Receipt application ships with the ScanSnap iX100, and it has started appearing via Online Update for ScanSnap iX500 and ScanSnap SV600 customers as well. I am told that it will be released for the ScanSnap S1300i in October.

One unfortunate note: Fujitsu has confirmed to me that ScanSnap Receipt is only available for the United States market. If you have a ScanSnap that is purchased outside of the US, ScanSnap Receipt will not appear for you in Online Update. Not cool. I’ll update this if this ever changes.

Getting Receipts Into ScanSnap Receipt

ScanSnap Receipt is a separate application and is not built-in to ScanSnap Organizer, their document management application. The con of this is that if you use ScanSnap Organizer to manage your documents, everything is not tied in. The pro of this is that if you do not use ScanSnap Organizer, you still have the benefit of receipt management and extraction.

There are essentially three ways to get your receipts in to ScanSnap Receipt:

  • Scan a receipt and select ScanSnap Receipt in the Quick Menu.
  • Set up a ScanSnap Manager Profile for ScanSnap Receipt and use that to scan.
  • Drag or import PDFs or JPGs in to the ScanSnap Receipt application itself.

Let’s take a look.

Quick Menu

When you scan a receipt and have the Quick Menu enabled, it does a pretty good job of automatically detecting that it is a receipt and you should see ScanSnap Receipt in the Recommended section.

ScanSnap Receipt Quick Menu

If for whatever reason it doesn’t auto-detect that it is a receipt, not a problem. Just find ScanSnap Receipt in the list.

A nice touch – if you use Quick Menu and you have the ScanSnap Receipt application running, it will keep scanning subsequent receipts to ScanSnap Receipt. You don’t have to keep selecting it.

ScanSnap Manager Profile

If you are not the Quick Menu type, you can set up a ScanSnap Manager Profile for your receipts. Just select ScanSnap Receipt on the Application tab.

ScanSnap Receipt ScanSnap Manager Profile

Drag Into ScanSnap Receipt

You can drag a PDF or JPG image into the ScanSnap Receipt window, or use File > Import. It will then process the receipt and OCR if necessary.

To my utter shock and awe, this works for documents that were not scanned by the ScanSnap. I tested it out scanning with a few mobile scanning apps, both OCRed and not, and it happily imported them all. I was sure it would be locked down the way ScanSnap Organizer is.[1]

ScanSnap Receipt Inbox

ScanSnap Receipt Inbox

For organization, ScanSnap Receipt uses inboxes, and has one called My Inbox by default. Anything you scan or import will go there.

You can create other inboxes for high level organization if you’d like.

Editing Receipts

It would be nice if you could scan a receipt and have all the text detected perfectly and placed in the correct fields perfectly.

Unfortunately with pretty much any OCR solution, that will usually not be the case. There’s often something you need to tweak.

In my experience so far, I have found that it is great at detecting dates, amounts, taxes, payment method, and card numbers.

The Vendor name wasn’t super successful, though that is often a result of wacky logos etc. It’s pretty hard for any program to know exactly which piece of text is the vendor.

Fortunately, it is fast and easy to fix this stuff up.

Editing Text

If you just need to make a quick edit, you can type it directly in the spreadsheet-like view of all of the receipts. If you want to zoom in on an individual receipt, you can double-click it or select it and hit the Edit button.

ScanSnap Receipt Editing A Receipt

In this example, it has detected the date, amount, tax, and card of my unhealthy but delicious airport burrito, but it didn’t get the vendor right.

Of course, I could just type in the correct name, but ScanSnap Receipt has a cool select-and-OCR feature.

Just select a bit of text in the receipt and it will pop up a window asking which field you’d like it placed in.

ScanSnap Receipt Select and OCR Text

I highlighted El Bravo and chose Vendor, and it put the correct text in the Vendor field. Handy.

Checked vs. Unchecked

ScanSnap has a way for you to keep track of which receipts you’ve gone through and edited. There’s a field called Unchecked that has two states: Unchecked and Checked.

By default any receipt that is scanned/imported has a state of Unchecked. Once you’ve edited a receipt, it changes the state to Checked. You can, of course, change that back and forth manually.

This is good to know if you are editing a receipt and all of a sudden it “disappears”. Chances are you have a filter set to only show Unchecked receipts.

Categorizing Receipts

The software comes with a set of Categories and Subcategories that you can modify. There is only one level of subcategories, so your hierarchy is only one level deep.

Combining and Splitting Receipts

I have found the ScanSnap Receipt software pretty smart about automatically splitting receipts. If I scan two receipts with in one shot, it automatically splits them out to two separate receipts in the software. However, if you need to combine receipts or split manually, you can do this.

Combining Receipts

To combine receipts, you can highlight the rows that you want to bring together, right-click, and hit Combine.

ScanSnap Receipt Combine Receipts

When you do, it will bring the receipts together and sum up the amount and the tax.

ScanSnap Receipt Combined

Splitting Receipts

You can also split up a receipt. This is handy if you have different categories, or perhaps part of a receipt is for Business and part is Personal.

For example, let’s take this receipt from Aunt Chilada’s. Perhaps my delicious carnitas tacos was a business expense, but I wanted the “Hand-Tossed Marg.” (whatever that is) to be a personal expense.

I right-click the receipt and choose Split, and I can make those changes.

ScanSnap Receipt Split

Once you do that, the receipt goes back into the Unchecked state and you can go in and review the changes.

Searching and Filtering Receipts

A nice thing about having all these fields to work off of is you can do some slicing and dicing to see (and export) just the receipts you want.

The key is the handy + button that lets you filter by your fields.

ScanSnap Receipt Add Filter

Once you press that, you can add up to three levels of filters. So let’s say we wanted to find the tax deductible travel receipts.

ScanSnap Receipt Filter

Boom. Of course, you can just search by keyword as well and it will search the OCR’ed text of the receipt.

Exporting Receipts

The point of using a receipt program isn’t to do all this work organizing receipts – you presumably want to do something with the information.

You can export the receipts as individual PDFs, as one big PDF, as JPGs, or as a CSV file.

ScanSnap Receipt Export Options

In ScanSnap Receipt for Windows, you can transfer receipts to Quickbooks Pro 2012 or later. You need to connect it to the company file, map the data for transferring, and then you can move data over.

You can export an individual receipt or the selected receipts, which is where filtering can come in handy. You can slice and dice the data exactly how you want it, and then export.

You may find it helpful to check out the CSV that ScanSnap Receipts puts out. I’ve generated a Mac and Windows one just in case there are any wacky differences.

Other than CSV/image export, there aren’t any reports that you can run from your receipt data.

Storage and Backup

Here’s where things get slightly weird. As far as I can tell, all the receipt images and data is stored in a proprietary database.

On the Mac, this is stored in ~/Library/Application Data/PFU/ScanSnap Receipt.

On Windows, it is in your User folder under AppData\Local\PFU\ScanSnap Receipt.

The ScanSnap Receipt application provides a backup facility that can be found under Tools > Backup. If you are going to be using ScanSnap Receipt, I HIGHLY recommend you:

  1. Make sure that your regular backup routine is picking up that storage folder.
  2. On some sort of regular basis use Tools > Backup to back up your database and keep that file safe.

Proprietary databases make me nervous, so protect yourself.

Workflow And Closing Thoughts

It isn’t 100% clear to me what Fujitsu’s intentions are around ScanSnap Receipt. Should people be storing their regular documents in ScanSnap Organizer and their receipts in ScanSnap Receipt? Is ScanSnap Receipt intended to be more “transactional”, where you dump your receipts into it when you want to get them ready for taxes/exporting?

This is early days (the software has one been out for two days in North America) and as with most things to do with going paperless, I suspect we will all find the way that works best for us.

ScanSnap Receipt isn’t the most beautiful application in the world (Mac design people may not approve), but to me it hits the key areas: it can take a receipt, extract the information out if it, let you clean it up, and then export the data.

I’d like to hear from you, especially if you have been waiting for years for a ScanSnap receipt tool. Does ScanSnap Receipt meet your needs? What features would you like to see?


  1. Having said that, I’ve probably ruined it by saying that. Sorry if this gets killed in a future update!  ↩

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Get Your SimpleREV Tickets While They Last

SimpleREVBack in March I posted about a new conference that had just been announced called SimpleREV.

For some weird reason, in the six months since then I have neglected to mention that not only am I now attending, but I’m leading a workshop called Go Paperless: Simplify Your Life, Reduce Clutter, And Find Anything Instantly.

It’ll be the most interactive workshop I’ve done, and should be a lot of fun (for me anyways – if it’s not for you there’s always the hallway conversations).

There’s also a great list of speakers/workshop leaders like Mike Vardy, Joshua Becker, Sheryl & Dave from Simple Life Reboot, Patrick Rhone, and a lot more.

It looks like there are only 11 tickets left, so if you are going to be in the Minneapolis area on October 3–4, it’d be cool to see you.

Click here for more information on SimpleREV tickets.

Hope to see you there!

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ScanSnap iX100 Review – Wireless Battery Powered Scanner

ScanSnap iX100As Mugatu so famously said in Zoolander, “Wireless scanners are so hot right now.” Today Fujitsu America is releasing their second Wi-Fi scanning model – the ScanSnap iX100.

Fujitsu has sold a mobile ScanSnap (the S1100) since 2011, but it had one limitation – it needed to be connected to a computer via USB. Over time more and more scanners were cutting the cord, and the S1100 was starting to show its age. The [ScanSnap iX500][ix500] was the first wireless ScanSnap, but it is a little big to throw in your bag.

Fujitsu sent me a review iX100 to check out, so let’s take a look.

ScanSnap iX100

Size and Hardware

The ScanSnap iX100 is 10.74 x 1.87 x 1.41 inches (273 x 47.5 x 36 mm) and weighs 14.10 ounces (400 grams). It is extremely portable. In fact, when I sat down to write this review I initially couldn’t find it because it was tucked away in my bag and I initially missed it.

Like the S1100, the iX100 can scan “flat” where your paper goes through the back of the scanner, but it has an exit guide that you can flip up to have it return the paper to you. This is really handy for scanning dual-sided documents as the iX100 only scans single-sided. The video later on in this review shows how this works.

ScanSnap iX100

Being a mobile scanner, it obviously does not have a document feeder, so to improvise Fujitsu implemented what they call “continuous document feeding”.

You put the first page in the scanner and hit the scan button. Then you can keep feeding paper in and it will grab it and keep scanning. It will keep waiting for pages until you hit the Scan button again to signal that you’re done. Again, a nice touch to make scanning faster and easier without a document feeder.

Speaking of faster and easier, the ScanSnap iX100 scans at 5.2 seconds per page. This is two seconds faster than the S1100, and almost as fast as the ScanSnap S1300i which is pretty remarkable when you consider the size.

Like the S1100, the iX100 has a USB port on the side. If you’d like, you can use the iX100 as a USB-connected scanner, and this port is also used for charging the device – this is the first ScanSnap with a Lithium battery.

ScanSnap iX100

Wireless Scanning

While you can use the ScanSnap iX100 as a USB scanner, I expect that most people (myself included) will use it wirelessly.

With no wires connected whatsoever, you can scan to a computer or mobile device. How you do this depends on whether you are connected to a known Wi-Fi network or not.

ScanSnap Wireless Setup

Scan To Existing Wi-Fi Network

If your computer or mobile device is connected to a wi-fi network, you can set up the iX100 to connect to it. There’s a Wi-Fi switch on the back that controls whether it will attempt to connect or not.

ScanSnap iX100 Wi-Fi

A nice touch – the scanner will remember up to five Wi-Fi networks and switch seamlessly between them. I set it up for my network at home, then set it up at a friend’s house, and it switched back when I arrived back home without me needing to reconfigure anything.

Once the scanner is connected to a Wi-Fi network, it can scan to a mobile device running the ScanSnap Connect app (currently available for iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire), or it can scan to a Mac or Windows computer.

This is nice and everything, but what if there is no Wi-Fi network that you can connect to?

Scan Using Direct Connection

If there is no Wi-Fi network that the iX100 knows about, it will attempt to create its own.

This video shows how this works:

Video summary: the iX100 can create its own Wi-Fi network that you can connect to using your iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire device running the ScanSnap Connect app. You can also connect to it with a Mac or Windows computer if the computer has the ScanSnap software loaded on it.

Battery Life

The ScanSnap iX100 has a Lithium battery, and they rate it as being able to do 260 scans per charge.

That is one of those “ideal conditions” numbers, and from talking to the folks at Fujitsu about this, they say with switching between wireless networks and that sort of thing, around 140 pages is more likely in the real world.

I haven’t hit any battery issues yet. If you ever need to charge it, you can plug the included USB cable to any computer USB port or other USB charger.

ScanSnap Receipt

I will talk about software in a bit, but I want to focus in on one particular new feature that almost made me fall out of my chair: the ScanSnap iX100 comes with receipt management software.

ScanSnap iX100 Receipt

Frankly, this has been a hole in the ScanSnap offering for quite some time and it is great to see it being plugged.

Unfortunately, I have been getting reports that ScanSnap Receipt is only showing up for customers in the United States. I’m looking into more details on that.

I will have a separate blog post on ScanSnap Receipt specifically butYou can now have the ScanSnap scan receipts and it will attempt to read the information from them. You can then categorize the receipt information and export. Super handy for taxes.

Update 09/23/2014:I have now written a separate blog post. Click here to read about my ScanSnap Receipt overview.

Dual Scanning

If you have small items to scan the iX100 has a feature called dual scanning that I hope makes it to other models in the future.

If you put two small documents in, the scanner will recognize them as separate documents and either export two PDFs or a single PDF with two pages, depending how you have it set up. Handy for receipts and business cards.

ScanSnap iX100 Dual Scanning

Automatic Image Stitching

Another new-to-ScanSnap feature is the ability to take a wide document, fold it in half, and have the ScanSnap automatically stitch it together as if you scanned one large document.

Essentially, it is doing this without the need to use a Carrier Sheet.

I have to admit, I couldn’t get this feature to work. Maybe I had something set wrong or maybe I wasn’t using the right type of wide document, but here is what the Help says should work:

  • A3, B4, or Double Letter size documents with a double-page spread
    -Documents folded in half that have characters, a figure, or table on the fold line

Scan Quality

The scan quality of the iX100 is the best of any portable scanner I have reviewed. It is remarkable for a scanner this size.

That being said, scan quality is subjective. What I have done is zipped together a group of documents of a variety of types and resolutions. Take a look if you want to see some samples.

Click here to download the iX100 scan samples.

Software

As with all ScanSnaps, by default the iX100 has the more-and-more-useful Quick Menu enabled which makes scanning very easy.

ScanSnap iX100 Quick Menu

It will detect the type of document that you are scanning and recommend some options. You can also add your own applications to it, and hide the ones you don’t use.

ScanSnap Organizer For Mac

As I mentioned earlier, ScanSnap Receipt almost made me fall of my chair. The release of ScanSnap Organizer for Mac finished the job. The lack of a document organizer for Mac OS X has been another sticking point for a long time, so it is great to see them addressing that.

Bundled Software

Here is the software that comes with the iX100:

  • ScanSnap Organizer (Windows, Mac)
  • CardMinder (Windows, Mac)
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap (Windows, Mac)

It also comes with the ability to scan to the cloud with Evernote, Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive, and Salesforce. You can also scan to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.

Is The S1100 Gone?

I assumed that the iX100 replaced the S1100, but that is not entirely true. Fujitsu will replace the S1100 with the S1100i, which will be released at some point in the future. It is like the iX100 but while the iX100 scans at 5.2 seconds per page, the S1100i scans at 7.5 seconds. Also, the S1100i does not have the ability to scan wirelessly and does not have a battery.

The S1100i does come with the same software as the iX100, and they have added the dual scanning and image stitching capabilities. I’ll update when it is available.

Pricing And Availability

For some reason it often takes a while for ScanSnaps to show up on Amazon, and at the time of writing the iX100 does not seem to be there. I will update this post when it is available. The retail price is $229 USD.

The ScanSnap iX100 is a great update to the S1100, and has some killer software improvements that I hope will make it to other ScanSnaps in the future. I’ve found it really helpful to have a small wireless ScanSnap to carry around in my bag, and if you are someone who has a need for a mobile wireless scanner, it is hard to go wrong with this one.

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