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Your Top Going Paperless Products Of 2013

TrophiesIt can be helpful to see what other people are doing when they go paperless, and part of that is the products that they use.

In 2013, many of you chose to support the DocumentSnap site by making online purchases through some of the links on the site. For example, when you purchase a scanner through Amazon, I receive a small commission.

One nice thing about this is that at the end of the year, I can take a look at which products were the most popular with DocumentSnap readers. I obviously can’t see your purchase, but I can see what has been sold by Amazon and other vendors in an anonymous aggregate format.

As I do every year, here are the most popular going-paperless hardware, books, and DocumentSnap products that were purchased via my links in 2013.

Full disclosure: the links below are also special links, so if you choose to purchase something after clicking one of them, I will get a small commission. If you don’t want to do that, not a problem. Just track the item down manually.

Physical Products

Top 10 Physical Paperless ProductsThe top 10 physical products for 2013 are:

  1. Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500. The ScanSnap desktop model is crazy fast and can scan wirelessly to a computer or mobile device. It was released in 2013, so it is not surprising that it was the winner this year. My iX500 review is here.
  2. Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i. The S1300i is the “personal” model, and is usually the best seller through DocumentSnap. Until the iX500 came out, this was my main scanner model for years. It is small but also has a document feeder and is double-sided. My review of the S1300i is here.
  3. ScanSnap Carrier Sheet 5 Pack. If you have delicate or oddly-shaped documents, these carrier sheets can help protect them.
  4. Scanned Rubber Stamp. People just love these. They’re a big seller every year, and I don’t even link to them.
  5. ScanSnap S1500/S1500M. These desktop ScanSnaps were replaced by the iX500 at the beginning of the year.
  6. ScanSnap SV600. This ScanSnap was also released in 2013. It is an overhead scanner, and scans books and other oddly-shaped objects. It can also automatically separate documents. My ScanSnap SV600 review is here.
  7. Adonit Jot Pro. This is the stylus that I currently use to write/mark up PDFs on my iPad, and apparently many of you use it as well.
  8. Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100. The portable ScanSnap. My review is here.
  9. Doxie Go. Doxie’s scanner that lets you scan without being plugged into a computer. It can even scan wirelessly. My review here.
  10. Fellowes 99Ci. The professional shredder from Fellowes, for home office and small business.


BooksThe top 10 books related to going paperless are:

  1. Evernote Essentials. This is the gold standard for Evernote books. Version 4 was released this year, and my review is here.
  2. Evernote®: The unofficial eBook to capturing everything and getting things done. Daniel Gold’s excellent ebook about using Getting Things Done with Evernote. My review is here. I heard a rumour that a new version is on the way, so stay tuned.
  3. Take Control Of Your Paperless Office. An extremely comprehensive guide to going paperless by Joe Kissell. The Second Edition was released in 2013, and here is my review.
  4. Take Control Of Getting Started With DEVONthink 2. I point people to this guide when they ask me about DEVONthink. Also by the ridiculously prolific Joe Kissell.
  5. Take Control of TextExpander. I use TextExpander all day every day, and this guide will help you become a TextExpander ninja. Also by Michael E. Cohen.

DocumentSnap Products

Top DocumentSnap ProductsMany DocumentSnap readers have found the guides that I publish helpful. Perhaps you will too?

  1. The Unofficial ScanSnap Setup Guide – Mac. How to use the Fujitsu ScanSnap effectively, written in plain English.
  2. The Unofficial ScanSnap Setup Guide – Windows. The Windows version of the popular ScanSnap guide.
  3. Paperless Document Organization Guide – Master. The most popular version of the Paperless Document Organization Guide. Includes all the bonuses and goodies – interviews, videos, and the entire most recent class of the Paperless Action Plan.
  4. Paperless Document Organization Guide – Specialist. The guide, videos, and workflows.
  5. Paperless Document Organization Guide – Practitioner. The basic version of the Paperless Document Organization Guide, if all you want is the PDF.
  6. Go Paperless With Hazel Webinar. I did my first ever live webinar, all about how to use Hazel to go paperless. It was a blast, so expect another webinar soon.
  7. The Unofficial ScanSnap Setup Guide – Combo. Includes both the Mac and Windows versions, for you cross-platform folks.

Thank you again for supporting the site in 2013. I’ll continue to strive to provide you with as much helpful information as I can.

Do you have a product you’d add to this list? Leave a note in the comment and let us know your favorite.

(Photo by terren in Virginia)

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How I Manage My Life Without Paper

Discarded NotebookIn this year’s DocumentSnap survey[1], there was a great suggestion from an awesome reader:

I’m interested in how you and other people manage their lives, their tasks, priorities, documents, to-do lists, and everything that goes with it. I first came to DocumentSnap for help on making my world paperless. With your guidance I’ve made good progress but still have more to do and I’m fascinated with hearing how other people do this.

Interesting question. Going paperless goes beyond just scanning documents and downloading statements. In this post I will share how I try to eliminate the use of paper in my life. Before I get into it, two points:

1. I use both Mac and Windows, but my primary machine is a Mac. I also use an iPad and an iPhone. Therefore, many of these solutions will be Apple-leaning. I understand that some of you don’t go that way, and that’s totally cool. There should be Windows and Android equivalents to all of these. If you know of a great one, please share it in the comments.

2. Just because this is what I do, it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily what you should/need to do. If you want to write in your paper notebook and use post-its, go for it! We all have to do what works for each of us.

Quick Capture

I’m sure there are post-it notes somewhere in my office, but I don’t know where they are. I try to do all my quick capture/jotting stuff down electronically. There is almost never a time that I am without an electronic device of some sort (sad, I know).

I used to use Field Notes notebooks, and I always have one in my bag, but since the Drafts app was released, I never use a notebook anymore. I tend to jot stuff down in Drafts, either by typing or via Siri. I can then process/send it to its eventual destination later.

I wrote more about this in an issue of the DocumentSnap newsletter.

Shopping Lists

I don’t use any special software for this, I just have a variety of shopping lists in Apple’s Reminders app. I find it quick to add items to the appropriate list, and I can use Siri. I like how it syncs between all my devices, and I can easily check items off as I go through the store.


I don’t do any fancy geofencing for this. Since I’m a hermit and mostly stay in my ’hood in East Vancouver, it works for me.

I wrote more about paperless grocery lists here.


For my to-dos, I need something a little more powerful than Reminders.

I am a big fan of OmniFocus, which is available on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. I tend to (more or less) follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, and OmniFocus is great for that.

I’ve used OmniFocus for a number of years, but I had a big epiphany after reading the OmniFocus Premium Posts guide from my friends at Asian Efficiency. The workflow they outline has made a huge difference for me in the past few months. Smart dudes.


I am a big mind mapper. For me, there is nothing better for brainstorming and planning.

I find the iPad perfect for this, and I use iThoughtsHD. It is a great app, and I like how it can keep everything in sync via Dropbox. It makes building out elaborate mind maps extremely fast.


You can imagine my shock and dismay when I came home and my wife had a paper calendar taped onto the fridge. I still have nightmares.

Over time, we have made a surprisingly successful transition to an electronic calendar. We use Google Calendar and have a shared family calendar between us.

I love, love, love Fantastical on the Mac and Fantastical 2 on iPhone. These apps make it extremely easy to enter new appointments and view my day.

On the iPad, I just use the built-in Calendar app.

Phone messages

Voicemail is a necessary evil. All my voicemails on my DocumentSnap line and my mobile come in as MP3s so that I can listen to them, and on my mobile phone they are (sort of) transcribed by a service called Phonetag.

Event Notes

Historically, when I was at an event I would take notes by writing in a notebook or typing into the Evernote app or the aforementioned Drafts.

It got to the point where people would take pictures of me (gasp) writing on paper, as my good friend Rebecca Mullen did here.

Brooks writing! Oh no!

I recently went to a conference, and as an experiment I tried handwriting on my iPad using the Notability app and an Adonit Jot Pro stylus.

It went pretty well, and I can see myself doing it going forward. I like how Notability lets you seamlessly switch between typing, writing, and drawing.

The only thing I didn’t like about the Adonit was that it made a loud tapping noise as I was writing. If you have a stylus that you love, please let us know in the comments.

Either way, all these notes end up in Evernote.


I am a big fan of the You Need A Budget software/methodology, aka YNAB. They describe it as “four simple rules that help you stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and save more money faster”.

I download all my transactions into YNAB, and categorize and track from there.


Using the same password everywhere is a recipe for disaster. You want to use a password manager so that you can have unique secure passwords for each site without going crazy.

I use 1Password on my Mac and Windows machines, iPhone, and iPad. It makes password management so easy and automated.


It’s very rare that I need to fax something, but when I do, I use either HelloFax on my computer or Genius Fax on my iPhone. They make it easy to send faxes without having to touch a fax machine.


I like paper books as much as anyone, but I am shifting more and more of my reading to digital books. Most of my purchased books are read on the Kindle that my wife and I fight over, or on the Kindle app on the iPad or iPhone when I inevitably lose that fight.

For books that I download in ePub format, I use the iBooks app on the iPad.


I have shifted all my magazine reading to the tablet. I use the Wired app in Newsstand to read Wired, but I am starting to enjoy the Zinio app for some other publications.

I am sliding more and more down the slippery slope of digital comics lately, so ComiXology has become my guilty pleasure.

Filling Out And Signing Documents

I use PDFpen or good old to fill out PDFs, even ones that are not “fillable”.

I recently wrote a newsletter issue on this very topic describing how to do it on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android.

Holiday cards

I can’t send paper cards for obvious reasons, so when I want to send a card I use Paperless Post.


The other day my wife and I were in a store and she pointed at a scale and said “why the heck do you need a scale with Wi-Fi?”

I had to bite my tongue because that very day I was planning to use a gift card I had received to buy that scale. Oops.

I use a Fitbit One to capture my activity and a Fitbit Aria scale to capture my weight etc. These automatically get uploaded to Fitbit’s site where they are tracked over time.

For years I used Lose It, but lately I am playing with MyFitnessPal. I can’t decide which I like better.

As for why I track all these things, I’m a nerd. Why wouldn’t I?

How About You?

These are some ways that I manage my life without paper. How about you? Are there any areas that I have missed? Do you have any alternate tools that you recommend? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo by Brad Greenlee)

  1. Thanks to those of you who have shared your feedback. If you haven’t yet, I’d appreciate your thoughts!  ↩

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Scansnap SV600 Review – Book Scanning Reimagined

Well, the ScanSnap SV600 is certainly different than any other ScanSnap that I’ve experienced. A question that I get all the time is this: “What’s the best way to scan books, magazines, or other things that won’t fit in a document feeder?”

I’ve never had a satisfactory answer to that question until now. Fujitsu hooked me up with a review unit, and I’ve been putting it through its paces.

ScanSnap SV600 Front

Don’t Call It A Book Scanner

The SV600 can scan books – there is absolutely no doubt about that. It has both hardware and software features to make scanning books and magazines easy and accurate, but it can scan any document that you either can’t or wouldn’t want to put through a scanner with an Automated Document Feeder.

I am confident that this will be the only scanner review that you read today that features Captain Underpants.

Captain Underpants

You don’t need to stop at documents. It can scan 3D objects as well. Just for fun, I decided to scan a “screamin’ green” crayon that was inexplicably on my office floor.


Fujitsu’s specifications say that it will scan books or objects up to 30mm in height. From what I understand, that limit is primarily to ensure quality OCR. It will still scan “taller” items.

Size-wise, it will scan items up to A3 size, which for us North Americans is 11.7×16.5".

The Device

The ScanSnap SV600 has a vertical design. All the controls are on the base, but all the action takes place in the head.

ScanSnap SV600 Side View

The way it works is interesting. Instead of having the scanning part hang over the paper causing shadows and flash burn, the head sweeps forward and does some crazy depth of field calculations to adjust for the angle, height and curves of the page.

ScanSnap SV600 Controls

On the base there is the familiar blue Scan button, but it can be pressed from both sides. There is also a Stop button that will signal the end of automatic page turning (more on that in a second).

The device feels very sturdy and heavy, which is what you want from a vertical scanner. If you are nervous about it getting knocked over, it comes with optional braces with a slightly sticky bottom to hold it down.

Speed-wise, this thing is fast. You don’t need to go get a coffee while waiting for a page to scan like with most flatbeds. It takes 3 seconds to sweep a full A3-sized page. Combine that with some of the auto-scanning features outlined below, and you can rip through a book very quickly.

Windows Only… For Now

I’m looking forward to the day that I can erase this paragraph, but at launch the ScanSnap SV600 is only for Windows. Sorry Mac users.

I am told that the Mac version is coming “soon”, but don’t have any information on what that means.

Update 11/07/2013: The SV600 is now cross-platform for Mac and Windows. The Mac software can be downloaded from Fujitsu.

Software-wise, it comes with an enhanced version of Rack2-Filer with Magic Desktop[1], and a full version of Adobe Acrobat XI Standard.

Scanning Books And Magazines

Whenever a reader asked about book scanning in the past, I’ve had to point them to machines with mixed reviews, machines that cost thousands of dollars, the old chop n’ scan, or a DIY solution. None of the options were great.

You can tell that Fujitsu had book scanning in mind from the outset when they developed the SV600.

Image Correction

When you scan using the SV600, it will ask you whether you are scanning a book or scanning documents.

SV600 Scan Books

Most people will choose book and hit Save and keep going, and will generally get great results. If you want, you can hit Check/Correct and you can fine-tune the scan.

ScanSnap SV600 book viewer

If you go into the file-tuning mode, you can control how the book is cropped, how the edges are detected, and where the page break is. You can also control whether the scan has both pages together, or has one PDF page for each book page. By the way, that edge detection was automatic. I didn’t have to do anything.

Here is an example of the resulting PDF. The quality is quite good considering the angles of the pages, and the OCR is very good. Even my underlining didn’t mess things up.

Here is an example of a graphic novel. I didn’t do any adjusting of those colors. It is the default settings.

Finger Removal

You know how when you are scanning or taking a picture of a book, you sometimes need to hold down the pages to stop them from flipping up?

If you hate the thought of having your fingers co-starring in every image, you can remove them.

ScanSnap SV600 Fingers Before

For example, on this page I have clicked on my fingertips and it automatically selected them.

ScanSnap SV600 Fingers After

Then when I hit Apply, they are gone. Completely bananas.

Auto Page Turning

Having to turn the page and hit Scan every single time doesn’t sound very fun, so there is an optional automatic page turning detection setting. It is easier to show you this than describe it, so here is a video of it in action:

This works pretty well, but occasionally it did not detect my page turn for whatever reason. When that happened, I just hit Scan again.

If you want, you can also set it to scan every x seconds to speed things up a bit.

Multiple Document Detection

At the beginning of this post, I said that the SV600 was not just a book scanner, and here is another example. It can detect multiple pieces of paper and detect that they should be multiple documents.

ScanSnap SV600 Multiple Documents

I laid out a bookmark, two business cards, and a cloth art project that has thick buttons on the front. This video shows the scanning and resulting PDFs.

About That Mat

The SV600 comes with a large soft black mat. It shows the placement for best results, and has a consistent black background.

I asked Fujitsu if the mat was required. They said no, it works without it, but that you will get the best experience with auto-detection etc. with the mat. If you have the space, I say use it.

It’s A ScanSnap

Even though the form factor is completely different, at the end of the day, this is a ScanSnap. If you are familiar with using any of the other models like the ScanSnap iX500, the ScanSnap S1300i, or the ScanSnap S1100, the workflow will be similar.

There is the Quick Menu, and most things can be automated using ScanSnap Manager Profiles just like any other model. The OCR is the bundled version of ABBYY FineReader, and you can send the resulting scans to Acrobat or any other application.

I have to admit, the SV600 is the most fun I’ve had with a scanner. I was late for a meeting because I was engrossed with erasing my finger[2]

Fun aside, I can see this having a wide range of uses, especially in a business setting. If you are mainly scanning documents, you will of course want to use a dedicated document scanner, but if you regularly need to scan things that won’t fit into a document feeder, this could be the solution you’ve been looking for.

The ScanSnap SV600 lists for $795, and as usual I will keep my eye on the various online sites to see when it is available in the wild it has popped up on Amazon. In the meantime, if you have any questions, fire away in the comments.

  1. I always feel like I should hear lasers in the background when I say that.  ↩

  2. Sad, I know.  ↩

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Evernote Essentials 4 Review

Evernote Essentials 4It seems like only seven months ago that Brett Kelly released Version 3 of Evernote Essentials. Oh wait, it was.

I don’t know when that man has time to see his family because I just received word that Evernote Essentials Version 4[1] is out this morning. If you’ve purchased one of the earlier versions, you will probably hearing about how to get the new copy soon.

For those unfamiliar, Evernote Essentials is a great guide for getting started with Evernote. In fact, every time I read through a new version I pick up a new tip that I either didn’t know, or had forgotten about (I am 40 now after all).

From reading through this new version, here are a few new sections:

  • Evernote Reminders
  • Evernote Business
  • Evernote security (very timely and reasonable discussion)

As usual there are some clever tricks, including one for creating a “table of contents” note for a given notebook and have it stick at the top. I also like some of the tips around searching. As I was reading the new version, I learned that you can search for just your handwritten notes. I had no idea.

The first version of Evernote Essentials came out in 2010, and you can read my original review if you’d like. To this day, I believe it is the definitive guide for getting going with Evernote, and highly recommend that you check Evernote Essentials out.

One nice thing with this release: there is an introductory price of $14.99, which is $15 off the regular price of $29. It is also available on the iBookstore for the first time, if you prefer to go that way.

  1. If you buy through that link, you’ll be buying me a torta. Thanks!  ↩

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In Praise Of The Paperless Inbox

MailboxThis is going to be a strange thing to say, but I love (and I mean LOVE) inboxes.

When we think of inboxes, we usually think of that plastic or wire thing on the desk that is overflowing with paper from 2 years ago.

Since I’m all about going paperless, I’m talking about an electronic inbox. A place where you collect the documents that you scan or download, and then take action on them.

From my experience, when most of us do our scanning, we scan, name and file each document one at a time. It makes sense, and falls in line with that “you should touch each document only once” advice that you hear.

That advice is fine when you have a small amount of paper, but if you are regularly scanning a reasonable number of documents, it can be more efficient to get the information digitized first and then name and file them away.

This is where the electronic inbox comes in.

Why I Love The Inbox (And You Probably Will Too)

If you scan and download your documents to an inbox first, you are applying the principle of batching – doing similar tasks together, which increases productivity.

It also doesn’t hurt that it allows you to take better advantage of the speed and capacity of that fancy scanner you dropped all that cash for.

However, the reason that I really love electronic inboxes is that it opens the door for automation – having our computers do things so that we don’t have to.

If we know that every PDF that we scan or download will be going to one place, it opens the door for having Hazel process our documents for us (or File Juggler for the Windows users among you). We can make naming faster too by using a text expansion tool like TextExpander.

This type of automation is great for two reasons:

  1. Our computer is doing things for us so that we don’t have to. Great!
  2. If our computer is naming and filing things away for us, there is less of a chance that we will mess up the name or file it to the wrong place. Consistency becomes enforced.

All this comes from the electronic inbox. How about you? Do you scan to an inbox, or do you scan-name-file? I’d love to hear your workflow in the comments.

(Photo by Esparta)

Comments ( 3 )

ScanSnap iX500 Now Supports Wireless Scanning To A Computer

ScanSnap Wireless ComputerIn a comment to his ScanSnap iX500 review, some obviously uninformed person wrote this:

I’ve been thinking about the Wi-Fi to [computer] thing, and I really doubt Fujitsu is going to do it. The reason I think that is because I would imagine that they would be afraid of it cannibalizing sales of their network scanners, or might reduce the sales to offices. So, I would be very surprised if they end up adding the ability to scan to a [computer].

That uninformed person was, of course, me. Today Fujitsu has dropped a massive firmware and software update to the ScanSnap iX500 that adds the ability to do wireless scanning to a Mac or Windows computer.

I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the update come through.

Get The Wireless Update

If you aren’t automatically notified of the update, right-click on the ScanSnap icon in your Dock (for Mac users) or System Tray (for Windows Users), go to Help and then Online Update.

ScanSnap Update Mac ScanSnap Update Windows

Once you do that, it will take you through the update process. You do need to have the iX500 plugged in via USB to set it up.

Set Your Computer Up For Wireless Scanning

As I mentioned, the computer needs to be initially plugged in via USB to set it up for wi-fi scanning. As you are going through the software installation, it should automatically start the ScanSnap Wireless Network Setup wizard.

ScanSnap Do You Want To Connect Wirelessly?
ScanSnap Do You Want To Connect Wirelessly?

Once it has been set up, you will see that your Dock icon on the Mac or your System Tray icon on Windows now has a little wi-fi signal.

ScanSnap Wireless Dock
ScanSnap Wireless Dock

Scan Wirelessly To Your ScanSnap iX500

Now it’s time to unplug the cord! Take out that USB cable, put some paper into your scanner, and hit Scan.

As long as you are on the same wireless network, and as long as the Wi-Fi switch is on at the back of your scanner, it should find your computer and scan to it using whichever ScanSnap Manager profile you had specified (or the Quick Menu if you roll that way).

Scanning To More Than One Computer

The way the ScanSnap iX500 wireless scanning works, the scanner is “paired” to your computer. If you want to scan to multiple computers, it is doable but not super seamless. I’ll cover that in a future post.

Here is how to change the computer that the iX500 scans to.

The Most Requested Feature

Many people felt that to this point, the iX500 didn’t have “true” wi-fi scanning because it only worked with mobile devices. Wireless scanning to a computer was by far the most requested feature from what I’ve seen.

That feature is now here. Let me know how it works for you. So far, so good for me. My wife says that I am wrong all the time – I’m just happy it is about scanning for a change.

Comments ( 31 )

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy When Going Paperless

This post is going to be a bit different than my usual fare, which often focuses on the more technical aspects of going paperless.

I’ve been writing DocumentSnap since the summer of 2008, and have had the opportunity to communicate with a large and fantastic group of readers.

Many have gone paperless and want to optimize their workflow, but many have been struggling to get started. They know (sort of) what they want to do, but find the whole thing too overwhelming.

This has been bothering me for quite some time, but I couldn’t put my finger on why or what to do about it.

Everything crystallized at the beginning of June when I attended Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit

At Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits meetup and at Pam Slim’s content map session, I realized that I needed to outline my thoughts in a post and figure out what it is that is holding people back.

Zen Habits Meetup
(Look at me look at Leo!)

From my experience, the roadblock manifests itself in two ways:

  1. Focusing on details that don’t really matter (yet)
  2. Fear

In this post I aim to tackle both subjects and to convince you that at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is to start.

Don’t Sweat The Details

One of the great things about the Internet (and, more specifically sites like DocumentSnap) is that there is so much information out there. On almost any topic, you can find a metric ton of articles telling you how to do exactly what it is that you want to do.

On the surface this sounds great: the more information the better right?

It would be fantastic, if it were not for the type of issue that we are trying to solve by going paperless. More often than not, we are starting down this path because we already have a problem: our workspace is a disaster and we can’t find anything, we have 300 boxes of paper in our way, we need to downsize, the list goes on.

If we are already overwhelmed by the problem we are trying to solve, layering onto that an overwhelming number of solutions leads to shutting down.

Instead of looking at the big picture, we start to focus on the details. What should our folders be called? What is the perfect folder structure? Which is better, this software or that software? What on earth are tags? Ahhhh!

I am sure you can guess what comes next. By going crazy focusing on the details of our problem, we don’t actually do anything.

No Need To Apologize

The number one area that this paralysis occurs is around folder structure.

It is understandable why this is. Coming from a paper-based system, how you file things is absolutely critical. If you don’t know where you filed it, you’ll never find it again (unless you are like Eddie from Practically Efficient)

Before I continue, I want to stress that I am not at all against having a defined folder structure. Having a folder structure that means something to you can be very helpful.

I have received many emails that start with “I know I shouldn’t use folders but it is just the way my mind works…”. I couldn’t figure out where I picked up this reputation for being anti-folders, until I realized that a section title in my 4 Ways To Tame Your Documents ebook was “Forget Folders”. Oops.

The point I was trying to make in that section, bad title aside, is that with modern software we don’t need to go nuts creating a huge folder structure. This causes two problems: 1) It causes us to spend more time figuring out where to file a document, and 2) It causes the sort of detail-paralysis I referred to above. We spend so much time trying to come up with the perfect folder structure, we never actually start scanning.

Having said all that, if you like your folders, no need to apologize. Use whatever works for you.


Based on the emails that I receive, fear is a big issue with DocumentSnap readers.

If you are reading this and you can relate to a fear of getting started going paperless, I will first tell you that you are not alone.

Part of the reason that I started the Paperless Reader Stories feature is to share some of your fellow readers’ stories. They have overcome their fears and obstacles (or are in the process of doing so).

While everyone’s situation is different, there are two basic fears that people have when going paperless.

Fear Of Not Being Able To Find Things

The first fear that people have is that once they scan something, they won’t be able to find it again. If you’ve ever tried to hunt through your computer for a file that you know you saved, you’ll understand this fear.

Some basic strategies for getting around this fear are:

  • Keep your document archive separate from the rest of your files. If you save it in Documents on the Mac or My Documents on Windows, create a folder underneath called ARCHIVE or File Cabinet or something and put your scanned documents in there.
  • Make sure that your PDFs are searchable by turning on the OCR settings in your scanners’ software, or using a software package with OCR capabilities.
  • Use a consistent naming convention for your files and stick to it.
  • Use a folder structure that makes sense to you.

Fear Of Throwing Paper Away

This one is a biggie. It takes a lot of confidence to shred a document that until now you have religiously kept in your bulging file cabinet.

The simple solution to this fear is to trust your system, whatever it happens to be. As long as your documents are backed up in multiple locations and you have the ability to find them again, you should be good.

However, even that might not be enough for you. I especially see this with married couples where one spouse wants to go paperless and the other is afraid.

Sometimes no matter how bulletproof the system is, the fear of shredding documents is just too great.

If that sounds like you, what I recommend is that you still go through the scanning and indexing process as if you were going paperless, but then instead of shredding the paper, throw it in a box out of the way somewhere. This is where Eddie’s system might come in very handy.

This way, you have the benefits of a paperless workflow like searchability, backup, and lack of clutter, but you have the peace of mind of having the physical paper somewhere.


You’ve seen that focusing on the details and succumbing to our fears causes paralysis. This is not in any way unique to going paperless.

Lyle McDonald has a great article over at Body Recomposition on this topic as it pertains to fat loss:

Of more relevance, what often happens is that people get so overwhelmed at focusing on the details that they never act. They spend weeks looking for the perfect diet or training program (which doesn’t really exist in the first place, at best all programs have pros and cons and are, at most, best under a given set of circumstances) and lose time when they should simply be doing something.
Because, at the end of the day, assuming the training or diet isn’t completely and utterly moronic (and make no mistake, there are plenty of those out there) actually doing something is always better than talking about it for weeks on end.

Does this sound familiar? (I’m talking about going paperless now, not dieting!).

If it does, not to worry. There are some things you can do to just get started.

Ignore Complexity

A lot of information that you read online is complex. I am more guilty than anyone on this point.

I would post crazy Applescripts and Hazel workflows all day long if I could, because I am a geek and sadly, that is the sort of thing that I find fun. I also have a great group of enablers such as Michelle and Alex that read the site, so it just encourages me.

Of course, normal non-geeks read this stuff and become overwhelmed. All they want to do is make their life easier, and this crazy Canadian is talking about Source URLs and text expansion?

Here is a sample comment that I received recently. I’m not picking on Marti here, because he is saying what I suspect a lot of people think:

All of this is so confusing to me. I have been ready, willing and able to go paperless, but like bungee jumping for the first time, I can’t bring myself to do it out of fear. I read the 7 lessons, but there is so much talk of other apps: Hazel, Evernote, Snippet and others I can’t even remember. Where do I start and how do I learn to be at the level of all the users here?

Again, does this sound familiar?

The solution to this is to just ignore the complex stuff. That’s right, just ignore it. None of it is required to successfully go paperless. You can come back to it if you ever need it, but for now, just ignore it.

Just Start

To get started, this is all you need to do:

  1. Get a decent scanner. I like the ScanSnap, but it is certainly not the only one on the market.
  2. Create a very basic, very high level folder structure. When you find that it makes sense to you, create subfolders on an as-needed basis.
  3. Set up your scanner to scan to an inbox folder. In the scanner settings, make sure that it is set to create a searchable PDF.
  4. Once you scan, name the files appropriately and move them to the appropriate folders.

That’s it. Start with this for a week or two.


Once you have been doing the basic scanning workflow for a while, if you find that there are things that you wish were a bit easier start writing them down.

  • Do you wish there were ways to make renaming files faster?
  • Do you see points that you wish you could automate?
  • Do you think it’d be easier to just have everything in one software package vs. your native folders?
  • Would you like to have access to your documents on the go?
  • Could you make things faster to find?

On an as-needed basis, start looking into solutions to the points of improvement that you come up with. (Quick plug: the Paperless Document Organization Guide may help with this).

The point is to make the changes that you want to make when you want to make them, bit by bit. Maybe you’re happy with how things are now after your test, and that is awesome. Keep doing what you are doing.

The important thing is to start.

Does this resonate with you? What barriers do you have, or have you overcome? I’d love to hear your thoughts either in the comments or the forum.

(Photo by Armosa Studios)

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Introducing the Paperless Document Organization Guide

Paperless Document Organization Guide

Hello all,

As promised on the blog back in February, the first DocumentSnap product is now ready to go.

The Paperless Document Organization Guide helps answer the question “now that I’ve scanned my documents, what the heck do I do with them so that I can find them again?”

Learn more or pick it up here.

What It Is

Good question. The Guide starts with a 10,000+ word PDF with tips and strategies to help both Mac and Windows users figure out how to organize their electronic documents once they have been scanned. The guide covers folder and naming conventions and compares and contrasts the major paperless software packages for Mac and Windows, including “what’s not so good” and “who should buy it” for each one. It also covers tagging and how to secure your documents on your computer.

Since I know you are all sick of hearing from me, I have also done seven (and counting) audio interviews: four with DocumentSnap readers just like you that have gone paperless (or are well on their way) and three with professional organizers.

Finally, if you are like me you learn visually. I have recorded six (and counting) video screencasts showing how to do a number of going-paperless activities in Mac and Windows, as well as one that takes you through my workflow and how I do things.

Who It’s For

You have started down the path of going paperless and are stuck, or are not sure where to start. You have a scanner (or know which one you want to buy). You are tired of looking all over the Internet for bits and pieces of information and would like to just have everything consolidated in one place.

Should you use folders or software (or both?). Which software is the best for you? How do you keep your documents secure? These are the kinds of questions that we look at.

Who It’s Not For

This guide won’t tell you which scanner to buy or go through every single backup option. Those are very important, but not the focus of this guide.

No guide or piece of software is going to “go paperless” for you. At the end of the day, you have to actually do the stuff outlined. If you are not at the place to be able to do that yet, this may not be for you.

That’s it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together for you.

Here’s the link again if you are interested.

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Fujitsu ScanSnap: How Are The S1300 and ScanSnap S1500 Models Different?

I get asked this question quite a bit: “What is the difference between the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 and the ScanSnap S1500 series?”, and then the logical followup: “Which should I buy?”.

I decided to put together this blog post for me to point people to, so here is a rundown of the differences between the ScanSnap models.

ScanSnap S1500ScanSnap S1300ScanSnap S1500M


  • S1500/S1500M: Up to 20 pages per minute
  • S1300: Up to 8 pages per minute

Clearly the S1500 series has the edge here. If you are doing a large amount of scanning, you will probably want to go with the S1500 or S1500M.


  • S1500/S1500M: Maximum 50 sheets
  • S1300: Maximum 10 sheets

Again, the S1500 is a pretty clear winner. If you are regularly scanning more than 10 sheets at a time, you will probably want to pick up the S1500 or S1500M. Otherwise, the limited capacity of the S1300 is going to get pretty annoying.


  • S1500/S1500M: 11.5 x 6.3 x 6.2 in. (292 x 159 x 158 mm). 6.62 lb (3.0 kg).
  • S1300: 11.18 in. x 3.90 in. x 3.03 in. (284mm x 99mm x 77mm). 3.08 lb. (1.4kg).

Both versions of the ScanSnap are compact, and I am not sure that this category has a “winner” per se, but the S1300 is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the S1500 series.

Operating System

The S1500 is designed for Microsoft Windows. However, it does include Mac OSX drivers and can be used to scan on a Mac. It does not include the extra software (including OCR software) for Mac.

The S1500M is designed for Mac OSX. However, it does include Windows drivers and can be used to scan on a PC. It does not include the extra software (including OCR software) for Windows.

Fujitsu is calling the S1300 their first “hybrid scanner”. It is designed to be used both on Windows and the Mac, and comes with all the software for both.

Included Software

The ScanSnap S1500 includes the following software:

  • ScanSnap Organizer
  • Adobe Acrobat 9 for Windows
  • CardMinder 4.0
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap

The ScanSnap S1500M includes the following software:

  • Adobe Acrobat 8 for Mac
  • CardIris 3.6
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap

The ScanSnap S1300 includes the following software:

  • ScanSnap Organizer (Windows only)
  • CardMinder 4.1 (Windows only)
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap (Windows and Mac)
  • CardIris 3.6 (Mac only)

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice right off the bat that the S1300 does not include Adobe Acrobat. That may or may not make the price difference worth it to you.


While I wouldn’t call the S1500 or S1500M a big scanner, it is clearly not as mobile as the S1300.

Aside from size and weight, the ScanSnap S1300 has the ability to run off a USB port’s power, so you theoretically don’t even need to take your power adapter with you.


Come on, don’t pretend that the look of your peripheral isn’t important.

The ScanSnap S1500 has a black and silver look, while the S1500M is a more Mac-y white and grey.

With the release of the hybrid S1300, Fujitsu decided to go with the S1500’s color scheme. Bye bye white!

Of course, there is always the lacquer option too.

Other Goodies

The ScanSnap S1500 and S1500M come with a carrier sheet, so you can more easily scan odd-sized paper.

So Which Is Better?

I bet you know what I am going to say here: It depends!

If you have a large and/or regular volume of paper, I strongly urge you to go for the ScanSnap S1500 or the ScanSnap S1500M. The extra speed and paper capacity will save you lots of time.

If you have a need to be mobile, or if you do only a small amount of scanning, you can probably get away with the ScanSnap S1300.

The right model of ScanSnap for you really depends on your needs. As Apu said to Mr. Burns, “Just look into your heart, and you will find the answer.”

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ScanSnap + Evernote = Chocolate + Peanut Butter

Recently I’ve been asked quite a bit how to use Evernote with the Fujitsu ScanSnap. It’s a great combination and quite easy. Here’s a video that runs you through the processs. The video shows the Mac version, but Windows will be the same concept.

In a nutshell, here is what you do. In this example I’ll be creating a new ScanSnap Manager Profile, but you can modify an existing one if you want.

  • Right click on ScanSnap Manager and choose Settings. If the options are grayed out, disable Quick Menu for ScanSnap Manager
  • On the Applications tab, hit Add Or Remove
  • Hit Add, click Browse, and find your Evernote application. It will likely be in the Applications folder on the Mac, or C:\Program Files\Evernote on Windows
  • Hit Close
  • In the “Select A Profile” box, choose Add Profile and give it a name like “Scan To Evernote”
  • On the Applications tab, choose Evernote for the Application. Hit Apply.
  • Click on ScanSnap Manager and make sure that your new Profile is selected
  • Scan and enjoy!

Does anyone else use the ScanSnap with Evernote? Do you do it any other way? Let us know in the comments.

Comments ( 51 )