Reader Story: Automating Document Processing

Reader Story: Automating Document Processing

This 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 Tom Cook from Michigan. You can find him at

What problems were you trying to solve by going paperless?

The largest problem I had was the buildup of papers that needed to be filed. Our filing cabinet was on another floor, so things would just pile up and get shoved into a cabinet. I also hate having to keep all that paperwork that will likely never need to be seen again.

What were the biggest stumbling blocks?

The cost of a scanner. ScanSnaps are expensive. I tried doing it with the flatbed we had, but it was too slow to process new things on a daily basis.

The other hassle has been the backlog of old stuff. Going through the file cabinet, or piles and scanning the huge pile is a big job.

Tell us about your paperless workflow

I use Yep as an organizer. To get documents into it they come from a few workflows.

Real Paper – Where ever it comes from (mail, school, etc) gets processed ASAP. If its junk, it goes to recycling. If it is sensitive junk it gets shredded. If it is worth keeping it goes into the Scansnap 1300 and I press the scan button. It is scanned to a folder Yep watches, and then opened in the Applescript droplet (from you) and gets OCR, alignment, etc. Scanned to the droplet is the default action most of the time. When I have a large amount, such as purging the file cabinet I have the ScanSnap just save all the docs to a folder and then I manually drop them all on the droplet and let it run.

Electronic documents generated on the computer – These are usually saved as PDF’s directly into the WebReciepts folder on my Mac, or added to Yep via the print dialogue box.

Electronic docs from other computers – Sometimes I need to file something to Yep, but I am at work. I set up a process where I email a PDF to myself with the subject of “File This”. This triggers a mail rule that moves it to a local mail folder and launches an Applescript that runs Automator actions to save the PDF attachment(s) to a folder watched by Yep. I have only just started with this and I am still working on refining the process. I haven’t been able to get it to delete the message after processing.

Electronic Statements – Most banks, utilities only allow access to PDF statements/bills back a year or two. I have set up quarterly reminders to go to all the locations to download statements and bills. Doing it monthly would be too much logging in hassle, and annually would do much hassle downloading 12 statements. Most of the places I get them from it is a few clicks to get to each statement. I use a Google Spreadsheet as a check list to make sure I get all of them.

Backups – I use an external hard drive and Time Machine for routine onsite backup. I also keep an external HD at my parents house (about 30 min away) and a few times a year (or more if I have added a lot of docs) I do a clone of the whole computer. The thought of losing all those pictures and documents to drive failure/theft/damage is nothing compared to the cost of a couple hard drives.

Thanks Tom, that’s a great use of automation. I especially like the mail rule and the reminder to go in and download your statements on a regular basis.

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

(Photo by IK’s World Trip)

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

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DocumentSnap Time Machine | Tips To Learn How To Go Paperless | DocumentSnap Paperless Blog - April 22, 2012 Reply

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