Using Evernote to Create a Paperless Office and Home

November 15th, 2012

By Mike Hawkins

 

As the managing director of a document management firm, I am constantly looking for new ways to create a paperless office. Among the many tools I’ve found, Evernote has transformed the way I live and organize my life.

 

Evernote allows me to take better notes at any time from any device – without pen and paper – and store them locally and in the cloud for easy access. But, the applications of Evernote are seemingly endless. In addition to basic note taking during a client meeting or business seminar, I can record meetings, add voice notes or dictations, store photographs, take a snapshot with my phone to attach to a note, and upload other digital content to enhance the quality and detail of my notes.  Even scanned-in images or documents become immediately searchable in Evernote.

 

I can keep multiple “notebooks” containing topic-specific information, and I can tag my notes and notebooks for easy future reference. It’s amazing how quickly I can access past notes with just a tag or a keyword. Colleagues and clients are impressed when I pull up notes digitally rather than rifling through old paper notebooks and files.

 

 

I use Evernote in every aspect of my life. Here are a few examples of how I use the program:

 

  • If I’m planning a vacation, I use Evernote to research hotels, restaurants and local attractions and save all of the notes, photos and websites in a single notebook.
  • I use Evernote to plan my youth volleyball team practices and matches on my home desktop computer; I can access the notes from the volleyball court with my Android or iPad.
  • Occasionally I attend online webinars or GotoMeetings where important information is displayed onscreen during the presentation. Evernote allows me to copy screenshots and paste them into my notebook.
  • If I’m tackling a complicated project, like disassembling a television, I use Evernote to chronicle the disassembly step-by-step, adding notes along with pictures to provide a detailed description of the process.
  • When it’s time to donate items to charity for tax write-offs, I snap a photo of the tax receipt and take pics of all of the items I’m donating. Then, I annotate the estimated value and store all of the info in one notebook for reference during tax time.

 

As if that’s not enough, there are numerous web plug-ins and other helpful third-party tools that extend the usefulness of Evernote:

 

  • Skitch allows you to take a note, screen shot, or other digital content and mark it up as if you were using a pen and paper. This tool can help ease the transition to paperless.
  • Evernote Hello provides an interesting twist to an address book. This program helps you keep track of contacts with photos, personal notes including when or where you met them, your mutual friends, etc. It’s a much more intuitive method of storing contacts than typical alphabetical address books.

 

The program gives me the opportunity to take notes all the time – even times when I wouldn’t normally take notes. It’s a must-have for any paperless office or home, and for anyone who wants a better, simpler method of capturing and storing notes, photos, voice recordings and other digital content.

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Tips for Buying the Right Scanner

October 3rd, 2012

You have decided it’s time to buy a scanner for your office, but how do you know which one to choose? Before you head to the office supply store and face a dizzying array of options, determine exactly how you plan to use your scanner. Answering these simple questions will simplify your decision dramatically – and will ensure your money is well-spent.

 

  • What do you need to scan? This is the single-most important question to answer before you make your purchase. Are you planning to digitize vast amounts of two-sided pages, or is your scanner intended for small, occasional projects? How big are your originals? Are you scanning paperwork, snapshots and film, or even 3D objects?

 

  • Sheetfed or flatbed? A sheetfed scanner is a simple and inexpensive option for digitizing loose (unbound) paper. It scans individual sheets of paper in much the same way as a fax machine. It’s great for letter-size paper – not so great for small items like business cards or receipts. For small items, flatbed is a better choice. Flatbed scanners are also best for fragile items that are not bendable or could be easily damaged ( e.g. rare stamps or dried flowers) – as well as multidimensional objects, books and other bound papers.

 

  • Do you need an automatic document feeder? If you’re only scanning a few pages at a time, a lower-priced manual feeder is your best bet. However, if your project requires longer documents, an automatic document feeder (ADF) is worth the extra few bucks.

 

  • Are you scanning two-sided pages? If so, you should consider a scanner with duplexing capabilities. Duplexing scanners – the most expensive option – are equipped to scan two pages at the same time – and quickly. Depending on the size and frequency of your duplexing scanning projects, the cost may be well worth it. If you don’t scan two-sided objects often – or if your budget is tight – you can pick a scanner with a manual duplex feature. Duplexing automatic document feeders are higher-priced, but they automatically scan one side, turn the page over, and scan the other side.

 

  • How much resolution do you need? Most scanners offer a minimum resolution of 600 ppi – that’s high enough resolution for most paper and photo scanning. However, you may require much higher optical resolution – 4,800 ppi or more – for negatives or 35 mm slides, especially if you’re planning to make prints at a much larger size than your film original. Likewise, such resolution is required for capturing very fine detail from small original images or objects like flowers, coins and stamps.

 

  • Letter or legal? Flatbed scanners are typically designed for letter-sized paper and won’t work well for legal sheets. Flatbeds with automatic document feeders usually can scan legal pages with the ADF, but it’s important to double-check before you make your purchase.

 

  • Do you need a special-purpose scanner? While general-purpose scanners suit most project needs, you may consider special-purpose scanners for books, slides and business cards. Other options include portable scanners, designed to fit in a laptop bag, and scanners the size of a pen. Choose your scanner according to the type and scale of your scanning projects.

 

  • Is software free? Most, if not all scanners, are sold with the software you need to get started. Depending on your scanning project, you may want to seek out specialized scanning software that may have more features than the one bundled with the scanner. Features – such as photo editing, business card filing, the ability to create searchable PDFs, OCR , etc. – are excellent complements to existing scanning software.
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Common Mistakes Businesses Make When Digitizing Paper Files

July 23rd, 2012

Your administrative employees possess all of the skills necessary to do their jobs well – but do their job descriptions include digitizing documents or operating a scanner? This skill set is not as universal as Microsoft Office or “good people skills.” Before tasking your admin staff with digitizing files, check out these common mistakes businesses make:

 

  • Overestimating internal staff. Even if they’re whip-smart and capable, it’s unlikely your staff understand the complexities of scanner settings or output types right out of the gate. Unless they have proper training and experience in the challenges of scanning (e.g., double feeds, jams, preparation), the time required to complete the job may be considerably longer than you first anticipated.

 

  • Underestimating equipment requirements. While the price of scanners has dropped over the years, the old adage still applies: you get what you pay for. Don’t expect high speeds or high volumes with a $150 desktop scanner from your local office supply store. While high-end scanners still fetch a high-end price, they are well worth the cost when it comes to doing a job quickly – and doing it right. Optiscan has access to such high-quality machines – and our highly-trained professionals understand the ins and outs of operating and maintaining such complex equipment.

 

  • Failure to create a detailed plan for storing, indexing and searching documents. Experts like Optiscan have created scanning and digitizing strategies for hundreds of companies. Our professionals understand the importance of assessing the task at-hand and know exactly how to organize, index and name files, not to mention the many other aspects of digitizing and scanning.

 

  • Failure to eliminate paper processes. Businesses take a giant leap forward when they decide to digitize their backfiles of paper documents, but the project will continue needlessly if their backend business workflow and processes are still generating paper. Until companies shift their paper-based workflow and processes in favor of digital strategies, they will never fully realize the efficiencies of going completely paperless.
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