August 10, 2008

Saving Paper, Time and Space

Where are the paperless offices and homes projected for years?

We're drowning in a sea of paper. If you're organized, the paper may be nicely organized in files. If you're like me, they are stacked on most flat surfaces. Can you find what you want when you want? Maybe. Can you find what you want from where you are? Unlikely unless you've stored files electronically.

Electronic records have five key advantages
  1. searchable
  2. save trees
  3. save space
  4. reduce clutter
  5. easy to backup
The problem is creating the electronic records. I got a fancy flatbed scanner with a sheetfeeder years ago (HP ScanJet 6250). It got little use because it's too temperamental. Pages would jam. The process was slow. Organizing the resulting files became a chore. So the scanner has been sitting beside my desk for years doing little more than gathering dust.

The Perfect Scanner
I want a scanner with the following characteristics
  • effortless to use
  • scans both sides of the page at once
  • scans directly to PDF, converting to searchable text along the way
  • good for business cards too (I've got stacks and stacks)
  • automatic file naming
  • compact (ideally portable to allow use while travelling)
Luckily, technology has improved and prices have dropped.

After searching, I found the Fujitsu ScanSnap S300 for Windows (there's also a Mac version). This scanner is portable and can be powered from a USB cable (using two ports in total).

For ease of access, the scans are going to be stored on a computer and backed up to a shared drive on our home network. For extra redundancy, they'll be stored online (not sure where). Try doing that with paper.

In Action
The scanner arrived yesterday. It's well-constructed (feels solid), surprisingly compact and works extremely well. It's easy to move from one computer to another, which allows each of us to scan our own stuff. I've already scanned dozens of pages and fed the originals to the shredder. That's a good start.


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