Going paperless; need a scanner!
May 1, 2008 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I would like to go completely paperless. In order to accomplish this, I'll need an excellent bulk-feed scanner to turn all of my received bills and other important pieces of paper into searchable PDFs. Which scanners should I consider?

I am also interested in hearing anecdotes from those of you in the listening audience who have attempted something like this. Did it work? Was the transition painful? Did you become more efficient in your life and work thereby?
posted by killdevil to Technology (16 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Fujitsa Scansnap will probably be the most recommended here.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:16 AM on May 1, 2008

I don't have a particular recommendation for a scanner, but let me be the first to recommend backing up your data on a redundant external drive AND burning everything to a DVD-ROM every week or two once you embark upon this project. One dead hard drive later, I found myself without any financial/tax records, bills, medical records, ticket stubs, memorabilia, anything. Talk about ouch.

Back up. That is all.
posted by aliasless at 9:25 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'll leech onto this question because this is a cool idea. Jedi's scanner suggestion doesn't seem to support OS X. Are there any recommended multi-platform scanners?
posted by hwyengr at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2008

Seconding the ScanSnap 510. It's a touch on the expensive side, but it's worth it. You load the paper in the top tray, push one button, and your computer receives a searchable PDF.

It's definitely neater and less cluttered around my desk now, and PDF's are a lot easier to find when you need them than a random scrap of paper.

These posts from Lifehacker may be useful:

Going Paperless at home
Create a Digital Filing System for All Your Documents
One Way to Digitize and Centralize Paper Documents
posted by JDHarper at 9:32 AM on May 1, 2008

I'll leech onto this question because this is a cool idea. Jedi's scanner suggestion doesn't seem to support OS X. Are there any recommended multi-platform scanners?

There is a Mac Version of this scanner, the 510M.

I think the reason that there are different versions of scanners is because the box includes Adobe Acrobat Professional, which isn't cross-platform.
posted by JDHarper at 9:34 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Guide to a (Mostly) Paperless Life

The Real Paperless Office

I found this settings guide really helpful for batch OCRing the text in PDFs: link
posted by sharkfu at 9:34 AM on May 1, 2008

If I may piggyback on this, how do you know which things you still need to keep paper copies of?
posted by grouse at 9:36 AM on May 1, 2008

We use this at my office.

Which I believe is pretty much the same thing as above, works pretty good on macs.
posted by kpmcguire at 9:37 AM on May 1, 2008

Here's a guide with tips on what financial documents to keep and what to toss.
posted by JDHarper at 9:39 AM on May 1, 2008

Matthew Gray's weblog describes his very positive experience with the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M and his workflow.
posted by Yogurt at 10:06 AM on May 1, 2008

The Snapscan mentioned above is the only electronics purchase I've made in years that I am totally happy with. They seriously seem to have thought of everything, and the software that comes with it works very well too (I think it was a full version of Acrobat and a pdf document organizer).

I am working through old papers bit by bit, and new stuff as it comes in. One thing I like about the Snapscan is that it takes almost no time to be ready to work, so it doesn't feel burdensome to just scan a single thing, rather than letting things stack up and become unmanageable. Also it is small and cute.
posted by MsElaineous at 10:54 AM on May 1, 2008

If the ScanSnap is out of your price league (it was for me), I just picked up a Brother 7820n multifunction laser printer for <$100. The document feeder maxes out at 35 pages and doesnt duplex, but it has worked great for me so far.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:56 AM on May 1, 2008

Nthing the Fuji Scansnap, which I use and love. I also wanted to address the question of backups, because you mention scanning financial paperwork, which is critical to preserve, if only for tax reasons. My point is to investigate online storage, which is relatively inexpensive these days. I use Apple's dotmac service, for example, but there are many cheaper and platform-agnostic services available. Scanning even hundreds of pages a year doesn't require much storage space (much less than a single GB), so online storage becomes practical.
posted by conrad53 at 11:27 AM on May 1, 2008

We have some ScanSnaps here, I've never used them but I hear no complaints which is a good sign. Even works under linux.
posted by Skorgu at 12:05 PM on May 1, 2008

This sounds like it would be a cool thing to undertake provided you have the patience, time and money to invest in a new scanner. Especially if you could enter all the info on your docs in a database and search them by specified field(s), then be presented with charts, graphs and visualizations and quarterly reports, forecasts and hypothetical financial scenarios as if you were a micro conglomerate onto yourself.

( Jennifer.LLC) But I'm wondering if anyone can point to any examples where this venture would prove especially useful. Since the Legal merit of electronic copies of documents is doubtful at best. ( Kinda defeats the purpose of actually ridding yourself of the bothersome papers)

Also how Long should one keep their paper copies? Also OCR technology may still not be up to snuff. Meta Data and tagging might be tedious. You can be resourceful and use your super fast scanner at work but that also defeats the purpose of convenience.

My hunch is... for all these reasons and more, there really isn't a niche market or depot or "all in one" solution (in a box) for this kind of "paperless home/office revolution" that has been touted for years now. Unlike the wireless home network revolution it just hasn't taken off. Judging by the amount of favs, many people are still fantasizing about it like myself.

There isn't an all-encompassing piece of software that integrates all you docs seamlessly into your personal database even if you have electronic documents. This kinda stuff should be much easier by now.

I guess we'll have to stick to direct deposit and internet banking to stave off the paper-lanches. But I would recommend one ask their beholden institutions to send stuff electronically if they're willing. Since every institution you deal with stores your records electronically, you should be able to access that for your own purposes but for some reason places still send you paper in the mail. Hmmm. Bills and receipts, maybe encryption technology is not advanced enough and so once can never really be paperless.
posted by Student of Man at 2:21 PM on May 1, 2008

Got a ScanSnap, use it with DevonThink under OS X. Anything worth saving gets scanned (and backed up).
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:16 PM on May 1, 2008

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