My Paperless Office

by Colin Berkshire

My office is paperless. I mean, we just don’t do paper. If paper comes in we scan the original and shred it. Then, we archive or handle the scanned copy.

We’ve been paperless for about four years now. It was a big conversion back then. We scanned a quarter of a million separate documents! It was weeks and weeks of scanning. But we did it.

My office is shocking to others. I can find an old contract or an old lawsuit in a minute. I can find supplier checks. I can pull up former-employee files. I have my expense vouchers going all the way back. Need a copy of a service contract? I can find it!

I think we did it right:

We DID NOT get a document management system. Our fear was correct: Such a system hoards documents and in a few years will be obsolete. These hoarding document management systems have terrible user interfaces, and they like to use crappy file formats, and they are expensive.

What we did was bought good quality scanners. The Xerox 3220 was a great choice four years ago and actually even today it’s a pretty good one. It’s $260 and it has a two-sided scanner and a flatbed scanner. It does 25 pages per minute.

Today the Fujitsu iX500 gets good reviews. It’s $400.

We just upgraded to the Brother PDS-5000 scanner at $750. This is a rocket of a scanner: It scans 60 sheets per minute and scans both sides. That’s 120 pages per minute. Its so fast you don’t think about it.

We happen to use a product called Exact Scan Pro for the image capture. It takes the scan, converts it into a PDF file. It’s an $80 app.

What’s remarkable is that ExactScan Pro OCRs the document. It hides the OCR text into a hidden layer within the PDF. You don’t see it. But your computer sees the text and will index it. And, you can highlight the text and cut and paste it into an email.

So all of those documents just sit on a computer drive as simple flat-files.

And, Apple’s Spotlight finds them. You type in a number or a name or something and the documents just come up. It’s remarkable.

The best thing is that we don’t have any clunky document management software. Everything is just plain old PDF files.

Simplicity is best.