Going Digital (Again)

Kathy and I have been on a bit of a decluttering kick lately. We’ve been Freecycling, donating, recycling, and just throwing out a lot of stuff. We’ve got a bunch of other stuff ready for a garage sale (or maybe craigslist), too. So while in this decluttering state of mind, I came across an article that led me to a couple, all of which deal with the once mythical paperless office and a magical device from Japan. I have an office overflowing with papers that I have no real desire to keep, but probably should. So, I took the advice and bought the device.

I’d never even heard of the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M and based on its description on the Fujitsu site, I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it if I had. Yet every review and article I read raved about the thing. So what is it? It’s a small document scanner that can chew through 18 double-sided pages a minute. It straightens crooked pages and automatically rotates pages that were loaded sideways, then dumps the scans directly into a PDF file. It does blank page detection, too, so you can leave it in duplex mode all the time. It will handle documents from 2x2 inches up to legal size. A clear plastic carrier sheet is included that lets you scan things smaller than 2x2 or documents that might not feed well, such as those that are ripped, oddly shaped, or very thin. The ScanSnap Manager software saves files to disk or automatically routes them to the application of your choice. A full version of Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional is included, as well as ABBYY FineReader. Either of these can do OCR on the PDFs, making the files indexable and searchable. The scan quality is great, though it won’t really replace a flatbed scanner for scanning photos.

All this adds up to a very smooth workflow. I just load the scanner (it can hold up to 50 pages at a time) and press the scan button. The finished PDF goes into an “incoming” folder on my computer. The scanner is much faster than the OCR software, so I wait until I have a bunch of documents scanned and OCR them in a batch. I’ve been using Yep from Ironic Software to organize and tag my PDFs, which has been working well for me so far. For now, I’m recreating my physical filing system on the computer, but unlike a physical filing system Yep makes it easy to search and reorganize as needed.

I dipped my toe in this brave new world by scanning new documents as they arrived. It went so well that I quickly moved on to phase two: going back through my filing cabinet and scanning everything (then shredding most of it). I still have a ways to go, but it has already kept me from having to buy a new filing cabinet.

(Update: As of April 2013, my digital “filing cabinet” weighs in at just over 5 GB. At today’s hard drive prices, that’ll cost me about 25¢. Not bad.)