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(Archived) Evernote and the paperless dream

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I wrote some glowing praise for Evernote and one of my favorite ways to use it... as a way to get paperless by digitizing and organizing almost all of my paper documents. Much of what I read on this forum is negative feedback. So here is something positive. The original post appears at http://www.okaythings.com/2008/10/evernote-and-the-paperless-dream/.

Digitizing every piece of paper worth saving, past present and future? This is the dream. It’s been difficult to achieve though. Getting the contents of a filing cabinet plus the barrage of incoming paperwork digitized is a chore. Without a mulit-sheet feeder on a fast scanner, the effort is futile. Even with a great scanner, the process is probably slow and ridiculous.

What is really needed is a hand-held fast scanner that is pocketable and within reach at all times. Well there’s no such thing. However, using the Evernote application both on an iPhone and on a computer can make the paperless dream a real possibility.

The iPhone’s 2 megapixel camera is good enough for quality photos of most documents. The lighting needs to be just so. Initially, there will be some trial and error to get a good capture. The basic idea is to light up the document like it’s under interrogation. When at home, a computer’s Web cam will probably take a better shot of the document. Really want to get nuts? You could build an iPhone document scanner.

Once a good shot of a document is obtained, it gets sucked right into Evernote. It can be quickly tagged, titled, and placed into your favorite digital notebook. Then sync it back to the cloud, Evernote will shortly give it the text recognition treatment and make the text of the document searchable. That’s it. That’s the move. It’s incredible. The document is now quickly accessible and searchable anywhere: On the Web, on the desktop application, and on the iPhone.

So what kinds of documents can be sucked into Evernote this way? Probably any piece of paper that used to live in a filing cabinet, a junk drawer, or in hierarchical folders on a computer. A premium subscription provides better encryption, and perhaps more confidence about throwing personal documents into Evernote. Personally, I draw the line at tax documents, and other super-sensitive data that I’m going to hang onto for years and want to keep very private. These precious documents stay out of Evernote. But a pay stub or an energy bill… sure, why not? Draw your own line, whatever feels comfortable.

The point is Evernote is great for noting everyday trivial notes, but also for filing the everyday important documents. It’s so easy to turn what was a mess of papers into something searchable, organized, fire-proof, and accessible everywhere. Forget the scanner. This is so efficient. So Zen. It’s a dream come true.

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Hey, thanks for the post. That's pretty cool.

Regarding using the iPhone as a document scanner. Here's something we've been excited about lately:


We got a few of these this week, and the lens really helps with the quality of document images from the iPhone.

(The problem with the built-in iPhone camera isn't the "megapixels", but the focal length of the lens.)

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iPhone Document Scanner?? C'mon - you guys are getting out of hand!

I have a good scanner that is the most portable that I have owned: a Fujitsu ScanSnap S300. I have it setup on my desk's sidebar currently, but it has a USB cable that provides both data and power from a notebook, and it is small enough to plop into a briefcase for travel.

Scans only into PDF files - no photos (unless you want them in a PDF). It scans both sides of a page at once, and very fast. Has an automatic document feeder that holds 10 docs at a time. Does business cards also.


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