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paperless the paperless household

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The two or more body problem

A challenge with going paperless for households (at least my household) is deciding who owns what notebooks. We have shared notebooks for kids memorabilia, school records, taxes, etc. Let's consider school records. These come in a near-constant stream, but both parents are involved in scanning, so if I scan documents destined for a notebook in my wife's Evernote account, I have to get them there.

Managing sharing

Right now, I only have three ways to deal with this, outlined below. Let's assume person A is creating a document that everyone agrees is destined for a notebook shared by person B. (Disagreement would be another topic!)

  1. Person A copies newly scanned documents into the shared destination notebook. This has the advantage that they wind up in the destination immediately after scanning, but it has several drawbacks. Who does the tagging and sets the titles? Generally, I think the person who "owns" the notebook is responsible for all the curation, including tag rationale, but the owner (person B ) is not getting notified. As an advocate of GTD, this seems like skipping not only the processing step but even the inbox.
  2. Person A copies newly scanned notes to one or more shared "incoming" notebooks. This can deal with the problem above by laying the curation responsibility firmly at the owner's doorstep. The owner has to tag and file the notes properly, but they'll likely get those things done consistently. Yay. But it's some extra work in the process
  3. Use Dropbox as an intermediary. Since Evernote Windows can monitor directories (and Mac users can use AppleScript to get the same thing), set up folders for "A- incoming" and "B-incoming" and scan directly to them. That way Person A can create notes in person B's "incoming" notebook without any extra step. But you have to set it up.

What do other folks do for going paperless with shared notebooks?

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Since I am the one who does most of the scanning, right now we use a simpler model: We have one Evernote account (mine) and log into all clients using that account. If my wife needs to access some document, she can go onto her laptop and find it because Evernote will be logged in using my account. (Think of it as a single household account.) I thought about using the Shared Notebook feature, but since my wife accesses Evernote infrequently, it didn't make sense for us to have separate accounts.

I have used the shared notebook feature to share estate planning documents with the people named as executors of the estate so that they have ready access to the documents. But I haven't used them beyond that.

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Although I'm the only scanner in our household, I do kind of a combination of #2 & #3 because I use two computers, each with it's own scanner. The computers are next to each other, but this expedites my scanning process, since I can use both scanners simultaneously. My current workflow, when scanning from secondary computer, is to save to Dropbox. The scans then get automatically ported over to the main computer where I move them from Dropbox to Evernote. However, after mulling over your post, I've just set up the Dropbox folder I use for this process as an import/watched folder in Evernote. In case you don't know, import/watched folders can send files to notebooks other than your default one. So I set up a new Evernote notebook "incoming from Old Dog" (the name of the secondary computer.) Now, after scanning on the secondary computer, the files will be auto ported to the primary computer via Dropbox & auto imported into Evernote. (Where's a dancing banana when you need one?)

Also, I set up the watched folder to delete the files from Dropbox, after they are imported into Evernote. This can pose a bit of a risk, in the event part of the process chokes, especially when multiple people are involved. In my case, I put the items scanned on the secondary computer to the side. After a few minutes, I can confirm they made the trip successfully to EN on the primary computer before tossing/shredding the items. So you may want to set the import folder to not delete & have the owner of the notebook delete the items from Dropbox after they've confirmed they are safely in Evernote.

And to clarify, since I have EN on both computers & they both use the same account, I could simply add the docs to EN on the secondary computer. However, since I often run tight on my EN upload limit, I prefer to have my import folders import to local (non-sync'd) notebooks. That way, if the scan isn't good or if I want to combine multiple documents into one note, I'm not "wasting" any of my upload limit. :) Plus, it allows me to keep lesser important docs in local notebooks until I know I have enough upload allowance to add them.

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I find sharing to be the one difficult to manage thing in Evernote right now.

I have a premium account, and my wife has a basic one. We share a few notebooks, but I don't like how they are separated in different views. I wish they were all in one list, searchable from one place, accessible for saving from one list.

The fact that my wife has to remember to click separately to look at the shared notebooks, on the desktop client or on the phone, is a bit of an impediment. It needs to be dead simple, or she doesn't have the patience.

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I find sharing to be the one difficult to manage thing in Evernote right now.

I have a premium account, and my wife has a basic one. We share a few notebooks, but I don't like how they are separated in different views. I wish they were all in one list, searchable from one place, accessible for saving from one list.

The fact that my wife has to remember to click separately to look at the shared notebooks, on the desktop client or on the phone, is a bit of an impediment. It needs to be dead simple, or she doesn't have the patience.

One thing you could do instead of using a shared notebook is you and your wife exchange your Evernote e-mail address. That way if you or your wife has a note to share you can simply e-mail it and it will be your own notebook rather than a shared one. The only problem with this is it doesn't work well when collaborating on a note because if you make a change and then e-mail it back your wife will have to remember to delete the older note. This is more of a solution for sharing notes, pictures, or articles, that you aren't likely to make major changes to in the future.

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The benefit of the shared notebook is keeping it the same between us. If we emailed notes, that's a level of management that adds confusion. And I guarantee that my wife would have zero patience with remembering a second workflow. She's only a small step beyond the "I don't need a smartphone" folks, although she does appreciate the things she can do if they are intuitive enough to easily remember.

It's not that notes would need to be edited once they're made very often, it's more that I want it easy for us both to contribute notes to a shared folder (mainly via mobile) and to retrieve those notes in a search or by browsing...once, not in separate places like with your local and shared notebooks.

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[...] I set up the watched folder to delete the files from Dropbox, after they are imported into Evernote. This can pose a bit of a risk, in the event part of the process chokes, especially when multiple people are involved. In my case, I put the items scanned on the secondary computer to the side. After a few minutes, I can confirm they made the trip successfully to EN on the primary computer before tossing/shredding the items. So you may want to set the import folder to not delete & have the owner of the notebook delete the items from Dropbox after they've confirmed they are safely in Evernote.

I think that should not ever pose an issue. Any files on DropBox are confirmed on the DropBox server first before being transferred to a secondary computer, and the file system locks the secondary computer files being actively downloaded. In other words, Dropbox should not add any risk to an Evernote watch/import folder. At this point, for the folder designated from my wife to my Evernote account, I not only auto-delete on import to Evernote, but I hide the folder from myself in the file system :)

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I think that should not ever pose an issue. Any files on DropBox are confirmed on the DropBox server first before being transferred to a secondary computer, and the file system locks the secondary computer files being actively downloaded. In other words, Dropbox should not add any risk to an Evernote watch/import folder. At this point, for the folder designated from my wife to my Evernote account, I not only auto-delete on import to Evernote, but I hide the folder from myself in the file system :)

Good to know! Although I use Dropbox daily, I haven't really delved into it's inner workings. Thanks!

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