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PaperlessBrian

Helping me end my analysis paralysis

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Hello all - first time poster here...  I've been banging my head against the wall trying to define a paperless process that is going to hold in the long term and I've been suck in this darn analysis paralysis loop.  I'm hoping you smart folks out there can shed some light on Evernote so that I can better make a decision.  Several years ago I made a concerted effort to go paperless using Ironic Software's Yep product.  My process was to scan in pretty much everything (all receipts, statements, bills, etc) using my ScanSnap S510M, give it a date-based name, put in a folder (same folder for everything) and then use Yep to assign and manage tags.  This worked out fairly well until I tried to upgrade to Yep 2.  World turned upside-down.  The product was complicated and I found its filing system awkward and inflexible.  For those of you who don't know, Yep basically allows you to tag files regardless of where they are in your filesystem.  At the time I had considered Evernote, but I was too worried about security to embrace it.  So, I read David Sparks' book Paperless and started a new process.  In this process, I would rename files (mostly automatically using Hazel) and carefully place them into folders and subfolders.  This got, shall we say, tedious...  I still have nightmares about this.  Needless to say, I was unable to sustain my efforts.  Since then, I've accumulated boxes of "to be scanned" whilst redefine my processes.  I generally think my two biggest mistakes where: (1) not focusing enough on the process and (2) not clearly defining what to keep and ditch.

So...  My new process will be as automatic as possible.  I'm going to have a set of rules for what I scan.  I'm also going to use a combination of FileThis.com (an AMAZING service btw) and Hazel to prep my scanned/downloaded pdf files (name them, tag them, etc).  What I'm not sure about is how to do the ongoing management of those files.

(re)Enter Evernote...  My on again off again love affair with Evernote and its sexy features could be a dramatic "one that got away" Lifetime movie.  Ok, maybe not.  I've dabbled with it for note-taking purposes.  I've read almost every article there is about it.  I've done everything but put it to the test.  Here are my concerns..  I'm hoping you experts can help me address them (or validate them).  Evernote isn't for everyone.

  1. Security - I'm a little concerned about security at rest on Evernote servers.  I know they don't encrypt data on their servers.  Easy fix, right?  Just make a local notebook for sensitive information (such as taxes, legal stuff, etc).  Well, I've read some posts that suggest that Evernote might get rid of local notebooks.  Any truth to that?
  2. Lock-in - Let's face it, once I get 20,000 pdf files in Evernote, I'm pretty committed.  But what if I need to leave Evernote?  (Let's just say something changes some day and I no longer want to use it.)  What then?  I know you can export notes, but what if I just want all my pdf files sent to a directory?  I've seen the way that Evernote stores attachments on a Mac and it would take some scripting to get all the files out - not to mention their tags.
  3. Trust - I realize this is something that I just need to get over, but I've read that occasionally Evernote, through some bug or strange corner case, has misplaced a note or two.  Can I trust that Evernote won't lose notes?  I would plan on doing backups, but with 20,000 notes you may never realize you even lost the note.  For example, I make lots of physical donations for tax write-offs.  At the end of the year, I would just search Evernote for the "charity" tag or the "2015 Tax" tag. If the note isn't there, I'll never know it was lost, backup or no.

One thought I had was to add a backup of the file using Hazel.  I.e. Before I use Applescript to load the file into Evernote, I could copy the file to a backup location with some OpenMeta tags.  If I do this, I could easily search using Finder.  Then what would be the point of Evernote?  I don't care much about the sharing feature for my paperless files.  I do love the email-to-Evernote feature, but I could live with out it.  I could even resurrect Yep (now version 3) and use it as a file viewer/tagger since it supports OpenMeta, though I still find Yep unnecessarily complicated.  Again, Evernote is pretty sexy...  Decisions decisions...  ;^)

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Keeping it short:

  1. A recent post in the forums from EN staff states local notebooks are not going away.  I have no reason to doubt that, but who can predict the longer term future.  Personally, I doubt that local notebooks will be eliminated and am not concerned at this point.
  2. Not sure on the Mac, but on Windows you can highlight a group of notes and right click to get a Save Attachments option.  You can then save all the attachments in the selection to a location.  Iif that option does not exist on the Mac perhaps a Mac user would could supply an alternative.
  3. I am up to 30,000 notes now and don't know that I have lost one, operative term being don't know.  OTOH, I have always found whatever I was searching.  So yeah, a level of trust on this one.

I decided to go paperless some years back and now have everything in EN stored in a combination of local and synced notebooks depending upon confidentiality.  My method is less sophisticated than what you have detailed above.  I either scan documents in using my ScanSnap or download them from the web into an import folder which EN then moves to my "Scan" notebook, which is a local notebook.  I then adjust the note title (or sometimes not), add tags, and move the note to the appropriate notebook.  Besides my Scan and Inbox notebooks I have 3 synced and 3 local, so not too hard.  The tagging and moving can sometimes be done in bulk depending upon the content of the scan group.  The real upside for me in all this has been the power of EN search against those PDFs, more so than the electronic store that was created.  And I no longer have any filing cabinets.  FWIW.

 

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Great response! Thank you, csihilling, Ill have to see if EN offers that on the Mac. If so, that pretty much addresses my main concern. On Mac Spotlight is pretty powerful so I don't really need EN for its search engine.  I also want to avoid losing my OCR so I probably won't use EN for that either. Having everything is one place is useful, however.

On a side note, you might find FileThis.com useful for your process.  I think you get 5 connections free and it can drop files right into EN.

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You are welcome.  I use the ScanSnap OCR for scanned documents and EN does the downloads if they don't arrive OCRd.  Others report driving their PDFs through their OCR engine of choice so you aren't alone their.  Hope it works for you.  I will check out FileThis, thanks for the tip. 

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On February 12, 2016 at 3:13 PM, PaperlessBrian said:

One thought I had was to add a backup of the file using Hazel.  I.e. Before I use Applescript to load the file into Evernote, I could copy the file to a backup location with some OpenMeta tags.  If I do this, I could easily search using Finder.

 

I'm also using an applescript to load files into Evernote, however the script also deletes the files.
I don't always process my notes right away, but if I see something is missing I could retrieve it from the trash - hasn't been a problem yet.
It seems like overkill to back up the files and access them by Finder.

>>I do love the email-to-Evernote feature, but I could live with out it
A lot of my notes come from email.
I use an app on my Mac to do this directly instead of going through email; but I do use the feature on my iPad.

>>My new process will be as automatic as possible.
Likewise but my scanning is mostly manual, although the import into Evernote is automatic (applescript)
Using applescript on the import folder also allows some customization regarding assigning tags and even parcing my bank transaction files.
I'll look into FileThis - its a chance for further automation, although I 
didn't notice how it would integrate with Evernote.

>>Hazel, Yep etc
Not sure where these apps fit in to your new Evernote workflow.
I haven't found a need for them so far

csihilling covered your concerns; I don't have much to add there.
>>Lockin
One thing I have no concerns about is Lock-In.  From the beginning I knew that I could exit Evernote and my data would be portable.
As part of my backup procedures, I do a weekly html export of my notes.  Its a quick process and ensures that I can always get to my notes regardless of what happens with Evernote.

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On February 17, 2016 at 1:36 AM, DTLow said:

I'll look into FileThis - its a chance for further automation, although I didn't notice how it would integrate with Evernote.

>>Hazel, Yep etc
Not sure where these apps fit in to your new Evernote workflow.
I haven't found a need for them so far

FileThis basically connects to websites (such as your bank, gas company, etc) downloads your statements and then it can send to EN, store on its own site, download to your computer (via a small app), send to dropbox, etc.  This is very nice IMO since it eliminates much of the need to scan or manually download statements.  I use the download option since I like to run some rules on the files before moving them.  I haven't tried importing into EN but I suspect that it may create notebooks corresponding to accounts.  (That's what it does with the download - create folders corresponding to the account).

Hazel is a Mac app which allows you to create rules that automatically apply to one or more folders.  The rules can be based on the file name, its metadata, or its contents.  It also has a tokenizer so you can name or tag the file based on what text you match.  Pretty amazing.  I currently use this to grab files out of my inbox and subfolders (where FileThis drops files) to rename, move, and tag (OpenMeta) files.

Yep is a Mac app that integrates with Spotlight (Mac's amazing search engine) and OpenMeta (the new open tagging standard) to allow you to view all kinds of files in your filesystem in a tag-centric way.  I stopped using this when it when to version 2, but I used to limit Yep to look at one folder (where all my pdf's are) and use its tag cloud to quickly locate files.

In many ways, Evernote really isn't that necessary for me.  The issue is that I really need want a good tag-based viewer for my files but Ironic Software (makers of Yep) seem to have abandoned the software. Given that version 3 doesn't really need much more love, it bothers me..  What if it has a bug?  The lock-in factor is nonexistent though, so it's not a tremendous risk (except for the $30 to buy it).

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11 hours ago, PaperlessBrian said:

Hey one more thing...  Do I actually need EN Premium to search inside the OCR'ed pdf attachments in EN?  The license seems to imply that.

I don't think so, particularly if you add the PDF and it is already OCRd.  But things change, so if you are a basic user give it a try and report back if you like.

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16 minutes ago, csihilling said:

I don't think so, particularly if you add the PDF and it is already OCRd.

See this FAQ https://help.evernote.com/hc/en-us/articles/209005867

As an Evernote Basic customer, can I search text inside my PDFs?

Any PDF you added before April 29, 2015 will still be searchable. You’ll need to upgrade to Premium in order to search new PDFs or documents.

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24 minutes ago, csihilling said:

I don't think so, particularly if you add the PDF and it is already OCRd.  But things change, so if you are a basic user give it a try and report back if you like.

@DTLow,

As I said in the second sentence of my post. 

So to clear the air, I just did a test in a basic account with a PDF OCRd outside EN.  And that PDF is searchable.  So the above April 29 quote is not fully accurate.  My guess is it applies to PDFs added to EN that aren't already OCRd.  They won't do the OCRing for you after April 29.

So, @PaperlessBrian, if you are OCRing your documents you should be okay.  If not, that's a whole other kettle of fish based upon my test.  :unsure:

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@csihillingThanks for following up and correcting that pdfs are still searched with a basic account.

I wasn't deliberately misquoting you, and apologize for that.

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No prob.  But to be specific, already OCRd PDFs that get added to EN are searchable.

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You are welcome.  I would suggest adding a few of your PDFs and doing a test just to be sure.

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On February 20, 2016 at 8:30 PM, PaperlessBrian said:

Hazel is a Mac app which allows you to create rules that automatically apply to one or more folders.

I have an @Evernote folder on my desktop into which I drop files for import to EN

Since there's no auto-import function for EN Mac, I use an AppleScript triggered with new files folder action.  This allows me to apply some rules such as tagging, note naming, and even file parcing for my downloaded bank transactions.

The one feature I liked about Hazel is that it can extract data from inside a pdf 

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