Last Wednesday on TUAW TV Live, I discussed my success over the past year at moving towards the ultimate goal of a paperless office. I thought it would be a good idea for me to pass along some of the methods I've been using to accomplish this elusive goal, and also offer a deal to our readers for an e-book all about the subject.
My earliest steps towards a paperless office actually came a few years ago, when I went to electronic statements for my banks and credit cards. However, up until the beginning of 2010, the filing system for my business consisted of big binders or folders into which I would slip the printed copies of those statements along with a ton of other paperwork. Now, as the statements come in my email as PDFs or are downloaded from the bank or credit card company website, I save them directly into special folders in my Dropbox.
For billing clients, I'm trying to get more of them to use credit cards so that I can use the Square app and card reader, and make fewer trips to the bank. Other ways I'm trying to avoid going to the bank include having book and blogging royalty checks sent to me via electronic funds transfer. Of course, there are always going to be some stragglers who will want to pay with a check -- that's why I'm thinking of moving my business account to Chase, so I can use the free Chase Mobile iPhone app to take photos of both sides of the checks and make deposits that way.
Earlier I mentioned using Dropbox, which also acts as my virtual binder for other related information. If something still shows up in my snail mail in paper form, I scan it as quickly as possible, using one of the two scanners I have access to -- a Neat scanner or an Epson Perfection 4490 Photo -- and they're saved into Dropbox folders. The paper is shredded for security, and then put into the recycle bin.
If I'm traveling and have a receipt I need to capture for business expenses, I use JotNot Scanner Pro to "scan" the information and immediately drop it into a Dropbox folder. Wouldn't it be nice if more businesses, and not just Apple, would email your receipts to you? That would eliminate one more step and one more piece of paper to get rid of.
Previously, I tracked my business and personal mileage using a paper mileage journal. Now, I use App Cubby's Trip Cubby Free to do the same. I no longer have to search in my car for a pen that actually works, and Trip Cubby also does the addition for me. Yay, technology.
What about books and magazines? To be honest with you, other than the Popular Science magazine app, I personally think most magazine apps are awful. I've also had continuing issues with trying to get print subscriptions changed to electronic subscriptions. The circulation departments at most magazines are clueless.
When it comes to books, I've been buying e-books only since the first Kindle came out. Now that Kindle Reader and iBooks are available on iOS, and Kindle Reader also works on Mac, all of my digital libraries are available at a touch or click. I'd love to make a long-term goal of going through my huge library and finding digital copies of most of the books. However, nothing can compare with some first-edition and signed copies of paper books, and I won't part with those.
For faxing, I use MyFax.com to send and receive faxes electronically so that I can avoid having to print most of them out. If I need to sign a document and return it, I use one of two methods: either I grab my Pogo Stylus and use Autograph on iPhone, iPad or MacBook Air (it uses the trackpad as a digitizer), or I use a copy of a scanned signature and plop it into the document to return. Some companies are using the DocuSign service for contracts, which uses electronic signatures and makes it easy to execute a contract without ever requiring a hard copy to be printed.
I mentioned that I have a Neat Mobile Scanner; it's also a help when I need to get rid of some paper, namely business cards. The scanner comes with NeatWorks for Mac, and it's an easy way to scan business cards, keep an image of the original card in NeatWorks and then pull the text off of the card for searching. I could also just send the images to Evernote, but I don't tend to use that service as much as I do Dropbox.
When it comes to ridding your life of paper, Joe Kissell has actually written the book on the subject. Joe is a Senior Editor at TidBITS and a Senior Contributor to Macworld, and he wrote a wonderful e-book called Take Control of Your Paperless Office for Take Control Books.
The fine folks at Take Control Books would love for you to get your hands on Joe's e-book, so they've created a special discount code for TUAW readers. You can either click the book title in the previous paragraph, or enter the following coupon code when you're checking out: CPN011310112UAW. The code will give you 30% off of the regular US$10 price of the book.
Do you have any hints for going paperless? If so, let us know by leaving them in the comments below. Best of luck in terms of getting your office or desk paper-free.