The MacValley blog
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The MacValley blog
Editor: Tom Briant
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Most of us still have printers with our Macs. We still receive paper mail. We still get flyers for pizza joints stuck on the apartment door knob.
HELP! How can we cut back on the amount of mail we receive? How can we process the paper we already have, split between legal necessities, treasured mementos, and that manual that came with the appliance we sent to recycling 3 years ago?
Joe Kissell of TidBits and Take Control e-books has written such a book. An e-book, in fact. For $10 for the hoi-polloi, and less for the members of MacValley; you get a 125 page PDF full of hints, tips, and ideas for keeping paper from flooding our desktops and even our floors.
The name of the book is Take Control of Your Paperless Office (1.1).
In the first section, Joe describes how he (and now YOU) can cut down the amount of paper in your household. He also states right off that he describes tactics and strategies best suited for a home or small office. If you want to free a large organization from the onslaught of paper, Joe wishes you well—but this isn’t the book for you.
With that in mind, go through the book. The book has a Quick Start section, describing the kind of tools you want to get, such as quality hard drives with a multi-year warranty.
Joe describes the file format that lies at the heart of the paperless office, the searchable PDF. Adobe Acrobat will create this kind of PDF that you can search through with Apple’s Spotlight. So will OS X with its PDF option on the Print dialog.
On the Windows side, a bevy of freeware or shareware “Print to PDF” pseudo printer drivers. I use CutePDF myself. If you use Linux, you would use the “Print to File” option.
Joe also describes how to keep down the flow of paper documents and converting them to searchable PDF form. This means documents such as bank statements, payroll statements, bills from the DWP/SoCal Edison, catalogs from Lands End, and miscellaneous what-not. Joe now lives in Paris, and he also describes the steps he took to ensure that his American mail would not fall afoul of the “famously flaky French postal system”. Even if you don’t plan to buy more electronics to digitize your paper, this section alone is worth the $10 if you plan to drop off the grid.
Now for the main event.
Getting a document displayed on a monitor into a searchable PDF is easy. Getting a letter you wrote and printed to your Dad 20 years ago is harder. Especially if you lack the digital file or never had one in the first place.
Joe goes into deep detail about your options for an optical scanner and the accompanying software to transform the paper into a searchable PDF.
To begin with, he tells you that the flatbed scanner you bought for scanning in photos is not the best scanner for dealing with all that paper. You want a Document Scanner. He describes the various brands and models of Document Scanner. These scanners will scan both sides of a document. They also don’t scan at super-high resolution, as super-high resolution only amplifies the “noise” such as erasures and coffee stains on the original. Be warned, if you want to buy a suitable document scanner, such as a Fujitsu ScanSnap, it will cost more than $59.95.
Joe then goes into detail about the software you need to transform a scan into a searchable PDF. Fortunately, the Mac has several good options. Joe describes them and gives you the one he uses personally.
Finally, Joe goes into detail about your handheld iOS/Android options for reading without paper. He discusses reading magazines and newspapers on handheld devices, taking notes in meetings on handheld devices and marking up documents sent to you for review.
What about receiving and sending FAXs? Joe discusses that, too. What do you do now that the Mac doesn’t include a built-in modem? OS X 10.7 won’t even work with the Apple USB Modem! Don’t worry, you have options.
So for $10 or less, you have a valuable resource for weaning yourself away from paper. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to use my shredder.