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Paperless is a solid paper-organizer

Stuart Gripman | Jan. 4, 2013
Given how electronic screens permeate our lives and a whole generation has grown up with the Internet in their homes, it seems that paper should be obsolete. Yet we still get account statements in the mail and little strips of paper every time we make a purchase (Apple Stores notwithstanding). Mariner Software's Paperless 2.2.1 can't prevent those papers from coming into your life, but it can hasten their trip to the recycling bin.

The tenacity of paper is amazing. Given how electronic screens permeate our lives and a whole generation has grown up with the Internet in their homes, it seems that paper should be obsolete. Yet we still get account statements in the mail and little strips of paper every time we make a purchase (Apple Stores notwithstanding). Mariner Software's Paperless 2.2.1 can't prevent those papers from coming into your life, but it can hasten their trip to the recycling bin.

Paperless couples with a Fujitsu ScanSnap or an Image Capture compatible document scanner to digitize things like receipts and business cards (TWAIN devices are not supported). Once scanned, the image of the document is processed using optical character recognition (OCR) to create a searchable archive. Finally, Paperless' built-in smarts attempt to parse the document filling in metadata with information like dates and dollar amounts.

Paperless uses a three-column window to display your document library. The left column provides access to sets of items called collections, and default collections filter your library by date ranges like "this week" or "last month." It also offers up items by type if you want to scan through all your contacts.

Paperless provides a space for two flavors of custom collections. The standard custom collection is essentially a folder that holds whatever items you drag into it. Smart collections work like iTunes' Smart Playlists; you choose the criteria to search for and Paperless places the matching items into the collection. Frustratingly, a smart collection can't match on OCR text despite the fact Paperless' search bar does include results from that text. This seems like a major missed opportunity to organize automatically.

Having selected a collection from the left column, the constituent library items appear in the large center pane of the Paperless window. By default they appear in Icon view showing the name and resizable thumbnail of each document. When dealing with more than a few dozen items, you may want to switch out of icon view for the more compact list view, or split the difference with a cover flow option. Clicking any document will populate the Details column on the far right side of the window--this is the part that displays the document's metadata. The data you see depends on what type of document you've selected. Generic documents show generic metadata like a title, date, and category. Classify an item as a receipt and more specific fields like amount and tax are offered up. While a few document types come pre-defined, customization is where Paperless shines. If you want to add a field for Twitter handles in your Contact items but don't want to see phone numbers, the customization features aims to make it speedy and simple. Using its Library Configuration window, Paperless allows you to define your own document types with any combination of built-in and custom fields.

 

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