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The Mac office: Embracing the nearly paperless future

Joe Kissell | July 9, 2013
Despite all that scanning, shredding, and striving, the paperless office still isn't here. But is it really all or nothing?

For example, if you receive lots of printed documents and your main problems are finding information in them and figuring out where to file them, the scan-OCR-shred routine will serve you well. It won't literally reduce the amount of paper you encounter, but it will address the inconveniences you struggle with.

Then there are the trees. Environmental issues, including saving forests and reducing waste, are certainly noble reasons to decrease paper usage. I applaud that instinct, and I think it's a good reason to choose digital newspapers, magazines, and books over their printed counterparts, because those are cases in which truly vast amounts of paper can be conserved. Agonizing over whether you should print out a single two-page document isn't worth it, however. You'll have a much larger impact if you concentrate on the bigger offenders.

Surrender to the ironies
Furthermore, no matter how hard you try, the path to paperless seems to be paved with, of all things, more paper.

Consider the following true story. When I bought my iPhone 5 from Verizon earlier this year, I immediately signed up for online account access, automatic payments, and paperless billing. A few days later, I opened my mailbox to find three separate envelopes from Verizon. Inside each was a letter confirming my enrollment in one of these services designed to reduce the amount of paper I receive. That's right: Verizon felt it necessary to send me a letter to tell me how environmentally friendly they were being by no longer sending me paper bills!

I could tell you similar stories about my banks, insurance companies, and so on, all of which insist on sending me mounds of needless paper. I recognize that sometimes these companies may be bound by unavoidable legal notification requirements. I'm just saying: You might have to accept a tiny step backward for every few giant leaps forward, and that's not a bad thing.

Focus on finding things
For me, a paperless office is more about convenience than anything else. Digital documents are easier to search, share, and back up than paper documents, and they take up essentially no space. Scanning documents, converting them to searchable PDFs, and then shredding or recycling the originals (to the extent possible) addresses those needs brilliantly.

Of course, scanning doesn't reduce the volume of incoming paper. If there were less of it that I had to handle in the first place, I'd be happier still, and that's something I'm working toward. I've already opted in to electronic statements for every service I use that offers them, I send invoices by email, and I usually "sign" simple contracts, NDAs, and other agreements by superimposing a scanned signature with PDFpenPro ().

 

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