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Three easy ways to organize digital and paper documents

Leslie Ayers | Jan. 20, 2014
Filing is no easier in the digital age. Now we have electronic receipts stashed in email messages or on cloud services or on our phones, in addition to the paper documents stuffed in file cabinets and perhaps left in little piles here and there around our homes.

Using the scanner is easy and quick. You can feed up to 15 documents, receipts, or business cards into the unit at once. Each document takes less than 3 seconds to scan and about another 5 to 10 seconds to send to your desired destination — whether it's NeatCloud, another cloud-based storage account, or an FTP address. If you scan to NeatCloud, you can access the data by logging in at https://cloud.neat.com, where you'll see your documents. NeatCloud also runs optical character recognition on your files and automatically sorts them by document type and — in the case of receipts — merchant. You can then go back and add more detail if you choose.

Of course, you don't have to use NeatCloud if you'd rather not pay for it after the 90-day free trial. But without it, the NeatConnect scanner holds a bit less appeal.

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
does not offer digital storage, as Google Drive and NeatConnect do. Instead, it provides an indexing system for your paper files that resides on your PC. Rather than using an alphabetical or other paper-filing system, Paper Tiger lets you log which documents are filed where for easy retrieval.

You start by creating a new database — likely several, for major categories such as your home, your business, and maybe specific family members or assets. Then you go through all of your paper documents and log their locations into the appropriate database. In my household, we indexed the paperwork in two filing cabinets, each with room for 50 hanging file folders.

Reorganizing all your paper files is quite a bit more time-consuming than copying files to Google Drive and locating them later with a quick online search. But the beauty of Paper Tiger is that we can easily find important documents in our physical files by running a database search, which tells us, for example, that a marriage certificate is in the folder labeled "Office 1." Previously it was filed under "M" for "marriage," which worked all right until the "M" folder filled up. Now, we can use the "Office 1" file folder to group like items — for example, the kids' birth certificates — in addition to the marriage document. 

This is a smart approach for anyone whose work or hobbies are research-intensive. Businesses can benefit, too, because the system compels you to standardize on a single indexing structure, reducing the possibility of misfiling. Paper Tiger is available as desktop software starting at $80 or as a cloud-based service starting at $50 a year.

The right solution to declutter your home or office comes down to what your exact needs are, but these three services will help you get — and stay — organized whether you want to move paper off your desk or completely out of your life.

 

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