Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tech Column: Going Paperless, Part 3, The Camera

by Bill Adler

Two weeks ago I started a mini-series on going paperless. You can read the first article here: http://bit.ly/WJ01mN . The second article, about digital sticky notes, is here: http://bit.ly/VGxZLd.

Going paperless doesn't mean digital everything; going paperless can be as comprehensive or incomplete as suits your style. You may adore paper books, but prefer not to deal with recycling a newspaper every week. You might like the precision and planning ability that accompanies having all your financial records available with a few clicks, but get joy from clipping recipes from magazines.

One tool that will make going paperless easier, no matter what kind of paperless world you want to live in, is your smartphone's camera. Snap and save the receipt, bank statement, magazine article you're reading in the doctor's office (no, it's not nice to rip out an article), restaurant menu you want to keep for posterity, picture of a cute dress store (along with its location, saved automatically in every photo), school report, or job rejection letter, and whatever else you want.

My go-to app for doing this is Evernote, available for Android, iOS, PC, Mac: What's especially brilliant about Evernote is that it not only syncs with my PC, but will index the text in anything I take a picture of. For example, if I take a photo of an L.L. Bean receipt, Evernote will index all the words in that receipt. A week, year, decade from now I can search for "khaki pants" and find that receipt in seconds.

If you want to explore the idea of using your smartphone as a major tool for achieving a total or partial paperless life, here are some apps, in addition to Evernote, www.evernote.com, that can help you achieve that.

The first is your phone's regular camera app. Snap now and file later works, too. Anything you can take a picture of can become a part of your own permanent record: Just email the photo to yourself, or copy it into whatever program you use to keep stuff. Even your email program can be used for a paperless life.

FastEver Snap (iOS) http://bit.ly/14oirQ3, speeds up the process of scanning by photo into your smartphone. It's good to have if you do more than just occasional scanning with your iPhone.

If you want to scan to PDF, give JotNot (iOS) a whirl. It can scan multipage documents to PDF -- or fax them. For Android there's CamScanner, http://bit.ly/14oiFqm, among many others apps.

There are specialty apps for scanning and OCRing business cards, too. If it's on paper, it can be easily digitized using your smartphone's camera.  Try WorldCard Mobile, http://bit.ly/VtNgT4, for iPhone and CamCard, http://bit.ly/117RZ9X, for Android.

That's all for now about going paperless. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to clean up a spilled glass of juice with some paper towels.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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