You're ready to go paperless. You just don't know how. In this article, we take you step-by-step through setting up a paperless office. We have advice for everyone from home users to business owners, along with our recommendation for the best paperless office software out there: FileCenter.
How to Go Paperless Summary
- A Paperless Office is Finally Possible
- What's Required to Go Paperless?
- How to Go Paperless at Home
- How to Go Paperless at Work
- How to Go Paperless in the Office; The Paperless Small Business
- The Best Paperless Office Software
- Jump to our recommendation »
A Paperless Office is Finally Possible
It's been a buzzword for decades, but now the paperless office is in reach thanks to vast improvements in document capture and document storage technology. In this article, we'll take a look at going paperless and what it really takes, whether you're a starving college student or a thriving business.
What's Required to Go Paperless?
First, let's look at what tools and computing resources you'll need to go paperless.
Scanner. Since going "paperless" requires, by definition, a shift away from paper, you'll need a way to digitize that paper. DO NOT SKIMP on your scanner! You want a scanner with an automatic document feeder. Don't bother with a flatbed unless you need to scan books. Get the best you can afford. You'll see the difference in scanning speed, in how well it feeds pages without jamming, and most importantly, with how well its driver works. It's the driver that controls the scanner. Poor drivers flake out, lock up, and generally raise your blood pressure. Stick with scanners that connect to your computer via USB. It's far and away the most reliable. We have a few scanners that we highly recommend. Good brands are Canon, Epson, and Fujitsu. Another no-nonsense, rock-solid scanner is the Fujitsu ScanSnap.
The Right Paperless Office Software. Your paperless office software or document management software should have all of the features you need to scan, capture, and organize any kind of document. We can't understate the importance of this. You've got files coming in from paper, from email, from web pages, from digital photos, not to mention the files you produce yourself. Your paperless office software must be able to capture all of them with minimal effort. This means it should provide: a scanning tool, a PDF "printer" so you can print to PDF from anywhere, and a very strong integration with the Save As function of every program you use. And it has to be simple enough for anyone to set up.
We won't hide the fact that our top pick is FileCenter, partly because we designed it but mostly because we designed it for you. FileCenter hits every point mentioned above and does it with simplicity, with power, and with finesse, whether you're a home user or a thriving professional office.
The Right Mindset. The final tool you'll need is free but not always easy to come by or use: self-discipline. Staying paperless requires a permanent mental shift and the ongoing discipline to stick to it. But you can!
How to Go Paperless at Home
A home user is typically doing all of their work on a single computer. But that doesn't mean their paperless organization needs are simple. Home users deal with bills, receipts, digital photos, correspondence, geneology, and they often have very complicated personal projects like novels that they're writing or thousands of craft ideas to store.
The first place to start setting up your home office is the right scanner. The Canon DR-C230 is a great choice, as is the Fujitsu ScanSnap.
For the next step in your paperless office, you'll want to set up separate FileCenter cabinets for each of the major areas you deal with. For example, if you scan bills, create a Bills cabinet. Create a separate drawer for each year, and within that drawer either a folder for each month or a folder for each type of bill. You'll then scan your bills into those folders.
Digital photos are organized in a similar way. Create a cabinet for Photos. Add a drawer for each year, then within that drawer, a folder for each month or each major event. Store your photos in those folders.
For special projects, think through them with a structured mindset and create cabinets to organize them in a way that makes sense to you. There is no right or wrong way. The best organization method is the one that matches the way you think. This makes organization both predictable and effortless.
How to Go Paperless at Work
Under this topic, we assume that your workplace has not gone paperless but that you personally want to go paperless so that you can enjoy the efficiencies of a paperless office as much as possible.
Again, your paperless office starts with a scanner. You'll want the best you can afford. If you can get the company to purchase a scanner for you, you can't go wrong with the Canon DR-M260. If you have to buy your own scanner, look at the Canon DR-C230 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap. Either will serve you well.
Presumaby the shared office documents are on the network server and you can access them through Windows Explorer. If so, you're in great shape. You can install FileCenter, the best document management software for personal use, on your own machine and use it to access the network files, even if no-one else in the office uses it to go paperless. Locate the folder that contains all of the shared files and note its path. Now go into FileCenter and create a new cabinet. Call it something like Network Files. The critical step is to set its Location to the path you just noted. After you create the cabinet, all of the shared network folders are going to show up as drawers in FileCenter. If there are other network repositories, set them up in a similar way.
If you have files that you keep on your own machine, you can also set up FileCenter cabinets for those, and they'll remain private to you.
You'll now be able to scan directly into any of those cabinets, save files into the cabinets, and seamlessly open files from the cabinets using FileCenter. And your paperless system won't affect anyone else. They'll have full access to the same files just like they always had.
How to Go Paperless in the Office; The Paperless Small Business
If you're wisely converting your office into a paperless office, the setup will be largely the same as we just described. The only difference is that you'll be providing scanners for those users who need them and you'll need to set up FileCenter on each user's machine. Luckily, FileCenter has a Shared Settings feature that makes it easy to set up everyone at once. Go to our Video Tutorials and watch Cabinets Part 4: Sharing Cabinets and the two videos on Network Administration. The setup is easy, even for a layperson.
The final thing you'll want to set up is the ability to search documents. The only thing you need to do is get Windows indexing your shared archives on the server. Again, it's easy. Watch the video called Search Part 1: Indexing.
The Best Paperless Office Software
The best paperless office software requires minimal setup, provides smooth scanning, integrates tightly with all of your Windows programs, and doesn't lock away your files in a complex database. Your paperless system needs to facilitate every step of the process. Because, let's face it, going paperless already requires some significant changes to the way you work. The last thing you need is your software getting in the way.
The Best Software for Going Paperless
FileCenter carries all of the features that paperless office software should, along with many more to streamline your work. And it does all of this at a price the competition can't touch. Download a free trial today!
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