As the popularity of Evernote continues to rise people are finding more and more ways to use it. As I describe in my book, Evernote Every Day, much of what Evernote is being used for is going “paperless”. Personally I’ve never really liked that term, “paperless.” While it sounds great, in reality it’s an unobtainable goal. Paper is here to stay. However, it is possible though to achieve a life with less paper. The crux of this is being able to quickly and easily turn paper into a note in Evernote with high quality. Here are some ways that you can do this.
It’s staggering to think how widespread smartphones have become in just a few short years. In fact, as of September 2013, 62% of people (147.9 million) in the US alone have a smart phone. For the majority that is an iPhone, Android, or, dare i say it, Windows phone. That makes the mobile device one of the most common document scanning devices around. Here’s how.
The Evernote App
Evernote, being a ubiquitous service, is available on just about all mobile devices. And Evernote knows how people want to use their service. As such, they have created a “document camera” as part of their mobile application. With the document camera it’s easy to snap a photo of a document and have the app automatically crop it to remove the background, apply a filter so that the content of the document is more legible, and adjust the angle so that the document looks as flat as possible. The result looks very similar to a document that has been scanned “as text” using a desktop/office scanner. This is then saved as an image note in Evernote. The camera within the Evernote app lets you take multiple photos in a single session and then save them all to the note in one hit. This saves a lot of time when processing documents with multiple pages. The drawback of how the Evernote document camera operates is that each photo is saved as a separate image. That means that even though the entire document exists in a single note in Evernote, they will actually be separate files. The upside is that Evernote will always show you the document since it’s an image – it won’t appear as an attachment to a note.
There are also many other mobile apps available that can take a photo of a document and adjust the text and position for you automatically. Some of these apps also allow you to send the result to your Evernote account. If an app exclusively focuses on document scanning you should expect the resulting digital document to be of reasonably good quality. I have tried both Scanner Pro and Genius Scan and they’re both great. I prefer Genius Scan as it gives me the opinion to build a multi-page document, save it as a PDF document, and export it to Evernote.
When using any kind of mobile app to “scan” a document the most important thing to remember is to get the document as flat as possible (reverse any folds and flatten any wrinkles) and lay it on a surface that contrasts with the colour of the paper.
Tip: avoid laying the document on a shiny surface as the flash for the camera can make the edges of the document hard for the app to recognise.
Scanners, both flat-bed and sheet feeders are great ways to turn paper documents into digital ones. There are many scanners that form part of a multifunction device that also includes a printer. Often these multifunction devices will come bundled with their own proprietary software for scanning. Of course, it’s entirely up to you if you use this software or not. However, these software packages are generally perfectly fine and make the scanning process straightforward and often you can scan multiple pages and have them compiled into a single PDF file.
Desktop scanners generally produce a clear and crisp scan, which is great since it helps to allow Evernote to search through it for text you’re looking for. With the file scanned in using the software of your choice, and saved to, say, your desktop, simply drag the file from the desktop to the Evernote icon in your dock or taskbar and drop. Evernote will create a new note with the PDF document inside it. The name of the file will become the name of the note. Update the name, edit the tags, and select to move the note to the notebook of your choice. Now that the document is safe inside Evernote the file on the desktop can be deleted.
Windows users can take advantage of the “Import Folder” feature. This allows you to select a folder on your computer so that whenever a file is moved or copied into this folder Evernote will automatically create a note with it.
Evernote has partnered with Fujitsu to develop the ScanSnap Evernote Edition Scanner. This device will scan your documents at the push of a button and load them directly into Evernote. This removes that additional step of moving the document into Evernote or setting up any Import Folders. The downside is that it’s close to $500.
There are many ways to turn your paper documents, receipts, and more into their digital equivalent. While I have a desktop multifunction device, I tend not to use it for scanning. It’s big, bulky and takes a lot more time to get a document scanned. For what I need I mostly use the document camera built-in to the Evernote app for iOS. It’s quick, convenient and the results is enough for me. The documents I scan into Evernote includes almost everything that comes into my mailbox (that isn’t junk mail). I also take a photo (scan with Evernote document camera) my physical notebook that I use to take notes and draw diagrams during meetings.
Once you start to capture your paper documents into your Evernote account using one of these methods you’ll start to capture more and more. This makes you’re Evernote much more powerful. And better still you’ll be able to carry your entire filing cabinet and more in your pocket.
Find out more about living with less paper, and much more in my book, Evernote Every Day.