Recently I came across a post on Lifehacker entitled How I Went Completely Paperless in Two Days and it reminded me of my half-assed attempt to go paperless. Paper is by far one of the biggest problems in our house. Various things get stacked and tossed in different piles. Most of the time it’s not an issue but then there will be times like at Christmas when I couldn’t find an important notice from my RRSP provider. Ugh.
What is Evernote?
Evernote is a fantastic application which allows you to keep notes on anything. It’s web enabled so you can login to the website or install any of the desktop or mobile apps and view/edit/create notes from anywhere. It’s also FREE!
Yes, this process of going paperless with Evernote can involve putting your stuff “in the cloud” and using Evernote may not be for you if that is a major concern. I say can because it’s possible to just digitize your papers and use a local notebook in Evernote and then nothing gets sent off of your computer. The downside of that is then you don’t get the built-in backup solution offered by syncing your documents with the Evernote servers. Evernote has gone to great lengths to show it is security minded. If you are still hesitant then it’s possible to encrypt notes before syncing but maybe going paperless this way isn’t an option for you.
If you don’t already have an account, go to Evernote and signup for the Free account and then download and install the application on your computer. Oh, I have a note about free vs premium accounts later.
You need a scanner!
So Lifehacker recommended the Doxie One or Doxie Go but both of these seem expensive for single function scanners that don’t make it easy to zip through multi-page documents. What you need is something with an Auto Document Feeder (ADF) and even more important, something that will scan double sided! You could go and shell out $450+ on a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 (which is one of the Evernote partner scanners) but I have a better solution that costs much less and offers much more.
We have a Canon Pixma MX882 (the Canon Pixma MX892 is the current model with a few more features) which is an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax. There are four fantastic features of this Canon all-in-one that make it great for going paperless:
- It has a 35 page Auto Document Feeder (ADF)!
- It can scan letter or A4 sized pages double sided (duplex) from the ADF!
- It has wireless built-in!
- The included Canon MP Navigator EX software will actually create searchable PDFs!
All of this from an all-in-one that can be picked up for less than $150 when it’s on sale (It’s on sale a lot at places like Staples). There are some older/cheaper multi-function Canon scanners that may provide some of the same features. I can’t really comment on others though as when I was searching for a scanner that did duplex scanning from an ADF, it was damn hard to find out that the Pixma MX882 did.
Oh, and keep in mind that you are also getting one of the Premium Evernote features included with the Canon MP Navigator EX software - searchable PDFs! This is extremely powerful as Evernote will then be able to search the content of your PDFs, even without the Premium account.
Setting Up Evernote
The Canon Pixma scanners are not “integrated” with Evernote like the Fujitsu ones or some other brands. That’s not a problem because Evernote offers the ability to monitor a directory on your computer for files to be imported automatically to Evernote. All you have to do is put your newly scanned documents into that folder and they get imported into Evernote.
First, create a new notebook in Evernote called something like “Unsorted“. This is where our new PDFs are going to get imported. If you don’t want it to get synced, make sure it’s a local notebook. An advantage of making it a regular (synced) notebook is then you can sort and tag the contents anytime from anywhere via the web interface. This is also handy if you just scan everything as it shows up and then sort/tag the documents at a later, more convenient time.
Next, create a folder on your computer that will be your “For Evernote” folder. I just have this on my desktop but it can be anywhere that make sense for you.
Once you have the new notebook and new folder created, go to Tools -> Import Folders… which will allow you to add a new folder for Evernote to watch. Oh, and yes, I’m still running Windows XP on my PC so the screen shots I’ve included may look different on your computer.
Hit the Add button and navigate to your “For Evernote” folder. Then you just set Evernote to import into your “Unsorted” notebook. To have Evernote cleanup after itself, set the Source to “Delete” instead of “Keep”. This way your “For Evernote” folder will always be empty after Evernote had imported the new PDFs you add.
Evernote Free vs Premium
I haven’t needed the premium account as the amount of stuff I put into Evernote seems to stay under the monthly 60MB maximum. If you are going to scan everything at once, you may consider the premium plan for at least a month to get the 1GB/month of uploads. With the method described above, the worst case is your “For Evernote” folder has files left in it when you run out of upload allowance. At the start of the next month cycle they should just get uploaded like normal.
Setting Up the Canon MP Navigator EX Software
Open the software and hit the Preferences button (it’s in the top right corner of the application in my version). Under “Save Settings”, you can do one of two things – either set the “Save In” folder to be the same “For Evernote” folder that you created before, or create a second folder that’s your temporary scan destination.
Personally, I use a secondary folder because this gives you the opportunity to verify scans. You can use the built-in PDF editor in the Canon software to fix any PDFs that might have had extra blank pages added (due to duplex scanning from the ADF). Then you just manually move the scanned file(s) in to the “For Evernote” folder and watch Evernote import them.
Now all you need to do is start scanning your documents. Unlike in the Lifehacker article, you can toss a multi-page document into the Canon Pixma’s ADF, hit scan and walk away until it’s time to load the next document. This is very handy as each document you scan gets saved as exactly that, one document. There is no manual post processing required to group scanned pages together.
To make the most of this I try to toss a new document into the scanner as soon as I get it. Hit scan, walk away. Then I can come back later, verify it and move the PDF to the “For Evernote” directory to be imported by Evernote and stored forever. I can then grab the paper document and toss it into the shredder. Done!
Once the document is in Evernote you can then move it to a different Notebook, add any tags you want or add extra text to the note. You have all the power of Evernote at your finger tips.
Top image credit: mrsdkrebs