The complete guide to going paperless

Get your shredder ready, it's time to go paperless

Go paperless

Since the 1s and 0s of the first email exchange made their way across the Web, people have envisioned a paperless future where documents live on computers and every 'In' tray is a virtual one. With today's super-thin tablets, cloud storage networks and mobile apps, going paperless is more viable than it's ever been before.

To turn the idea of a paperless office (or home office) into a reality, you're going to need to get to grips with some of the kit and apps available. You're also going to need to spend some time working out processes for incoming and existing paperwork that needs to be dealt with.

Article continues below

Converting documents

If you're going to go all in with the paperless principle, then you have to do something about the mountains of paperwork you already have. There are dozens of flatbed scanners to choose from and you may even have one integrated into your printer. But the Doxie Go (US$199, £169, about AU$218) is worth a look too. This rechargeable, portable scanner can work with or without a PC to hand, and will make short work of ploughing through your documents.

Doxie Go Scanner
The Doxie Go can scan documents without a computer.

The software included with the Doxie Go is handy as well, letting you clip pages together, export files as PDFs and upload your scans to a cloud storage service such as Evernote or Dropbox.

The models in Fujitsu's ScanSnap range fulfil a similar purpose, and can handle bigger batches of documents at once if you're prepared to pay more money. You can pick up last year's iX500 model for about £370 (US$495, AU$524) online.

Fujitsu iX500
The iX500 from Fujitsu can handle multiple sheets at once

The widely recognised PDF should be the format of choice for your documents, particularly if you can get hold of OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software that is able to catalogue the text within the pages. By cataloguing and naming your documents as they come in you can avoid a bottleneck from happening further down the line.

Managing documents

In your journey from document overload to paperless nirvana it's important that you don't just swap a physical mess for a digital one. Being able to organise and search through the documents you create is vital, so devote some serious time to working out a system that you're happy with.

Evernote is able to handle documents and images with aplomb

Evernote is the poster boy for the paperless revolution, letting you collect together all manner of images, documents and links in one overarching library of digital notebooks.

The beauty of Evernote lies in its open-ended flexibility, which means you can use it in all kinds of different ways. A basic account is free, but if you choose to upgrade to the premium plan for £3 a month (US$5, AU$11) then you get an offline mode, collaboration tools and the ability to search inside PDFs and other documents.

Evernote includes a tagging function just like Gmail, so you can set up a series of tags to keep your digital paperwork in order. Of course, you don't have to overcomplicate matters if a simple set of Windows folders does the job, but as always make sure you have backups in place if you are shredding the originals.

Microsoft OneNote
The desktop version of OneNote handles attachments and scans

Microsoft's Evernote rival OneNote (£39.99, US$49.99, AU$59.99) works along similar lines, though support for attaching files is only available in the desktop version of the app.

At the small business end of the market, full document management suites like PaperPort Professional (£99.99, US$199, AU$199.95) and FileCenter Pro (US$199.95, about £121, AU$219) offer more advanced database features with automatic text scanning and conversion.