Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Document Scanner

This is the ScanSnap s300 by Fujitsu. It's not the only document scanner in the world, but it's the one I have been using for a few months now. I won't bother to give a product review, there are many online, but instead I will tell you why I like it so much.

First, it's important to distinguish between a flatbed scanner and a document scanner. They serve two different purposes. A flatbed scanner is what you need to scan a single photo or page in a document. A document scanner on the other hand allows you to scan a stack of sheets of paper and scan it all at once, and with the s300, you can scan both side of each page at the same time.

Why scan your documents?

Even if you are able to keep things neatly filed, document scanning is still for you!

I'll give a brief overview of what this particular scanner does, and then how I use it.

The s300 comes with some paper management software that I don't use. I prefer to keep everything as non proprietary as possible. To use the scanner you flip open the lid and it powers on, then you load all of your papers in. The scanner can create a searchable .pdf file. After you have loaded the pages you want to go in a particular pdf file you push the button on the scanner. The scanner reads both front and back at the same time and pretty quickly, and in full color. I set the quality a bit higher than the default setting and it can scan about 10 pages in less than a minute. Then depending on how much text was scanned it will take 30 seconds to a few minutes to create the searchable pdf. Then you choose where you want it to go and what you want it to be named. Amazon has a nice video describing the s300.

I scan any paperwork that might be worth keeping- all of my bills, any nag letters from the HOA, bank statements, receipts worth keeping, or anything I might want to see again. After it's scanned it goes right to the shredder.

I store all of my personal documents on a network drive in my home. That happens to be a RAID mirror (raid 1). Redundancy isn't enough for me so I also back it up using Jungledisk (a service worthy of it's own blog entry) Jungledisk is an application that scans your selected folders for new or modified files and uploads them to Amazon's servers for a surprisingly reasonable price.

I also use a free Microsoft service called Foldershare so I can have unlimited free access to my files where ever I have internet access, it also will sync some folders if you want

I know this sounds like a lot of work, the payoff is big.

  • Any printed document that I have scanned will easy to find and print
  • It doesn't take any space
  • It's all backed up automatically while I sleep
  • Every word is searchable using finder or explorer
  • No matter where in the world I am I have access to all of my documents
  • The time it takes to scan is no more than it takes to file
  • Any document can easily be emailed
  • You can actually find what you are looking for!
I am in the process of scanning older documents so I can get rid of the filing cabinets and boxes of old papers that I might need some day.

Hard disk space is so plentiful and cheap I could conceivably keep all of my documents indefinitely, and none of my friends will ever know that I am a secret pack rat.
~Jay Morrissette, the pack rat

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