A paperless life with the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner

I recently bought two Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners: one for the office (Mac version) and one as a gift for my brother (PC version).

For as long as I can remember, I have had a strong aversion for paper documents. You know, bank statements, invoices to pay, receipts, leases, you name it. Some of these things can be thrown away, but others should be kept for a while just in case. I also have the notion that in this day and age, we shouldn't need to destroy information.

The problem is that paper documents just seem to pile up in a disorganized way unless you make some very serious organization efforts involving old-fashioned hardware like staples, folders, binders, and cardboard boxes. In the end this takes a lot of space and you don't even know where the stuff is. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

So the obvious solution is to go paperless, which involves scanning those documents which you don't get in electronic form. Going that route with a regular flatbed scanner involves:
  • Placing a sheet on the scanner
  • Going to your scanning software and starting the scan
  • If necessary: turning the page to scan the reverse side
Then repeat until you have scanned all the pages. After that, you may be happy with just plain image files, or you may want to fire your PDF-making software and/or your OCR software. If you are really lucky, things will be smooth enough. But in the end the whole process is just hell for any document with more than one page. I think you have to be somewhat superhuman to consistently go this route. I personally tried and failed.

Enter the ScanSnap:
  • Put your multi-page front and back document in the tray
  • Press the button on the scanner
  • Voila: your PDF file is ready
The ScanSnap is able to scan in duplex, that is front and back (with an option to automatically remove blank pages). It also comes with OCR software which can create searchable PDF documents as an optional (but computationally intensive) step.

It's just amazing how fast you can scan piles of year-old documents with this toy. In fact, scanning actually becomes fun. The hardest task is to name the resulting PDF files and move them into folders (although in theory you could skip this step if you are happy with automatically-generated file names and if you plan to rely 100% on content search).