You've heard me rave ... about my “paperless office” solution, with a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 scanner and DEVONthink Pro Office. I've been using these to process all my paperwork for over a year and a half now. I'm to the point now where I'd really be unhappy if I had to go back to paper. I'm totally and completely addicted to the search capability in DEVONthink Pro Office – and the scanner works so well, so effortlessly, that I still have trouble believing it.
Now I've got a new reason to celebrate the glories of this setup: dealing with the large amount of paper that I just inherited from my mom. I have several boxes full of papers with all sorts of things on them that I'd like to preserve and share with my relatives: her recipes, her letters, jokes, saved emails and letters from dad, her kids, and her friends, and so on. I'm guessing that I've got 2,000 to 3,000 pages of such documents (that's not counting the 1,000+ photos). So far I've scanned in about 700 pages. I've spent around 10 hours doing this, mainly in unpacking, removing creases, fixing dog-ears, etc. to prepare the papers for scanning. The scanning process itself is crazy fast at 25 pages per minute. It takes about a minute per full page (and much less for smaller pages) to convert the scanned images to an images-plus-text PDF format; as I write this, my computer is chunking away on about 100 pages of that work.
I'm delighted with how easy this is to do, and how effective the results are. I can now search through mom's papers just as if I had Google available for them. For instance, just now I searched for “cobbler” and found three copies of “Marion’s Peach Cobbler”. The search took under one second. An aside: I'm astonished that mom had any recipes from (I presume) my Aunt Marion – she had a reputation for producing food that nobody wanted to eat, other than my Uncle Donald (her husband and my dad's brother).
Just as critical to the success of this work is my shredder: a Fellowes 225Mi. That thing is a workhorse and a half. It shreds up to 30 pages at a time, shrugs off staples and paperclips, and chews through CDs, DVDs, credit cards, etc. with the greatest of ease. The results of the shredding are tiny little pieces of paper, like grains of rice. It compresses nicely, and also makes a great fire starter :)
The giant pile of photos won't be quite so easy, unfortunately. I will be scanning them on a flatbed scanner, to get the best resolution possible. Where I have negatives, I'll be scanning them as well, for the same reason. Each photo will have to be scanned manually, one-at-a-time. Slides I can do in batches of 20. Even more challenging, many of the photos have writing on the back, and I want to preserve that as well - and that means those photos will have to be scanned twice (once for each side). That's gonna take a while!