I have written numerous times over the years about the benefits of owning a personal scanner. I’m not talking about the old-style flatbed scanners that were slow to scan, finicky, and only provided one-sided scans after you’d opened the lid, placed your document, and then closed the lid. These days, feeder-type scanners that can do double-sided full-color scans can help you whittle down your paper clutter quickly and easily.
My go-to scanner that sits on my desk is the ScanSnap iX500 (my review here). The tray can hold up to 50+ pages at a time, and its double-sided scan ability is fast. The iX500 can scan documents as JPEGs or PDFs in various resolutions (600 dpi is my default), and the included software allows you to select how scans will be saved — in a folder, as a Word doc, as an email attachment, and half a dozen other options. A few years ago they added the ability to connect to the iX500 with a tablet using the scanner’s built-in WiFi support — no need to have the iX500 connected to a computer unless you just want to do so.
For some time now, my iPad has been my primary method for examining and organizing my scans. I have a large clear box in my office labeled SCAN that builds up a stack of paperwork, and once a month I sit down and feed it all into the scanner. As the documents are scanned, I send them to Dropbox with the push of a button. Sometimes I use my PC when I need to perform some minor editing of a scan or save them to a location other than Dropbox. It works great, and my home-office remains 99% paperless.
I honestly didn’t think the ScanSnap folks at Fujitsu could improve on the scanning process — in goes the paper, select the scan’s location with your tablet, phone or computer, and all done. But guess what? ScanSnap found a way.
It’s called ScanSnap Cloud, and it works by taking your scans and pushing them out to a number of cloud services that you probably already use. The service works with both the ScanSnap iX500 and the iX100 (my review of iX100 here) and is available for Windows and Mac. Here’s the basic idea:
- ScanSnap Cloud uses four possible categories for scans — Documents, Photos, Receipts, and Business Cards.
- After installing the ScanSnap Cloud app, you create a ScanSnap user account that allows you to specify one or more cloud storage services that you wish to use. Current options include Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, OneDrive, Expensify, and Google Photos.
- After creating your user account, you specify a cloud service for each of the four categories — there’s an option to select one for all to make things easier, but you could, for example, select Dropbox for the Documents category, Google Photos for Photos, Expensify for Receipts and Evernote for Business Cards. Or some other combination.
- Once you select a cloud service for a category, a default folder is created called ScanSnap. Scans for the Documents category are stored in that folder, while the other three categories are stored in subfolders created automatically in the ScanSnap folder. But you can change the name and location of any or all of these default locations. For example, if you’d prefer your photo scans to go to a folder called Family Photos, this can be changed during the ScanSnap Cloud installation or afterwards by opening the ScanSnap Cloud app and logging in and changing them in your profile.
- Once your cloud service(s) is selected and the subfolders defined for the four categories, just place a document in the iX500 or iX100 and press the Scan button. The ScanSnap software automatically detects what you’re scanning — it’s pretty smart about distinguishing between photos, receipts and business cards… I tested a bunch of these and it got each and every one of them right.
The ScanSnap Cloud workflow solution is basically Scan and Forget. I do get a notification on my MacBook Air (where the app is installed) when a scan is sent to Dropbox (and this can be disabled) but I usually don’t WANT to be on my laptop when the scan is processing. I let the scanner deal with Dropbox and getting my scans into their proper folder. Should I wish to move documents into other folders, I can do this when I have time and the inclination… not at the time of the scan as with my previous workflow process.
While I thought that simply scanning and forgetting would be my favorite part, it actually turns out that the automatic detection and sorting of receipts has become my new favorite feature. I’m teaching five week-long camps this summer and I have a LOT of receipts to track for each class. Last summer, I turned in an envelope of receipts for one camp and it was lost. I learned my lesson after that and made scans of all my receipts. It’s become a habit now, and I even have a small box in my office where I drop receipts for scanning. Now, they go right into a Receipts subfolder that I know is backed up and available from my phone for a quick look.
Is that it for ScanSnap Cloud? Nope. During the scan, a number of checks are being made that include auto-color detection (a black-and-white scan of a page of just text will save on storage space, for example), auto-skew correction (making sure your final digital version isn’t angled funny), auto-orientation (you don’t want your scans upside down!), auto-blank page removal (again, saves on storage space), and a few more checks. Smart Naming is also enabled, allowing you to select a scan naming scheme or even define a custom one.
If you’re like me, you may find yourself wondering if the four basic categories (Documents, Receipts, Photos, Business Cards) are too limiting. They’re not. Because you can easily re-configure a primary folder as well as subfolders from within the ScanSnap Cloud app, you can create specialty folders. For example, if you plan on scanning in a year or more of bank statements, simply create a folder called Bank Statements 2016, login to ScanSnap Cloud and change the default folder for Documents to Bank Statements 2016. Scan your documents and know that they’ll be tucked away in that special folder. Just be sure to change the default folder back when done. This option should reduce the need to go into the ScanSnap folder, for example, and locate and pull out all the statements at a later date.
It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I read David Sparks’ book, Paperless, and got started down this path. Without the iX500, I don’t think I would have ever gotten control of my paper clutter. I’ve scanned just about everything — magazine articles, bills, receipts, kids drawings, report cards, etc. It’s never really been a tedious activity with the ScanSnap scanner, but now with the ScanSnap Cloud service, my scanning will be faster… more efficient. The processing of my scans is done automatically, behind the scenes, and the scans are sent up to the cloud where I can always access them and where I know they are backed up and secure and waiting.
The ScanSnap Cloud software is a free application available for current iX100 and iX500 and will perform a firmware update when the app is first installed. You can download ScanSnap Cloud at http://scansnapcloud.com/.