I have been on a journey to paperless for a few years now. It isn’t as easy as you would think. Google has replaced the Filofax that used to hold everything I knew. Evernote has replaced my business and personal journals. Below is a short list of the tools/apps that have made me mostly paper free in 2012 and the goal is paperless in 2013.
In order to give up the paper, folders, pens you are going to need some hardware. I have other devices that jump in and out of usage but the A-Team players include; iPhone, iPad and a Mac desktop (Mac pro, iMac, MacBook Air).
The reason I have settled on the mac platform is that the applications that are available in the App Store are of a higher quality and stability than their counterparts in the Google Play Store.
Sidebar: I love Android and the Nexus 7 is an amazing machine. It is just that when I fall in love with an app, the version available for Android is either non-existant or not as polished and ready for primetime as the iOS version.
It sounds simple but Google (Gmail, Contacts, Calendar and Docs) has made my digital life easy and organized. I try to keep my Google Contacts to a max of 2,500. More than that and I find it hard to locate numbers and emails on my phone.
Google Docs (now part of Google Drive) is the Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Drawing and Form software from Google. At first I was unsure about depending on it so much. There are fun things that you can do with fonts and layouts that can be done in Microsoft Word that are not available on Google Docs. What I found is that the clean interface keeps me focused on the content more than the extras. Sharing a document is easy and people that you share with are all editing the same document so there are no version issues. Anyone can edit at anytime and if two (or more) people are editing the same file you can see where they are by highlighted colors. If I am typing at the top of a paragraph my curser is blue, the person I shared with can be editing the next sentence and I see an orange curser with the person’s name under it.
In order to go paperless you need to have a place to take notes while in business meetings or onsite at a clients or industry conference. The solution needs to be simple, simple, simple to use. It has to be intuitive and powerful but also balanced with minimalism. There are a few areas that Evernote shines in. Basic note taking is a breeze. I have a meeting folder that has all my notes from meetings. I don’t loose information and Evernote allows you to search so reviewing meeting notes and action items is very easy. Another area that EverNote shines in is their Web Clipper extensions for Chrome and Safari. This lets me take snapshots of webpages while I am on the web. Because it all syncs I don’t have to worry about where I took the note to find it. If I write on my iPad, then im on the train with my iPhone all my notes are there. When I get home or to the office, all my notes are there.
I often need to send back contracts with my signature. Most of the time it is confirmations of trade show booth orders or trade publication agreements. The supplier will send me a PDF that I have to fill out, sign and send back. Doing this the old way; I would download the PDF, Walk to get the Printed PDF off the printer, Fill in the form back at my desk, Walk to the copier/scanner to digitize the document, back to my desk to connect to the networked scanner and retrieve my file, put that on my desktop and then email it back to the sender. It is so easy to just open the email on my iPad, click the attached PDF and choose “open in Sign-n-Send”. In the app, I can add text, check the boxes I want, then sign with my finger and click “send”. The edited PDF is returned to the sender and only 1 copy is stored on my device.
DropBox & Google Drive
This is one area that I can’t pick a favorite so I use both. DropBox and Google Drive are both sync’d cloud storage drives. On DropBox I have 100gigs ($99/year) and Google Drive 5gigs (100gigs would be $60/year). I have had dropbox for years also every now and then there is a large file (5+gigs) that I need to send to someone. With DropBox you can create a shared folder, put the file or files in and email the person you want to share with. This is another sync’d service so my iPad, Desktop, iPhone all all in sync. Whatever I do on the iPad is automatically on the desktop. I keep all my active files here so that no matter where I am, there are my files.
I like to keep my To Do List separate from other programs. For me, it helps to keep my notes, files, digital clutter separated from my deliverables. I have tried many other list apps and sites but I needed one that was both a good app and a good site AND sync’d. That is what I love about Toodledo. The interface is clean, it is easy to make tasks, give them notes or sub-tasks. It also is sync’d in the cloud so all my hardware is in Sync.
Sketching / Scrap / Doodling
For me there are just times that I need to draw (I am NOT an artist) something out to see the whole concept or how something relates to a larger effort. This activity in my Papered Life was done with many notebooks, scratch pads, Post-it notes all over my desks. Now in my Paperless Life I needed something that I can jot, scribble, doodle on.
Today I am torn between a few great apps. I think the reason that I don’t have just one is that they are all great apps and all share some common strengths such as; sync with dropbox, provide me many pen/pencil/brush options. The Apps that I am currently loving include:Moleskine: It is as close to a digital version of the book as you can get. Paper53: So easy to sketch notes and doodlesNoteShelf: Great for that hybrid typing or hand writing note times. This is my default note app.