When Steve Jobs called it a magical device, people made fun of it. When he announced the name, people really made fun of it. Yet after spending a few days with it, I’m finding the iPad to be a remarkable tool.
I’ve written twice before about my quest for the paperless office and how credit unions might also pursue this sometimes quixotic goal. A key element to a successful paperless office is to be able to use .pdf files like you would use paper. You can scan any sort of paper and create a searchable .pdf file. You can also print to .pdf files. If nothing else, the iPad is the best .pdf viewer in the world.
The iPad’s app store helps the device to become the craziest Swiss Army Knife computer you’ve ever seen. Right now, I’m using two .pdf viewers: PDFReader HD and iAnnotate PDF. Both of these use a wireless connection to move .pdf files to the iPad. In fact, without Internet access, the iPad turns into an iBrick. Well, it’s not that bad because you still can access files saved on the device, but you can’t access the magic without the Internet. iAnnotate PDF is working very well for me right now. It lets me make notes in the margins of .pdf files and to highlight text. I don’t have an app that lets me write in free hand on the iPad yet, but I suspect that’s coming if it isn’t out yet.
Another App I’m using is the DragonDictate voice recorder. In fact, I dictated some of this blog post with it. I have used DragonDictate in the past with mixed results. But for some reason this iPod version works pretty well. I wonder what it could do with some real computing horsepower and training. It’s quite convenient to lie on the couch dictating into the iPad.
Finally, I’m a disciple of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. One thing that this requires, though, is using one box to put all of your things that you do. Translating that into the paperless world is a bit of a challenge. But if I can train myself to use the iPad exclusively and not to create a paper object, I will be ahead of the game. The thing is there’s real value in printing to paper and integrating the resulting paper object into Mr. Allen’s system. By creating an object not only do you have content in the object but the paper itself creates a placeholder so that you will remember to do what you need to do. This is also cross-referenced in a list. Right now, I have not worked out a .pdf system that functions the same way so I still (shamefully) print a lot of e-mails. If the iPad can get me to stop doing this, it will greatly further my progress in moving to a paperless office.
Longtime readers of TCUB will remember that I’ve written about my quest for a paperless office before. This time I have hastily thrown together a video of 3 devices I’m using to continue the quest. These are: the Addesso Cyberpad, the Amazon Kindle DX and the Fujitsu ScanSnap. Here’s the video:
The following is an article reprinted with permission from the Winter 2008 edition of The WWR Letter:
The Quest to Go Paperless
By: Rob Rutkowski, Esquire
Attorneys, like credit unions, generate a great deal of paper. Eliminating some of that paper would be very positive for both the lawyer and the credit union manager. To this end, I have recently started a quest to eliminate paper both in my office and at home.
While the scale is much different for an organization seeking to go paperless versus an individual, the goals are the same. It is not just about eliminating paper, although that is certainly worthwhile. It is about changing paper into something that is ultimately more useful than paper stored via traditional means. When you create an electronic document from a piece of paper, it must be searchable and it needs to be stored in folders that can be easily accessed later.
Nowadays, optical character recognition software has achieved a high level of accuracy. Thus for my own personal project, when I scan documents, they are converted into PDF files that are also searchable. Previously, when these documents were sitting in a file cabinet or on my credenza, they were less useful than they are now. Using a “digital” file cabinet full of documents that are searchable gives you access to all of your documents all the time. Things that you may not even remember that you have can be used again.
Fortunately, PDF files have shrunk in size. After scanning thousands of pages for my own personal project, my entire file cabinet of PDF files is only 280 MB. This takes up less than a quarter of a CD-ROM! I anticipate that I could scan every document that I have both at my office and at home and not even fill a single DVD. The data is portable, is well organized and is searchable. In short, it’s much more useful than traditional paper.
For an organization to make this leap it is a question of magnitude. Instead of thousands of pages to scan, it may be tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of pages. A personal scanner is not going to work in this sort of situation. The good news is that there are vendors that can help with the software and the equipment necessary to run such an operation.
I am just at the beginning of my paperless quest. I still have questions about security and backing up my data. I’m sure that there are things I have not yet even considered. There always are. This, however, will be the stuff of future articles.
Robert Rutkowski is the Managing Partner of WWR’s Credit Union department. Based in the Brooklyn Heights operations center, he can be reached at (216) 739-5004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.