I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I just bought my very first scanner. I have a bit of an aversion to office equipment, but I got a job that involves a lot of scanning and decided that I’d rather do it sitting at my desk at home than standing at the monster all-in-one copier at our family winery after hours.
My aversion is many-fold: First of all, office equipment is usually ugly. Steve Jobs’ sexy-sleek Apple items aside, copiers and printers and things are bulky and blocky, and that ubiquitous cement/putty/greige color is so spirit-deadening it makes you want to slump into your cubicle and cry.
The second reason I hate office equipment: breakdowns or upgrades. Printers eat expensive ink. Copiers jam or need expensive drum replacements. Apple needs me to upgrade constantly or starts to go buggy. When technology is not working, it’s a pain in the ass, especially if you keep your wallet in your back pocket.
But I have to tell you about my scanner; I’ve fallen in love with it. The helpful, knowledgeable person at the office store (a total anomaly, I know, but ask for Eileen at Staples on Trancas Street) steered me away from the thousand-dollar all-in-one I thought I had to splurge for to get a quality scanner and introduced me to the Epson GT-1500. It had everything I needed for around $200. (I’m sure there are lots of great brands and models; that just happens to be the one I purchased.)
What to look for: a document feeder that accepts no less than 20 pages at a time. But important for me, this model also has a flatbed scanner option so that I can lay down odd-sized documents or documents with staples or tape on them that would jam in the auto-feeder. It’s also fast, scanning 20 pages per minute, so that I can get through big jobs quickly.
I’ve been scanning like mad and the machine shows no signs of giving out. My client’s goal of paperless financial archives is becoming a reality. As I scan each file, I give it a logical name and date. For example, 1986 Home Improvement Invoices. The software that comes with the scanner makes each PDF (scanned image) searchable. Meaning, a simple computer search for a keyword can make finding documents almost instantaneous.
The real arrow to the heart that made me love my scanner? The fact that I’ve found all sorts of personal uses for it. My attorney needs a copy of a document? I scan and email it. My accountant needs a copy of my mortgage statement? Same deal. No more driving to get a copy, putting it in an envelope and using a stamp, so I save a little money and a lot of time.
I was born in the 1960s, and like most people in my generation, I love paper. I still love writing longhand. I love real books. But the more I learn about and experiment with digital technology, the more I like it. After all, comfort and familiarity are behind most of our preferences. I wouldn’t go back to a film camera and print photos. I’m looking forward to scanning some of my own old documents.
A fellow organizer turned me on to Brooks Duncan, founder of Document Snap. He helps businesses go paperless and has a website with lots of good information on it. I’m looking forward to becoming adept in this area — I’ve put it off a long time. I’ll share what I learn in future columns.
I’m guessing my next purchase will be a shredder, but for now I’m taking it to Staples where they send it out to a shredding company for 99 cents a pound. If you want to do it yourself, you can take it to Office Depot and shred away. It might be a good way to get out your frustration with any office equipment breakdowns and cure the putty-gray plastic blues.