While most business people now own scanners, only a small percentage have realized the greatest benefit that a scanner combined with a personal computer can provide, that being business without paper.

Given that paper isn't particularly hard to store, many have never seriously considered the benefits of working in a "paperless" environment.

Storing paper documents is not difficult. However, when you consider the very reasons that we retain paper, you begin to see the inefficiencies and the need for a better alternative.

For the most part, we file documents, contracts and receipts:

  1. "Just in case" we ever need to retrieve them for legal reasons. This would include tax preparation, legal proceedings and for warranty purposes.
  2. So that we can share them with others, during contract negotiations for instance.
  3. As part of our business research, again, for future retrieval.

For the most part, we save paper-based information based on the possibility of future retrieval and/or sharing with others, and this is where paper causes problems.

Retrieving just one document that has been stored in a physical format can take anywhere from a few minutes, to several hours, or even days. The time required to retrieve any piece of paper simply depends upon:

  1. How long it has been since the paper was stored
  2. The efficiency of the storage method
  3. The physical location of the stored document.

Sometimes, the paper you need is in your desk drawer and immediately available. Other times, it is stored off-site and may require substantial amounts of time to retrieve. This is where electronic document management generates the greatest benefits.

While digital storage in a computer file certainly saves space, it is the ability to instantly recall documents, regardless of their location in the computer or the length of their storage.

This reality dictates that successfully becoming "paperless" is directly tied to the quality of the electronic document management software that you use.

For years I've been writing about, demonstrating and using such a document management program called PaperPort, from Scansoft.

The latest release, PaperPort Office Pro 9 makes the task of eliminating paper even easier and more efficient than before.

Likely the most obvious reason that PaperPort has been so successful is the interface, which effectively mimics the look and feel of paper and filing drawers.

Stored documents are visually recognizable, can be labeled, and can be stacked together, just as with paper.

Further, PaperPort allows you to edit, add comments, mark-up with a highlighter and ever attach "sticky notes," just as you would with real paper.

The important benefit to using PaperPort however, relates back to why we store such information in the first place: for future retrieval and sharing with others.

As there's no practical limit as to how much paper can be stored in PaperPort, (at least for small to medium sized businesses) documents can be quickly found regardless of their original storage date. Naturally, if you're unsure of exactly where you've stored a document, PaperPort can quickly search and locate the item for you.

For all intents and purposes, no document is much further than thirty-seconds away.

When it comes to the need to share documents with others, this latest version of PaperPort now natively supports the ubiquitous Adobe PDF format. This makes the emailing and/or uploading of information to a web site a snap.

As an added bonus, not only is the PDF format more universally supported, but it results in smaller file sizes, requiring less space on your hard drive, as well.

PaperPort also works well in conjunction with Internet faxing services, for the times when you need to share information in a more traditional manner. Alternatively, you can always print what you have stored, just in case you are collaborating with others who might actually still prefer the US mail.

Finally, Paperport also inlcudes a simple, but handy, FormTyper that enables you to quicky fill in blank lines within scanned documents.

With this latest release, PaperPort is now available in two versions: Pro Office ($200) and Deluxe ($100). While the Deluxe edition is more than adequate for consumer uses, business users should commit to the Pro Office release.

More information, (and upgrade discount information) is available from ScanSoft's web site - http://scansoft.com/paperport

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Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale