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Going Paperless With Your iPhone and Evernote

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Evernote

The lease on my apartment was ending in a couple weeks and I didn’t have any plans to renew it. Instead, I decided to live in Europe and Asia for a couple months and then return back to LA. As I was cleaning my apartment, I realized I needed to keep all these important paper documents but I had no physical space to store them. With me being abroad for a couple months, I had to figure out a way to keep these documents, but I didn’t want to bring them with me and I needed to have all my important documents easily accessible while abroad. What to do?

iPhone and Evernote to the rescue!

Out of necessity I found a cheap and quick solution to my problem: use my iPhone to scan all the documents and have Evernote as my storage medium. This is a great solution when you don’t have access to any scanner but you still want/need to keep paper in digital format. I accidentally found a great way of going paperless and an easy way to search and access my important documents. There are many advantages for going paperless and having everything stored in digital format:

  • No papers to store and carry around
  • No more clutter around the room
  • Save money
  • Going green and saving the environment
  • Access anywhere, anytime

This is especially useful for people who travel a lot and need to be able to access their documents on the go (like yours truly). The great thing about using Evernote as storage medium is that it has the ability to read text in scanned documents. This is HUGE and what made me choose it over using Dropbox or Google docs. While I love both Dropbox and Google docs, you can’t search for text within scanned images. Evernote supports OCR scanning so it can recognize text within images and makes it accessible for search. If you have a premium Evernote account, it can also search within PDF files for you.

Disclaimer: I will recommend that using a full fledge scanner, or a mobile scanner such as the Fujitsu Scansnap (hey Fujitsu, if you’re reading this we would love to have one and review it for you guys!), is a better alternative than the iPhone. It’s more accurate and will give you higher resolution copies. However, this article will show you how can do all this with the iPhone.

In this article I will use Evernote (free account will do, although I have premium) and an iPhone 4. For the iPhone, you need to purchase the app JotNot Scanner Pro because it will act like our scanner. You can buy it for $0.99 in the App store.

Note: I’ve tried different apps like Docscanner and Scanner Pro. These are also great apps but they use PDF as primary format, which make them not searchable within Evernote unless you have the premium account. Although I think Scanner Pro is the best app (most features and very customizable), JotNot is easier to use, cheaper, and natively stores files in image formats which make them searchable in Evernote.

EDIT: Check out our list of Essential iPhone Apps for an updated perspective on this.

Since Evernote is supported on all major platforms (OS X, Windows, iOS and Android) you will be able to access your information anywhere, anytime and with any device. What’s not to like about that?

NOTE: The fastest way to learn Evernote is by checking out Evernote Essentials. Written by our friend Brett Kelly (who works at Evernote) he will show you step-by-step how to use Evernote the right way with plenty of examples.

Setup iPhone and Evernote

Assuming you have created an Evernote account (free account is good enough), the first thing you need to do is create a new notebook called “Documents”. Here’s how you do it (my screenshots show the Mac OS X version, it looks a little different on Windows).

1. Go to File > New Notebook (or press Shift+Command+N).

Create a new notebook in Evernote

Create a new notebook in Evernote

2. Name your notebook “Documents”.

Name your notebook 'Documents'

Name your notebook 'Documents'

For your iPhone, buy the JotNot Scanner app for $0.99. It’s worth it.

In this article I will be using the following a printed document as illustration. This is the first page of a book summary I made on The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (which is a great book). I took a picture of it below with my iPhone 4:

One page book summary of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

One page out of a book summary of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

Workflow

It’s really simple going paperless with your iPhone and Evernote. I’ll show you step-by-step on doing this. Let’s get started!

1. First start up Jot Not Scanner.

Start JotNot Scanner Pro on your iPhone.

Start JotNot Scanner Pro on your iPhone.

2. First thing you want to do in JotNot is to change some of the settings. Press the “info” button on the top left corner.

Welcome screen of JotNot Scanner Pro on iPhone.

Welcome screen of JotNot Scanner Pro on iPhone.

3. Make sure you have the settings like the screenshot below. Don’t worry about the enhancement options, the defaults are fine (you can always adjust later on to your liking).

JotNot Scanner Pro settings on iPhone.

JotNot Scanner Pro settings on iPhone.

4. Next is that you want to fill in your Evernote credentials in there. The great thing about JotNot Scanner Pro is that it natively supports Evernote (also Dropbox and Google Docs) so syncing your scanned documents will be really easy (as you will see later).

After filling in your Evernote username and password, it’s time to scan some documents. There are two ways to go about it; you either take a picture or use a picture from your camera roll. In this article I’ll use a picture of my camera roll; it’s the one you saw earlier. It really doesn’t matter if you take a picture or use one from your camera roll. What does matter is how you take the picture. When you take a picture, the best way is by standing in a room with plenty of (sun)light and hold your camera perpendicular to the paper.

5. In the next screen you can now drag the corners of the image to ensure that only the paper gets scanned. Most of the time you can skip this but occasionally you will have to adjust the corners. It’s really easy too.

Dragging corners on JotNot Scanner Pro on iPhone.

Dragging corners on JotNot Scanner Pro on iPhone.

6. You’re almost done. You get a preview to see how your scan turned out. The next step is to upload it to Evernote by clicking on the arrow at the bottom.

JotNot Scanner Pro preview screen on iPhone.

JotNot Scanner Pro preview screen on iPhone.

7. Now select “Send to Evernote”, fill in a title, select the “Documents” notebook, maybe add some tags, and you’re all set.

Save to Evernote feature on JotNot Scanner Pro on iPhone.

Save to Evernote feature on JotNot Scanner Pro on iPhone.

Done!

Like mentioned earlier, the big advantage of using Evernote over Dropbox or Google docs is that you can search for text within images (and PDFs for premium Evernote accounts). Now that you’ve uploaded the scan, you can immediately search for it too. Below is a screenshot when I search for “immutable” and as you can see, Evernote recognizes the text within the scanned image.

Evernote recognizes text in scanned images using OCR.

Evernote recognizes text in scanned images using OCR. This makes tagging almost unnecessary but I still strongly suggest you still tag all your documents.

All this will make searching and accessing your documents so much easier and faster. Plus you can access them anywhere, anytime with your iPhone too. You now have gone paperless with your iPhone and Evernote! Follow the same steps for all your documents and you will have now a secure backup and easily accessible digital filing system.

Next Actions

  1. Determine which documents you want to store digitally.
  2. Get an iPhone, Evernote account, and purchase JotNot Scanner Pro app.

NOTE: Don’t forget to check out Evernote Essentials. Written by our friend Brett Kelly (who works at Evernote) he will show you step-by-step how to use Evernote the right way with plenty of examples.

Photo by: whatleydude

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

BabsRealEstate March 30, 2011 at 3:02PM

Read/liked your explanation for going paperless with EN. Have been a LONG time user. I use Genius Scan and it too works extremely well with EN. Trying to get my son to be a user. He will eventually GET IT, that having everything in ONE place is priceless….and will add to his productivity by being organized. THAT will drive his peers nuts, so well worth it! Looking forward to your productivity tips….Babs

Reply

AE Thanh March 30, 2011 at 3:08PM

Thanks for the kind words, Babs. I guess it’s never to early to teach your son how to use EN and get it organized. I’m confident it will make him better organized and so much cooler too :)

Reply

Jaemin Yi April 14, 2011 at 7:45AM

Great post!

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Craig Camp February 18, 2012 at 3:17PM

What is the advantage of using JotNot instead of just taking a photo of the document directly into Evernote using the Evernote app on your iPhone?

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Thanh Pham February 19, 2012 at 3:47AM

Jotnot (or any document scanner) can turn those photos into PDF documents. This is useful when you need to send contracts and other sensitive documents to another party.

Reply

Brownewill February 20, 2012 at 11:27PM

I hear that Google Docs now offers pdf indexing and OCR for docs. If this is the case, why use Evernote at all?

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Thanh Pham February 21, 2012 at 6:55AM

Primary reason for me is because Evernote is easily available through any platform with its apps and you can access them offline as well. This comes in very handy when you’re on planes.

Reply

Victor October 15, 2012 at 9:58PM

This is truly a game changer. Thanks.

Reply

Thanh Pham October 17, 2012 at 2:09AM

Thanks Victor!

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Ed G. November 5, 2012 at 7:33PM

Thanks for this info. Could you help me how to figure out how to get photos from Iphone 4s to Evernote? Is there a good program for that?

Ed

Reply

Thanh Pham November 5, 2012 at 10:47PM

Ed, you can use the Evernote app itself.

Reply

Ken Burgin August 15, 2014 at 10:39PM

You have also been given an Evernote email, so email the photo from your phone to this and it will be aded to Evernote automatically.

Reply

Davo November 15, 2012 at 12:00AM

Nice article. Curious about the PDF capability. If I use Jot Not for this purpose should I select the pdf copy option?

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Thanh Pham November 16, 2012 at 2:31PM

Yes, select the PDF option.

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Wayne November 19, 2012 at 7:16PM

Very nice article. One big concern for me is the data safety. Is is safe if I put all my personal documents such as bank account details in Evernote? Please tell me what you think. Thanks a lot!

Reply

Thanh Pham November 19, 2012 at 9:46PM

According to Evernote’s privacy statement all the data you upload is yours. They don’t own it. Whether you trust their systems is your choice but it seems safe.

Reply

Fred August 5, 2013 at 1:43PM

I understand that JotNot will work with Google Docs, but will it work with GoogleDrive? Meaning can I send scans straight to GoogleDrive from my phone?

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Thanh Pham August 5, 2013 at 4:03PM

Yes

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Brian November 7, 2013 at 12:39PM

I literally have boxes of old school papers, that I’ve wanted to hold onto, but with the JotNot I can finally get rid of all those papers. Thanks for sharing this info :)

Reply

Bojan - Alpha Efficiency December 27, 2013 at 3:53PM

Does Document Camera feature cover this in Evernote today?

Reply

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