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).
2. 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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
7. Now select “Send to Evernote”, fill in a title, select the “Documents” notebook, maybe add some tags, and you’re all set.
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.
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.
- Determine which documents you want to store digitally.
- 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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