Every time the mailman comes to my house these days, I am reminded of the late, great Roy Scheider in "Jaws," remarking, "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
My family is literally drowning in paper, from bills to IRA statements to annual reports to prospectuses to personal letters. And our efforts to file it all and then purge it all at the correct time has been woefully ineffective, with the number of kids and jobs and life issues we have going on.
I recently turned to a new idea, mainly scanning everything that arrives in the door and shredding the paper. The idea is pretty simple. My bills are more or less paid automatically, anyway. I only keep a checkbook around for the seemingly unending number of checks I need to write for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and school lunches. So I can look at the statements and use a small autofeed scanner to record the statement for posterity.
The one I am using is an IrisScan Executive 2, a small USB scanner about the size of a paper-towel tube (without the towels). It can scan any document, photo, letter or business card into a PDF, Microsoft Word, Excel or Outlook document in a few seconds.
In my case, I have a small home server (by small, I mean smaller than a shoebox) with a couple of redundant drives where I keep all of our important photos and documents. The scanner is hooked up to an old laptop designated for this purpose, and the documents are automatically saved on the server.
The scanner installed in a few minutes, the optical recognition software so far has worked flawlessly, and we're down a few shoeboxes of paper. All for less than $200.
The best part I can see is if you were a traveling executive or salesman, I would have one of these guys with me all the time. When I travel today, one of the daunting tasks that awaits is the reconciling of my expense accounts and the photocopying and scanning of my receipts. If I had one of these portable scanners in my briefcase, I could do them as I went and even be reimbursed on the road, if I wanted. I'd lose fewer receipts for sure and likely pay for the thing on the first trip.
The Executive 2 works with Vista, XP, 2000 and Mac and requires only 128MB of RAM, though I would recommend 256 for the best performance. I would not use it for my only photo scanner if you are making archival scans of photos, but for draft use it would be fine.For information see www.irislink.com.
James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is email@example.com.