Paperless for Windows and Macintosh

Remember when everyone talked about how we would someday become a paperless society? Now it seems like we use paper more than ever. Let’s face it – everyone still uses paper. Getting rid of paper in your life is one of the greatest joys imaginable. Digitizing everything makes life easier as everything can be found quickly by every-word searches. Going digital saves space, cuts clutter, and also reduces frustration. It’s also easier to make backup copies of digital files than it is to make backup copies of paper.

Genealogists are especially susceptible to clutter and filing problems. We often collect photocopies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, deeds, census records, and much, much more. We soon encounter issues about how to file all this information and, even more important, how to retrieve what we want at the moment we need it.

Most of us can benefit from better organization of paper documents. However, the problem is not limited to genealogy purposes. Almost all of us end up with piles of paper – bills, receipts, financial and insurance statements, medical prescriptions, and more.

The trend toward government and business entities wanting digital documents is growing. In fact, ruling Rev. Proc. 97-22 from the Internal Revenue Service stipulates that the agency will accept digital documents in place of paper. The changes in health care also makes it more important than ever to be organized. With a good digital document scanning and retrieval system, anyone can file and instantly retrieve needed documents that are in a database of hundreds or even thousands of documents.

A program called Paperless for Windows and for Macintosh allows you to organize all your receipts and documents simply and easily. In fact, the program reduces your need to keep paper documents of any kind. Simply scan any document you would normally file in a drawer on any type of paper, and the OCR function of Paperless recognizes the data and adds it to the program’s Details window. From here you can use the Paperless tools to assign fields that help you to build and maintain a neat and clean digital filing system. The digital documents that it produces also fulfill the IRS requirements, should that need arise.

Of course, filing is only half the story. Being able to quickly and easily find and retrieve a document when you want it is just as important as filing it. Paperless excels at both.

NOTE: I wrote earlier about using a scanner designed for use only with Evernote. That combination of hardware and software works well for anyone who uses Evernote, but it is expensive at $450. It includes a scanner designed for the purpose. The software does not work with any scanners other than the one sold by Evernote. In contrast, Paperless is a program that works with a long list of scanners, not just the $450 Evernote scanner. If you already own a different scanner, or if you are looking for a lower-cost solution, or if you prefer to not use Evernote, Paperless for Windows and for Macintosh may be a better solution for you. Any scanner that supports WIA or TWAIN should work with Paperless for Windows. Macintosh users will find that Paperless works with nearly any scanner that supports Apple’s Image Capture method. Check the scanner’s documentation to see if it is compatible with WIA or TWAIN on Windows or with Image Capture on Macintosh.

While paperless will work with scanners that only scan one side of the paper, you will find it to be much more convenient to use a scanner that scans both sides in one pass. The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500, the S1300i or the S1100 scanner all have been tested and work well with Paperless although many scanners from other manufacturers will probably work as well.

I would not want to use Paperless with a handheld “Magic Wand” or “Flip-Pal” scanner, however. Those are controlled manually and do not have an interface that allows the computer to start and stop scans. Paperless also is not designed to work with cameras that snap digital pictures of documents. To obtain the most out of Paperless, you will want to use it with a scanner that includes WIA or TWAIN on Windows or Image Capture on Macintosh.

You can use Paperless for Windows and for Macintosh to scan your receipts, bills, statements, warranty cards, business cards, genealogy photocopies or any other type of paper. The size of the paper is only limited by the size of document that your scanner can handle. The built-in OCR (optical character recognition) function of Paperless recognizes the data and displays it with the program’s Details window. As with all scanners, the OCR capability works well on clear, typeset documents but is useless for handwriting. However, you can use the Tools available with the Details window to manually add notes, assign categories, and even insert additional text, should you wish to do so.

To use an example dear to my heart, let’s say I have an 1910 U.S. Census record for my Theriault ancestors. The family spoke only French, and the census taker apparently spoke only English; as a result, the name was almost unrecognizably spelled as “Tahrihult.” I could scan this record (or, in my case, allow Paperless to import the previously scanned page), and display it in the Details window. I might then add the proper spelling to that actual image, where it will also appear when printed or placed in a report that I generate with my genealogy program. I can also enter a note to explain the different spellings—or to remind myself to check this against other records—which would not appear in print. I will want to create a Library for all my genealogy, as opposed to libraries for expenses, medical, automotive, and others. As with my old paper files, I will also specify a collection and one or more categories for this record, such as “Theriault Family,” “Census Records,” and “1910 Census.” I can also tag this image with other words that can serve as search terms when I want to retrieve it, like “French” and “Ashland, Maine.” Any fields I choose to use for this record, including any I create, can be used later to sort my database or search for this record along with other records that meet the same search criteria.

With Paperless, you can create a database for everything from financial records to medical to those product manuals for all your tools and appliances. Besides genealogy photocopies such as the one described above, you could also use it to scan and organize your 2nd grader’s pictures and all the other cool stuff she or he brings home from school. Everything is safely and securely saved on your computer’s hard drive.

Needless to say, you will also want to make backups, stored locally as well as online “in the cloud.” After all, your hard drive may crash someday, and you don’t want to lose all your documents. By making both local and online backups, your documents will be safer than they would be on paper. Even better, those documents will also be safer and easier to find when they are electronic.

If you already have a large number of digital documents, Paperless will import them easily into its database. You do not need to re-scan anything. You can also rename, change the creation date, categorize, sub-categorize, tag, and add notes to those existing documents as well as to any future documents you create.

I have used Evernote for some time to scan, store and retrieve documents. I even purchased the Evernote Scanner to make the process simpler. I find that comparing Paperless to Evernote produces mixed results. Evernote is superior at some things while Paperless is better at other functions.

Paperless is better than Evernote at searching and retrieving documents. The search algorithms in Paperless are better than those in Evernote. Paperless has a better method of finding words you search for that are buried inside a scanned document, such as a doctor’s name.

On the downside, Paperless is available only for Windows and for Macintosh. Unlike Evernote, Paperless has no Android or iOS version for iPad or iPhone retrieval. You won’t be able to retrieve a document while standing in the doctor’s office unless you have a Windows or Macintosh laptop computer with you. Carrying your iPad or Android tablet will not help retrieve anything from Paperless although an iPad or Android tablet will retrieve similar documents from Evernote. I hope the producers of Paperless for Windows and for Macintosh will add an iPad and an Android version soon in order to compete with Evernote on these devices.

In short, I am impressed with Paperless for Windows and for Macintosh but will not be switching to it for my own use. I already have thousands of digital documents stored in Evernote, and I use an iPad frequently to retrieve documents when at a doctor’s office, at an insurance agency, and once when renting an automobile at an airport. (I needed proof of insurance that covers rental cars. I have that included in my normal auto insurance but needed to show proof of that coverage to the rental agency.) As good as Paperless is, I won’t use it until the company releases versions for handheld computers. If you do not use a tablet computer, or if your requirements are different from mine, you might prefer Paperless for Windows and for Macintosh because of its superior OCR and retrieval capabilities. Of course, if you have a scanner and no OCR software or did not invest in the Evernote scanner and software package, Paperless may be the right solution for you.

Paperless for Windows and for Macintosh sells for $49.95 U.S. If you are already using a competitive scanning and OCR program, the producers of Paperless may offer a “competitive upgrade” price of $34.95. Details may be found near the bottom of the page at

The manufacturer also offers a package that includes one of three Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner models along with the Paperless software for Macintosh or Windows at prices ranging from $239 to $495 U.S. For details on these bundles, see

Before investing in the Paperless software, you might want to first read the entire user’s guide. You may download the guide at

You can read more about Paperless for Windows and for Macintosh at


I wonder how you feel about totally paperless now that it is possible to have your digital devices confiscated at an airport?

    And paper boarding documents can be lost. I don’t see much difference.

    Actually, digital devices might be confiscated only if you cannot power them on and show that they work. Keeping the devcie charged avoids the problem.

    I too feel that the airport scenario is a non-issue. As Dick has stressed numerous times, backups and multiple storage sites, including but not limited to the cloud, are a must for all documents and records. Forget about “confiscation” – I cannot imagine walking around carrying, or keeping in my home or office, any device that contains my ONLY copy of valuable documents! – we all know that the device could be lost, it could be stolen or it could just permanently stop functioning at any time! Those are far greater and more common risks of loss than worrying about airport security, should one be so foolhardy as to not make and retain multiple storage areas and continuous backups to other devices and the cloud.

I have two small bookkeeping jobs. One is pretty simple. I’m the only person in the company who ever goes into the overstuffed file cabinet for information. This January I decided to experiment with “nearly paperless” on that job.

I have been very pleased with the results. Not only is the cabinet much less full–making it easier to find the information we do have on file–I feel a huge sense of relief. Somehow I was experiencing all that paper as a burden on a really deep level. The office is extremely cluttered so at least there’s one less fire hazard there now.

I also have two large projects I run from my home business for a mostly volunteer nonprofit organization. I’ve started assembling the associated paperwork in preparation for scanning. When I’m done I will be able to simply give a flash drive to each of the people who might need that information instead of burdening the next person to handle project management for that organization with boxes of unwelcome paper.

Thanks for the tip about this software. Retrieving information easily has been my biggest concern with going paperless on these two projects.

I’ve looked over the User’s Manual for this product. I see that it scans in .pdf, which is good. However, I’m a control freak, so my question is, once I scan something through this piece of software, can I access and open the resulting .pdf file with Adobe Reader independent of the Paperless interface? If not, then you are forever dependent on this particular piece of software to access everything you scan.

    —> can I access and open the resulting .pdf file with Adobe Reader independent of the Paperless interface?

    Yes. You can open the resulting PDF files with any program that reads PDF files.

I appreciated your enthusiastic report of your experiences with the Paperless program, and downloaded a fully operational demo copy. However, after playing around with it for a bit, I checked the consumer reviews of the various Paperless listings on Amazon, for both Mac and Windows, and they sounded pretty devastatingly negative, especially the one from the poor soul who complained about somehow losing “hours of work” when the program crashed after he/she had scanned in, OCR‚d and shredded numerous paper documents!
If I understand correctly, Paperless stores its indexing entries in a proprietary system rather than in the Mac or Windows operating system, making them vulnerable to complete loss of all of its added organizational value should its database become corrupted or inaccessible, or should the company fail to keep the program compatible with upgrades to Mac or Windows – not an acceptable risk IMHO.
For that reason, I guess I for one will stick with a standard scanning and OCR program for creation, combined with the operating system’s search functions for retrieval.

    That was not my experience when I used the program. Admittedly, I only used it for a few hours on my Macintosh. It never crashed on me or lost any data. I was very impressed with its operation. If the company that produces Paperless ever comes out with versions for iPad, iPhone, and Android, I will probably switch permanently to Paperless, unless I find something even better before then.

I just ordered the Paperless/Scan Snap 1300i bundle. Fingers crossed! I’m in desperate need of digital organization. I like that the 1300i is portable, I can take it to work and scan docs on my lunch hours.

I’m going to try it, especially since I searched around and found a 30% discount code (code is SUMMER). I’m not wild about proprietary “lenses” to read and store things (because then you’re stuck if they go out of business, etc.) but if it imports things that I’ve already scanned, uses OCR on them, and allows me to organize them, that would be worth it (especially at 30% off).

Right now, I use a descriptive title (and have no OCR), so this would be better, and I would be surprised if they didn’t include handheld support in the near future, but that’s not a deal killer for me as I put things in Evernote that I want to be able to access from anywhere. PDF is everywhere, and while it may eventually go away, I would suspect that the conversion process won’t be that cumbersome. Thanks!

I long to go paperless, and keep my documents digitally for ease of finding with search tools. What has stopped me so far is that I do NOT want to have some companies proprietary software required to be able to read MY documents. I have been around enough to know that the wonderful company here today is soon to be sucked up my not-so-wonderful conglomerate tomorrow, and “poof” just like that, I can no longer access my digital documents. That is what has stopped me from purchasing the Evernote scanning systems. I do not want my documents stored in their proprietary datebase file system.
I would love to find a simple scanner that scans just like the Evernote system; fast, both sides at once,OCR, straightens, and simply keeps it as a .pdf with a small footprint, so no matter what, I can open my documents with a .pdf viewer. Especially one that is not from Adobe. I find Adobe incredible bloatware.

    —> I would love to find a simple scanner that scans just like the Evernote system; fast, both sides at once,OCR, straightens, and simply keeps it as a .pdf with a small footprint, so no matter what, I can open my documents with a .pdf viewer. Especially one that is not from Adobe.

    Use Evernote. Add in any one of a dozen or so available scanners that scan both sides of the paper. Your documents can be saved as standard PDF files that can be viewed by any PDF file viewer by printing a document and using the “Print to PDF” function that is included with all Macintosh computers. Windows systems can add “Print to PDF” by installing third-party software.

    Evernote also can export to PDF format by using any of several third-party applications. One I know of is cloudHQ at that works on Windows, Macintosh, and I think also on handheld devices. There are other Evernote-to-PDF products as well although I haven’t investigated all of them.

    When I wrote the above article, I ended by saying that I would not switch to Paperless, despite its advantages. Instead, I have elected to stay with Evernote. My system does exactly what you described. I use Preview to view the PDF files.

    I also use the Evernote scanner that scans double-sided. It (optionally) creates TWO copies of every document: one copy is inserted into Evernote and the second copy is saved as a PDF file in any folder I specify on the computer’s hard drive.

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