Ryan Seys

engineer at verily / google life sciences

Going Paperless

April 07, 2013

I was inspired today by a Lifehacker post to go paperless. I am in the midst of decluttering my life in preparation for moving, and with a large box full of documents laying around, I thought this would make the perfect day project.

One large problem about going paperless is that you still need the information on the paper you currently have laying around; it’s not as easy as simply throwing it all out. But with a good scanner, one may hope to turn that box of documents into a neatly organized folder of PDFs, fully indexed and searchable.

That is the ideal world of course. It is much more easily said than done, and I’d need to be efficient about it if I wanted to succeed in turning a whole box of documents into digital files without spending an eternity of time and effort. So I spent money instead, went to the local Staples and purchased myself a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500, inspired by the Lifehacker post as well as numerous YouTube videos showing it in action, to what I would hope would be as smooth a process as they display.


This scanner set me back quite a bit of money, though I hope it makes up for in efficiency. I owned a scanner previous to this purchase, though considering it’s a flatbed-type, it would take me weeks upon weeks to scan the documents I already had (the trick is to scan as the documents come to exist in your life, though this is not really an option for me right now).

Things I want to come of this:

  1. To be able to scan 40-50 pages at a time with little-to-no effort.
  2. To have the documents be analyzed with OCR software for indexing and searchability.
  3. To have the documents backed-up to Dropbox (my cloud of choice).

My Setup

My Setup

My Impression

Holy fuck this thing is awesome. In a little less time that it takes to send a friend a text message, it can be done scanning 80+ pages (front and back), put them in a PDF, and be running OCR software on the document. It’s fast at what it does, it’s efficient and painless to setup. I never thought I’d be so excited about scanning until I met the iX500.

ScanSnap Manager includes OCR software built-in which is very fast (10 seconds per document) and good at analyzing and embedding text into the document but it’s not perfect, however no OCR software is perfect. I decided to hook up ABBYY FineReader OCR recognition software to see how it compared, and although it is much slower (5-10 minutes per document), it is very good at what it does, a significant improvement over the ScanSnap software. If you don’t have time to analyze all the documents you scan, might as well use the built-in OCR software, it’s still very good and doesn’t add much time at all.

I decided to skip the auto-firing OCR due to time, but it will be very easy for me to drag and drop these PDF files of scanned documents when I want them to be processed.

So in a half-afternoon I managed to scan 2000+ pages (lots of which were also double-sided), put them into PDFs and have them uploaded to the cloud! I started scanning things I never even would have thought of scanning, such as my reciepts and old photos just because the scanner made it so easy.

Insert pages, press ‘Scan’, done!