Five Apps for Living a Paper-Free Life

Please welcome my guest today, Marilyn Rogers.

Are you living a paper-free life? Many productivity and organization enthusiasts have chosen this lifestyle for a variety of good reasons. Is your home office a stockpile of bank statements, tax documents, utility bills, receipts, coupons, and notes? Do you wish to reduce your consumption and accumulation of paper to minimize your impact on the environment? Do you want to achieve the feeling of well being that goes along with a clutter-free environment? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, this post is for you.

Sometimes it’s necessary to keep paper documents for historical, tax, or other reasons, but they keep piling up. Or perhaps you’re the creator of documents and you need to organize and catalog these items so you can easily find them when necessary. If you have a personal computer and mobile device, such as an iPhone or iPad, there’s a variety of free and low-cost digital resources that make going paper free a real option. I’ll show you the fundamental services that you’ll need to get started — file storage, a collaborative document service, note taking software, contacts retrieval and storage, and personal organization and life management software.

Dropbox™ File Storage

Dropbox is software that enables you to store your documents, photos, and other files in the cloud and access them from your personal computer or mobile device. It’s really handy software for scanned docs, videos, and other important files — allowing you to shred your paper files and store them digitally. Your files can be private or shared with invited users. Dropbox is free up to a designated amount of storage, and provides software for personal computers and mobile devices.

When data is stored “in the cloud,” it means that it’s managed and backed up remotely and made available over the Internet, instead of locally on your computer. The advantage of storing files in the cloud is you don’t have to worry about hard drive crashes, computer theft, or migrating your data to new computers. In addition, it makes it super easy to access documents, and to share files with others for business or personal use.

Google Drive™ and Google Docs™ File Storage and Web-based Software

Like Dropbox, Google Drive includes free storage in the cloud. Currently, according to Google, you can “store up to 5 GB in Google Drive, 1 GB in Picasa (photo management), and 10 GB in Gmail for free and pay for additional storage as your accounts grow.” What’s different about Google Drive is it becomes the central place for managing Google Docs, which is an added bonus. Google Docs is free web-based software for creating and updating spreadsheets, documents, presentations, and more. And with Google Docs, more than one person can edit the same file at the same time so it’s not necessary to print files when collaborating in a meeting. A group can open a presentation, spreadsheet, or other file with their laptops or mobile devices, and all make changes at the same time.

Evernote® Note Taking

Every day we’re inundated with information and it’s impossible to remember it all. So we take notes on Post-its, notebooks, napkins — whatever we can find in our handbags or on our desks. There’s an easier way. Evernote provides best of class note taking, and it works with a variety of computers and mobile devices — there’s a free web application, desktop client, and mobile app so you can use it anywhere.

The basic service is free, and there’s options to upgrade to the premium version with more features and storage. It also has powerful searching and tagging capabilities, which means you can find your documents quickly. You can also purchase an Evernote-compatible scanner that lets you skip scanning to PDF first — you can scan directly to Evernote, which saves you hours and hours of time.

What’s cool about Evernote is there’s a huge community of users that share ways that they’ve gone paperless with the help of Evernote. I’ll add just a few examples, but don’t limit yourself, because Evernote is completely flexible to work for your own needs:

  • Instruction manuals – scan paper documents and recycle them or put the PDF into Evernote.
  • Portfolios – keep your photos, digital art, or writing samples in Evernote.
  • Research – use Evernote Web Clipper to easily save online things like text and links.
  • Foodie Notes – keep of journal of recipes, restaurants, and wine pairings that your enjoy.

Camcard™ Business Card Capture

Billions of business cards are printed each year, and if you’re like most people you build up a stockpile of them. With Camcard, you can easily take a picture of a business card from your mobile phone, the app recognizes the information, and then saves it in your contacts. You don’t even have to worry about losing your contacts because you can easily recover them, if needed.

LifeTopix™ Personal Organization and Life Management

Once you’ve captured and stored all your files, notes, and contacts, it’s helpful to access them in context with what’s going on in your life. This is where LifeTopix comes into the picture. Life­Topix is a complete productivity app for personal organization. It allows you to manage your calendar, tasks/to-dos, projects, notes, files, shopping lists, finances, household services, contacts, assets, events, travel, education, health, and much more — with a 9-view dashboard, customizable categories, and context tags.

For example, perhaps you’re starting a closet organization project. You might want to track any receipts or invoices for shelves, bins, labor, and other closet organization mate­ri­als — and you’ll want to be able to quickly access these related items. Because Life­Topix is inte­grated with Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote, you can find these stored items — all within context of the closet organization project.

I hope this helps you find some great, low-cost tools for getting you on the road to living a clutter-free, paper-free lifestyle. Good luck!

Marilyn Rogers is the Marketing Director at LightArrow, Inc., the maker of LifeTopix, a complete productivity app for personal organization available on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. She is a regular contributor to the Life Blog from LightArrow, which is a blog dedicated to sharing tips and tricks about personal productivity, time management, organization, and getting things done.

 

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EVERNOTE, the Evernote Elephant logo and REMEMBER EVERYTHING are trademarks of Evernote Corporation. All other company and product names and logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners in certain countries.

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Technology

Comments

10 Responses to Five Apps for Living a Paper-Free Life

  1. 2
    Jill Robson says

    Thanks for the great info Marilyn. I actually use Dropbox and Evernote, it is great knowing that if my computer crashes all my important data is not lost. I don’t yet have a smart phone, but when i do, i will definately look into some other options for storing data on the go.

  2. 3
    Damian says

    Very nice ideas! I really like the LifeTopix app. I’ll have to look more into that one. Thank you.

  3. 4
    Suzanne @ Welcome to Willow House says

    I’ve been a Dropbox user for quite a while, and I love Evernote, but didn’t know about LifeTopix. Thanks for sharing that! I don’t know that I’ll ever be paperfree, but these apps certainly help me reduce paper and be more efficient and effective. Glad you guest posted today!

  4. 5
    Erin says

    Great list! It’s hard these days to organize paper documents, photos, music, etc. from the past and the personal digital information people are creating – digital photos, email, documents, etc.

    I would add to your post, that even though there are a number of applications to help you live a paper-free life, these are commercial companies (and store your data in the cloud). Relying solely on these services for very important digital materials, like wills, taxes, family photos, is a risk. What if one of these companies go under? What happens to your digital information? Did you make a copy of the files? People should still ensure they have at least one copy of these files they want to save.

    The Library of Congress has basic tips for people to save their important digital information. From organizing to selecting important data.
    http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/

    Again thanks for your post. You’re bringing awareness to this very important task!

  5. 6
    Rachel says

    A word of warning. Keeping your vital documents on someone else’s site may give you piece of mind in case your computer crashes but it doesn’t mean that you can ignore backing them up. You may not have access to those sites and your important documents when you need them for as simple a reason as you don’t have internet access after a natural disaster, exactly when you want to be contacting your insurance company! Also, you don’t know what the turnaround time will be for getting to your documents if the company storing your documents has technical problems. It may take days or weeks for them to restore data IF they have been backing it up at all.

    Always keep electronic copies of your important information both at your house and offsite.

  6. 7
    Pedar H. says

    This is a great list. I am aspiring to a paper-free life for our family in 2013. I just found kidpix for iphone/ipad that helps me manage the piles of kid’s artwork we gather on a daily basis. It lets me beautifully frame their art like a gallery piece and then store/organize and socially share it. http://bit.ly/UEsxqh

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