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.