Do you dream of a clutter free desk at work? Is it really possible? Well, with a little upfront planning, imagination and acceptance that you really don’t need to kill trees anymore. In this post I’ll share 5 types of paperless office software that will help you keep your desk clean — and save a few trees in the process.
Going paperless all begins with creating electronic documents from the start, and for that you can use almost any text editor. But for quality and security there’s nothing better than Adobe Acrobat Pro. Yes, it’s pricey at $499, but you get a lot of bang for your buck including lots of cool things besides traditional PDF documents. With the latest version you can create fillable PDF forms and combine various media types (including video and interactive media) into a finished PDF portfolio.
Check out Seth Godin’s “vook”, Unleashing The Super Ideavirus, for an example of this exciting blend of new and traditional media. This release combines text, audio, video and imagery into a fascinating content party available on multiple platforms.
But if all you need to do is convert your finished word processing document into a text-only PDF you may not need Acrobat Pro. If you’re on a Mac, the print utility in Microsoft Word has the ability to automatically do this for you. If you’re on a PC you can use a free utility called Bullzip for the same purpose. Both of these output print-quality PDF documents, but at the end of the day you will want to use Acrobat Pro to optimize them for the web.
After you create your paperless documents you’ll need a place to store and share them, preferably off site so you’ll have a backup of everything. Dropbox is a free (up to 2GB) online storage and backup solution for just about any computing platform or mobile device. I recommend and use the $9.99 monthly subscription program, which gives me 50 GB of storage.
After you download and install the Dropbox application it appears as another folder on your desktop. While this is great for quickly moving docs around from your computer, you can also access files from the web or any mobile device. Just be careful when you move a document to to your Dropbox folder since it does not make a copy. It simply moves it from one place to the other.
While it’s not true document management software, my favorite use of Dropbox is for writing articles like this one. I’m Mac-based, so I write my all of my draft documents in a basic text editor and save them to Dropbox using Elements, a Drop-box syncing app for iPad and iPhone. This way my workflow is not only paperless, but I can literally work anywhere I have an internet connection using my computer, iPad or iPhone. Dropbox allows me to seamlessly integrate all three devices and create content from anywhere. This makes writing and editing on the go a snap.
As a freelance writer and UX designer, I do a ton of research for each assignment. Evernote is an excellent tool for capturing web clippings, images, voice memos, and simple text. You can also email random thoughts as you come up with them directly to your account. Because it is easily searchable using tags, you can use it for brainstorming and storing just about anything you need for later reference. Like Dropbox, Evernote offers free and paid subscriptions and is available for many mobile devices.
Basecamp is an online communication, collaboration and project management tool for distributed teams. It’s a great way to manage all the moving parts of a project involving lots of people or for freelancers who want to track different client projects. It has limited document storage on it (100MB per document for most accounts), but it is excellent for providing context around projects and pulling important conversations out of email. Using Basecamp enables you to create a virtual paper trail of everything involved in a given project. And, like Dropbox and Evernote, you can try it out for free before moving to a paid monthly subscription. However, you will need to upgrade to a paid account to share files and manage multiple projects.
Finally, you’ll need a way to bill clients for all of these great projects you’ve produced in your new paperless office. Freshbooks is my preferred solution to automate your bookkeeping and billing. You can track hours worked or send project estimates to prospective clients, and report on all work performed across employees, contractors or projects. You can also forecast expected sales. Freshbooks also lets customers download PDF versions of your invoices so you can help them go paperless too.
Freshbooks does so many great things it deserves a blog post of its own, so I’ll let you check it out from here. As with the other online tools mentioned, you can signup for free.
Over To You
These paperless office software tools have enabled me to work in a clutter-free office for almost three years. How have you gone paperless in your office? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Popular search terms for this article:
paperless office software, free paperless office software, paperless office mac, paperless office, paperless desk, paperless office software free, paperless office software mac, free paperless software, free paperless office, mac paperless office