2023 : Distracted From Going Paperless; Maybe? Finally in 2023? - Need a Quick Start Section to Paperless Field Guide, Perhaps?

I want to get off on the right foot using the simplest process possible.

I feel as though I need a “Coach” or “Trainer” to keep me on task to the path of a paperless lifestyle.

I feel like I bought all the right tools for the job, but just never get moving:
MacSparky Paperless Field Guide
Flatbed Scanners
Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanners
Doxie Scanners
Readdle’s Scanner Pro App

I was reviewing the MacSparky Paperless Field Guide (MPFG) today. It looks very complete. However, I wish it also included a “Quick Start” guide. The MPFG is something I will refer to throughout the process, but I just want to physically get moving in the right direction putting the tools to work.

If I can clarify or add any information to the above, please let me know.

As an aside, I noticed Joe Kissel’s ‘Take Control of your Paperless Office’ is marked as out of date.

Do you have a ScanSnap; any trouble setting it up if so? Any issue using Scanner Pro on the phone?

Are you not bothering to scan anything or are you frustrated by not scanning 100% of the paper?

Are you hung up on where to store the documents?

I’m sure we can get you going or point to a resource.

ScanSnap IX1400
ExactScan Pro

Hands down the best combination for the Mac

It was already announced, that there will be an update to the Take Control Book by Jon Kissel in 2023.

How do you store and handle your scanned documents at the moment?
What are you doing with the Originals?

I’ve been paperless for over a decade now… actually, I have no idea when I started scanning everything but it was a long time ago.

My “workflow”, if you can call it that, is to glance at my mail and any other paper that comes into my house each day, then put it in a drawer till Friday.

Friday afternoon I get all my mail out and start two piles on the floor, one on my left for envelops and other junk that will go in the trash, and one on the right that will get shredded after scanning. Then I scan each piece of mail using my ol’ trusty ScanSnap directly into DEVONthink.

If anything needs to be taken care of immediately (rare), I do that. Otherwise, I select everything I scanned and let DT “classify” it, which automatically files it away in the correct database and folder. Bills get scanned, paid, then shredded. Only papers I keep are anything to do with assets or taxes. Otherwise, everything is in the machine.

From your list, if you don’t use DEVONthink or Eagle Filer, I’d suggest setting up Hazel and a folder hierarchy. Also, get a good document shredder and keep it next to your desk.

@ibuys - Thank you for sharing with me your general process.

@Ulli - I did see the announcement, however, it did not sound certain it would occur. I am just getting started with scanning and storing documents. No plan for the originals, yet.

@NiKoBeaR - Thank you for the suggestion.

@cornchip - I have several ScanSnap units, as well as Scanner Pro. No issues with setting them up. I just want a suggestion on a very simple process to follow. Perhaps I am wanting perfection from the get go, and that is just not realistic.

I have just not scanned a thing, to answer your question. Just paper piles building up.

I am debating what the best repository is for storage of my documents.

One “nice to have” for a personal project of mine is that I would like to associate GPS data with paper receipts that I receive after transactions at retail stores or restaurants. However, I am fine to table that discussion, at the outset.

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I am simply use boxes, where everything I scan is stored. I use DT3 (together with ScanSnap and a Hazel Trick), to apply a BatesNo. to all scans, and I mark the boxes with the first, and last BatesNo inside the Box.
On this way I do not have to spend a second in thinking about, if the original might be necessary in the future, or not, and I could find every original within minutes, if I really need to.
The boxes I use:

together with:


I am not sure, that those boxes are sold worldwide, but I think you get the idea behind that.


I’ve been “paperless” for many years now. It can be very daunting to get started. Paper comes at us from all directions. Also, until you’ve lived the paperless life, you don’t really know what will work for you and what won’t.

Therefore, I think the best way to get started is to begin with one type of incoming paper. Either the one that’s the most annoying to you (receipts?), or maybe the one that you’re the most excited about (recipes?).

Receipts are a good category to see the complexity. Let’s start with the deceptively easy one — an online purchase. OK, you’ve completed the purchase — now instead of printing the confirmation, you print to PDF as a web receipt. Great! An hour later, you check your email and you see an email confirmation and now you have a choice: do you print that to PDF as well? Does it go to the Web Receipts folder? The box arrives and contains a shipping invoice: do you scan that? If you make a purchase on your phone, do you go through the annoying steps of trying to get the web page to print to PDF and then save it in iCloud? What if you have multiple computers — do you want to have a one place all receipts end up?

Now after a few months, you’ve got a bulging Web Receipts folder with a lot of unidentifiably-named PDFs. Do you organize them at all? Do you remove the “thank you for your purchase” and “your order” text that many of them begin with, so they alphabetize approximately correctly? Do do add dates to the filenames of multiple purchases from the same vendor instead of macOS’s default habit of adding numbers? Or do you just move them together into a folder by month? by year? and hope that searching will lead you to the right info if you need it?

There are no right answers here.You might have a good guess about what will work for you, but until you run the experiment, you won’t see the flaws in your choices which allow you to refine it. (And yes, sometimes the flaws are that something is “too organized” — meaning it takes too long to get to the perfectly organized system, or that the automated system is brittle and breaks too often, etc.)

You asked:

I want to get off on the right foot using the simplest process possible.

Let me suggest that is incorrect, as the simplest possible process is to just scan everything (in full color, double-sided, with OCR), throw it all into a folder, and use search to find what you need. (Even simpler: put everything to be scanned into a box (or boxes) and ship them off to be scanned!) This assumes that you’ve got the disk space to hold the results (and to back it up) and an excellent ability to search quickly.

However, what I suspect you really meant was you want to organize the results of going paperless in a fashion that is usable to you. There’s no quick-start guide for this because everyone’s use case is different.

So pick a category, start scanning and organizing. When you find that something is taking too long, or it’s too annoying, or you find mistakes, or you suspect that there is an easier way, then turn to your books for solutions. Or this forum.

If you don’t know what’s annoying or interesting in your build-up of paper, then I suggest receipts. If that seems too complicated (I think it’s the worst), then maybe start with utility bills. They’re regular, there aren’t too many of them, and if you want to set up automation (naming, filing), then they are a good place to begin.

Good luck!

I, myself am back to setting aside 15 minutes each day to process my almost-overflowing paper inbox. I got sick last fall and stopped my weekly handling of paper.


This shouldn’t scare anybody today anymore. The price for Diskspace has gone so much down during the last decades, and and storing your documents as a PDF is not that Disk consummating, that it would be a issue for the most users, even if they, like me, just scan (almost) everything.

Putting a number on it, I’ve scanned or received PDFs for everything in the past 12 years and it adds up to 4.6GB. That’s 5200 files. Hardly an issue these days! Save them all on a USB stick if I want.


I often work with people who have old computers with limited storage, so this can be a consideration for some who are interested in going paperless.

But I suppose that the older processor is a bigger problem than storage. Rendering and searching through large pdfs is tedious on old, non-pro machines. (Even more so if they’re stored on an external device.)

To be an issue, like you described it, it must been computers that are already several decades old!
And yes, of course, if the PDF-Files Size is larger, than the available RAM, you run into a problem, but in that particular seldom case, you have to simple make sure, that you are working with the right settings for generating those PDF.
If you are working with Win95, you will of course have troubles, to open an PDF Version 10, where you have not enclosed the older settings in it, but it is the same with any other file-format. If you want to use it on a system that it was not designed for, it will not work at all.
And if you have a problem with the storage, almost any older computer could also handle an external Drive, or a USB-Stick. So even limited storage on outdated computers, are no issue, if you want to solve them.

@margaretamartin - I am going to take some time to digest what you offered here and possibly follow up with questions. However, thank you so much to offer your input!

@Ulli - Thank you very much for introducing me to Bates numbering. I honestly had no notion of this concept and never heard anyone mention it to me. Ever. Anyway, I almost feel like this is something I need to do for any documents I scan. It is a way to permanently notate that, “I have scanned this!”.

I can appreciate that maybe Bates numbering on the physical document could be overcomplicating things, though.

I did not get the sense that you have employed physical number stamps to documents. Am I correct in that understanding?

Just one more thing for you to consider before embarking: why are you bothering to do this?

The answer to that can inform your method.

For me, the answer was that I wanted to get the paper out of my life. The thing that pushed me over the edge was a basement flood where I had a lot of paper stored. Nothing was damaged, but I saw how easily it could have been.

Once I had a clear purpose, that made it easier to get started and it helped me figure out how my paperless system should work.

And FWIW, there are now no papers in my basement except some old Ikea assembly documents stored with their parts. And possibly a box of unimportant but sentimental papers — I can’t remember if I finally got rid of my old college notebooks or not.

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I’ve found that Spotlight does a great job of indexing files for searching, and that’s been true for at least a decade. A decade ago I brought a Mac mini into work and kept all documentation on it because I could search much faster (essentially instantaneously) than on the Xeon-equipted Windows computer that was furnished to me. Looking back two decades when I was Windows only I used a third party program to index the files for searching as the built-in facilities were too coarse and very slow.


When I startet, I had a special stamp

I simply applied to each document before scanning. The Stamp was visible on the scan, and so I could search for the paper, that I placed on an Archive Plate and stored in the Basement, if I really needed.
That storage plates could hold around 1500 pages, and therefore it was rather necessary in my opinion, to work with the stamp.
After a couple of years I turned that into storing the paper with the boxes I already linked. They are storing much less paper, and therefore I stopped stamping, and startet using the Bates-No. within Devonthink.
I use a ScanSnap, and I have set up a Scanprofile there for all Documents I scan for storing. This Profile places the scan within a special Finder-Folder, and I have a Hazel-Rule to pic up the Scan from there, attache a Tag (“NewScan”), and place the scan in the DT3-Inbox.
I have a rule setup within DT3, to look at all incoming scans for the Tag “NewScan”, than apply OCR on the File, remove the Tag, and apply a Bates Number onto the Scan.
I have a second rule, that looks for the Word “Bates” within the Global Inbox, and if it finds the phrase, it applies the Tag “Bates” onto the file.
The Original goes into the Box without a number, and I write on the outside of the Box the Bates No. of the first and last Document in the Box. So if I really need to get an Original, I just have to search the Box with the right Range of Bates Numbers on it, to find the document, which normally needs only a few minutes.


I agree on Spotlight having turned a corner for searching. I’ve been using computers for many decades, and it was really a challenge to stop myself from renaming every scanned document to indicate their contents and date. Did I say “was” a challenge? It still is, honestly!

One thing I have never liked is Spotlight’s interface in Finder for searching. I think because all of the expanded search parameters are hidden, It never really stuck with me.

For anyone who struggles with Spotlight and is moving toward a paperless life (and doesn’t use a dedicated app for handling PDFs), I recommend trying out HoudahSpot. It’s built on the Spotlight engine, so it essentially creates a different interface to Finder searches. (Of course, it does more than that, too.)