Paperless advice needed. Software recommendations please help

Thank you for reading. Just hope I get replies

I have spent quite a while trying to get my head around going paperless.
I have a Fujitsu ix500 scanner
What I am looking to do is to be able to scan
Various documents

I want to be able to search for stuff. I have been thinking of Devon think pro 3. But seems a little high just for home use. I have just been looking at note book.

I would like some automation with it so it files in the correct places.

Am I wanting to much, or can anyone recommend any software that will be good for this process.

Would also be nice to store my items on the cloud, access on my iPad or iPhone.

Really hope someone can advise me on this.

Much appreciated


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I think some folks are using Evernote?

Or maybe try this

Or you can use hazel to auto file your documents based on certain criteria.

Hi. I have been trying to do the same thing for many years and I ended up with a simple solution which is still a work in progress. I tried Evernote and Devonthink but it ended up being more complicated than it needed to be. Here is what I’m doing at this point:

  1. Scan documents making sure the OCR option is enabled.
  2. Tag documents
  3. Use hazel to sort the documents into a simple folder structure.

When I look for documents, I simply use spotlight to search for documents in my filing folder structure.

I had started with a complex tagging scheme but it became way too much work. So, now I use tags for:

  1. Year of the document. I use hazel to figure out the year with different rules. The year tag is used to file the documents in a shallow folder structure which is basically divided by year.
  2. I also add a tag for tax related documents so I can easily find them when its time to file taxes.
  3. I also add a tag for the type of documents such medical, home, money, other, etc. I’m still working on finding really broad type tags. I think the least different tags, the better. I realized after a year of tagging using a complex tag scheme that I rarely used tags to look for specific documents. I always ended up searching terms like specific company names or “invoice” or bank account number which is very specific. So I strongly suggest you keep the tagging scheme simple if you dont want to spend too many hours tagging documents.

This is just my opinion, there are probably very gifted people who can automate a very nice system but I tried and I ended with this simple system. I can share the filing folder with my wife and she can search for things she is looking for as well. I don’t know how easy it is to share documents with other users in Devonthink or other software but if it is a concern (sharing) to you, be careful about that.

Simplicity did it for me.

Hope this helps!
Louis from Montreal

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EagleFiler is a good choice for those that don’t need the extra stuff that DEVONthink comes with.

Importing from a scanner

Be cautious with any software solution that uses a proprietary database to store the docs. I use DEVONthink 3 Pro even though it seems to be overkill for home use. All my records, statements, owners manuals, notes, things I want to remember, recipes that I scanned from our family recipe box—you name it, I probably throw it into DEVONthink.

The searching is fabulous, though I do have a folder structure that is easy to locate what I am looking for. And the whole shebang syncs between my macs and iOS devices.

But I think the best part is that if I ever decide to stop I using it, all the files are in their original form and can easily be dragged back to the finder. In fact, if one prefers, the files don’t even need to be stored in DT. You can use it to index files that you leave in your file system.

I scan everything to to my “scans” folder. From there Hazel renames and sorts. Many files end up in a “DEVONthink Import” folder which Hazel then moves to DT. Once in DT, they get “classified” into their appropriate folders based on how I sorted them in the past.

I find it worth the cost.


I took a similar approach to Louis. I scan all items to searchable PDFs. I then manually file them into a file structure that was an analogue to my old paper filing system. Everything goes into a folder called “File Cabinet” that is synced to iCloud. This allows access from my iPhone and iPad.

Receipts and documents received via email are saved as a PDF and filed appropriately.

I don’t scan recipes but type them into Paprika. As I adapt and improve recipes I can update them. Hard to do from a scanned version. It also provides me an easy way to share the recipes.

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I think Hazel is the killer app to work as the backbone to your system.

Personally I just send things to folders, but s others have said, Hazel plus an app of your choice can improve things if that’s what you want.

For scanning these days, I use Scanner Pro by Readdle with some in-app workflow to rename the scan based on type (eg bill), then let Hazel do the rest. I don’t have aHazel rule yet for that new scan, at least the name means something.

Your are on to a good start. All advice here is good. End of the day, how you do it has to suit what you do, can do, and need to do. You can start and achieve paperless without a lot of messing with fancy computer tools. Exploit the tools to your benefit when the need and value is clear.

I’ve been pretty much paperless for years and in a nutshell, I would offer the following:

: For me, tagging is probably a waste of time. Feels good to tag, and I do it; but I never use them.

: Having a deep folder structure is probably also a waste of time. Feels good to have a structure, and I probably over-do it. Deep folder hierarchy has deep history when everything paper involving many clerks and admin staff with file cabinets, drawers, and filing folders in the drawers. Probably started by the project team that built the pyramids! Those days gone. Simple folder structure and then rely on that and computer navigation (Finder) and search (Spotlight et. al.) to find stuff.

: Remember that the containing folders are not “sticky” to a document if the folder name contains important information to identify the file. File names are the best you have to label the document and remain unchanged, normally. When files move around and if they depend on the folder names above to describe the document, then key information is lost. I use Hazel to help with naming files, but sometimes I name/rename manually. As I’ve used Hazel for years, I of course have some complex rules. Make Hazel shine is fun. Notionally I name all files something like: [Scan or Incoming Date] [Identifier] [Description including document date if appropriate].pdf. PDFs are OCR’d. I rely on the computer’s search to find things more than hunting through folder structure.

[Scan or Incoming date] is YYYYMMDDHHMMSS as can’t depend on file system dates “sticking”. This format is sortable.
[Identifier] is normally the same as the folder targets (to help me or Hazel move, and may include initials of person if personal
[Description] as it says. Vendor, what it is, for what, etc. If a bill/invoice, I’ll include the date in readable format, e.g. 4 June 2019 or something. Be descriptive. Hazel can be setup to extract all that, but easy to go over the top.

I’ve learned that a few top-level folders is best. I minimise use of subfolders for reasons as described above.

~Personal/ with a subfolder for each person in the family with stuff pertinent to them. Subfolders by person are as appropriate. Some of these subfolders by person are shared across network with that person.
~Finance/ with a subfolder for each year. I dump everything for that year in the relevant year folder. No other subfolders (relying on file name to distinguish the files)
~Interesting/ with a few subfolders of interest area.

I have a few more top-level folders which have emerged over the years but too detailed to explain here. I hope you get the gist.

The Finance and Interesting documents are actually now imported fully in to DEVONthink databases (one for each). A third DEVONthink database is “Personal” which is mostly indexed back to the ~Personal/ folder–I do that so that I can keep sharing with the family members secure and easy. they don’t use (yet) DEVONthink. I’ll use DEVONthink for searching/finding/etc.

DEVONthink will use the tags that were assigned into the OSX file system, but yet again, i find that while I do it, I never use them. Gotta stop, I think. DEVONthink’s structure (Groups, Smart Groups, etc.) is great.

You of course don’t need to use DEVONthink, especially at start. If you chose to get there, you can drag and drop your files to import (trivially easy), or you can index pointers back to the files still residing in the file system. All this described fully in DEVONthink’s terrific manual.

And finally, as someone else mentioned, files inside DEVONthink are still in native format and not proprietary as other applications. Important, I think.


I have toyed with many systems and finally got to a major pain point: there are things that are much more private than others. My work notes are private but my health records much more so. I am willing to store the first in a cloud system or notes app and risk them being leaked, the second I want encrypted firmly.

The only notes / document management app that encrypts data at rest on cloud services to my knowledge are DEVONthink (but the iOS app is very subpar) and Keep It (which I have always found buggy as hell). You could, however, encrypt PDFs before upload to a notes app.

What I do is

  • All work notes go into Bear
  • Anything “administrative” (bank records, health data, tax returns) go into Dropbox as files but are encrypted using open-source Cryptomator which has decent iOS integration contrary to many similar commercial solutions:

@anon85228692. Excellent point of

there are things that are much more private than others.

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Thank you so much for your advice. Perhaps I will check it out.

I have hazel but not used it in a while as the compatibility problems with Catalina.

I have David sparks hazel workflow book.

I will have a positive day and look.

Thank you so much.


@madasafish110 I’m using Hazel 4.4.4 for a long time with Catalina with no noticeable issues. What compatibility problems are you seeing?

Replying to my own entry … I forgot to mention the importance with electronic storage supporting a paper-less lifestyle … make sure you have robust backup regimes. Consider having offsite backup also somehow or another.

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I’m not using Hazel but this is pretty much the same process I use. I too started with Evernote then moved to DevonThink. I now just file everything in iCloud and use Spotlight. It is important to have a consistent good file naming scheme. This is working great for me.


Very good point. Private stuff needs to be protected. I have been wearing my thin foil hat for a while now… :wink: I use Synology Drive to sync all my data therefore I have no information in the cloud. All of it sits at home in my Synology NAS and I have an offsite backup on an old Synology at my office. I have not look back since then.



I’ve been thinking about doing something similar, building my own cloud. Are the transfer speeds OK if you are using your own connection?

Link to another discussion that might help.

I scanFujitsu too. All to PDF. I use PDF Expert. As previously advised, turn on OCR and I would make sure for all pages, not just first page. Dropbox is great for searching PDF with OCR. I use that for work. Have files all the way back to 2007. Also iCloud is pretty good for searching on a Mac. When it comes to searching, electronic copies of everything you can get are much better than a scan. Less errors in searching. Example, if I get a maintenance manual I want to save with a product, I go online and see if one is already available in PDF. do not scan if you do not have to.

To repeat my favorite rule for paperless life. “Don’t Make Paper if you don’t have to.”

The key is the upload speed. I have 20 Mbps which is ok. At first I started with 10 Mbps and it was too slow but 20 is fine. Of course your milage may vary depending what you are doing with your Synology Drive. I’m just syncing files, nothing too big. I did have to do the first sync of my offsite backups at home to avoid a very long transfer the first time. I have 3 hyper-backups… daily, weekly and monthly. They take about 1-2 hours each.

The biggest advantage of DT is that you control your data and it’s in the same format that you put it in so if you have to get it out it’s not a big deal.

Hazel works well if you can get the rules written correctly. I’m a novice at that, I prefer to do much of it by hand but I do use Hazel.

No help there, I am very anti-cloud. So I use a Synology NAS I control for my sync between devices. DEVONThink works well in those cases.

On the general design, I do not like using tags, they are not always operating system independent. Make a consistent file naming scheme that is also operating system agnostic. Filenames should give an indication of the contents and not be tied to the folder they are in.

My top level folder is called Filing_Cabinet and within that are the folders for stuff. I do not use any spaces in folder or file names. I use - to separate sections in the name and _ in place of spaces.

So for example I have a folders like Sheep-Chocolate_Welsh and Sheep-Import_Semen-Baker_Ram_Tango and within those are files like Charlie_Brown.jpg and Chocolate_Wesh_Sheep_Article.odt and 2016-09-19_Tango_Scrapie_Genotype.pdf and Tango_pedigree_chart.jpg

Stick to a few common file types and plan for upgrading all the files as your operating system and hardware changes and keep multiple levels of archives and backups both locally and offsite.

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I also use a Synology and have no problems with transfer speeds. It’s wired ethernet in the house and a 5G wifi link for iOS sync