It’s really quite remarkable just how far we’ve come with technology and yet we still rely so heavily on dead trees to communicate with one another. It’s said that you should be the change that you want to see in this world, so if you want the rest of the world to move forward, then you’ll want to make those critical first steps toward running a truly paperless office.
The advantages of a paperless office are mostly self-evident. You can clear out so much clutter from your desk, you can save so much money, and you can be a lot more mobile as a result. Yes, it’s true that I still have a multifunction printer in my home office, but I use it very rarely to actually print anything. Here are a few key tools and apps that help you go paperless too.
Billing and Statements for a Paperless Office
Let’s start with the obvious. Traditionally, you’ll receive your monthly bills and statements in the mail in printed form. This costs the vendors money, because they have to print and send these to you, and it’s an added inconvenience for you. If it’s offered, you should sign up for paperless billing wherever you can. The digital documents are far more convenient, they can be stored to the cloud for anytime and anywhere access, and if you set up pre-authorized payments, they can save you a lot of time too. This includes your heat, electricity, Internet service provider, cellphone service, and whatever other regular bills or statements you may have.
Contractually: Digital Signatures
It’s a little strange that, after all this time, we still need people to physically sign a document in order for it to be a real contract. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. One great service for this purpose is Contractually, which specializes in digital contracts. This includes version control for the contracts themselves, cloud storage for all your active and archived contracts, and the handling of digital signatures too. You are that much closer to a paperless office when you don’t have to deal with paper contracts anymore.
CamCard: Scanning Business Cards
You could just email someone a vCard that is easily imported into Outlook or Gmail, but in-person connections still traditionally involve paper business cards. What happens when you return from a conference is that you have a stack of business cards that you must then manually input into your contact list….or do you? A handy app for iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry is CamCard. Just snap a picture of the card and it takes care of the rest. If you have a gigantic stack of cards, you can look into any number of business scanning services too.
CutePDF: Virtual PDF Printer Driver
By and large, you could say that PDFs have become the de-facto standard for so many digital documents. It’s easy enough when you have documents that are already in that format, but what if you need to convert other files into a PDF? One of the best (and free) tools you can get for your paperless office is CutePDF Writer. What it does is create a “printer” on your computer that outputs a PDF file. This way, you can “print” a PDF from any program and any software that has a “print” function.
eFax: Paperless Inbound and Outbound Faxes
In an age of email and smartphones, it still boggles my mind how many businesses and organizations still rely on faxing for communication. They may still be dinosaurs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a paperless office. There are many online fax services and one of the better ones is eFax. You can use it to send and receive faxes over the Internet, including the ability to archive them for later reference. There’s a 30-day free trial, followed by a $12.49 monthly subscription for up to 150 pages in each direction. If you only send the occasional fax, then you can do it for free at FaxZero, though it doesn’t support receiving faxes.
Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr