Welcome to guest blogger, John Brook, who tells us about ten essential tools for a paperless office.
In today’s fast-paced office environments, the emphasis is trending toward an office that is free of paper and printed documents. There are many computer and phone based applications and software services that allow busy modern professionals to maintain their contacts, projects and clients without having to stay in the office. From online document creation and sharing, to software that allows a contract to get signed without ever getting printed and mailed, there are many ideas on how to make the office more flexible and mobile.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce the amount of paper coming out of an office is to use email services instead of sending documents through the mail.
Project management software is another way to get a job done without printing a single document. Basecamp is one software system available that allows a business to manage all aspects of any project in an online environment that’s compatible with multiple languages. It works on any computer or phone operating system. Basecamp provides an overview of all projects open and allows users to discuss current aspects of a project, view deadlines that need to be met and post to-do lists for particular projects. Basecamp offers a 30-day free trial with monthly plans priced between $49 and $149 for unlimited projects.
Thanks to the enactment of the E-Sign Act on October 1, 2000, business can accept electronic signatures that bind contracts and agreements in the same manner as a physical signature. EchoSign is a leader in the electronic signature software industry and can get businesses set up to accept electronic, fax, mobile and biometric signatures in place of physical signatures for their contract documents.
EchoSign is free to use, requiring only registration and a valid e-mail address. Once the account is established, businesses can send documents anywhere in the world and EchoSign will send signed copies to all parties via .PDF document.
The prince of paper use in any office is the person who writes all of their reminders on sticky notes, generally pasting them all over the office as wallpaper. There are two applications that can erase the need for the sticky note in an office, Evernote and Dropbox (see point 5) – plus Scanner Pro for phones (see point 6). Evernote is a software service that allows users to make a note of nearly anything on the planet, snippets of web page, photos, text notes or screenshots. Users can then automatically organize their clippings into categories and access them easily at any time. Evernote works with nearly any computer or phone operating system and allows free users up to 40 MB of upload allowance per month.
Dropbox is an application that allows user to share files over the internet and access computer files remotely. The free version allows uploading and storage of up to 2 GB of information, with pay-for plans allowing up to 100GB of uploading and storage. Users can also sync any type of computer file and sync with any type of computer, Windows, Linux or Mac. File sharing allows several people to access and work on files at the same time, while allowing control over who has access to change information in stored files. Dropbox can be used with any mobile data device including iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry.
ScannerPro is software tool that allows mobile data phone users to take a picture of a document, crop for proper orientation and size, and upload to a computer via WiFi, Evernote or Dropbox. This allows users to take a snapshot and upload to their computer without bringing printed sheets of paper back to the office for a customer file. The ScannerPro app can be uploaded to any modern smartphone for free.
7.) Google Docs and iWork.com
Two additional tools that make it possible to work in a paperless environment are Google Docs and iWork. Google Docs allows registered users to upload their files for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings or forms and then work on a share their information over the internet. Documents and files can be viewed from any other computer or smartphone and is free to use. iWork is a similar software program that allows users to upload their information to the internet and share with other users who are invited to collaborate online. Each invitation is sent with a specific access URL for each viewer and works with any smartphone or computer with a current browser. iWork is free to use, allowing anyone to work and collaborate online.
Scanners are another way for offices to work without paper. Using either a flatbed or upright scanner, documents and images can be uploaded to programs such as Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs and iWork and then shared with others. Once the images or documents are scanned, you don’t have to keep referring back to the physical document for reference.
eFax is an online faxing service that allows users to fax either .TIFF or .PDF documents to any fax machine in the world. Once documents are on a computer in an image or document format, the user enters the recipient’s fax number and hits send. eFax electronically transmits the documents in the same manner as a traditional physical fax. Rates depend on the volume of faxes sent; they offer two different rate plans for businesses.
Freshbooks is a .PDF invoicing software program that allows users to email their invoices to customers without using traditional printing and mailing services. They also allow users to track their employee’s time and integrate project contractors into project management modules. Rates for the service range from free to $39.95 per month, depending on the amount of billing anticipated per month. There are no contracts for the service and Freshbooks offers a 30-day money back guarantee for their services.
This guest article was submitted by John Brook, a UK-based writer and blogger who writes reviews of office furniture and business equipment at the Office Kitten, one of the top suppliers to small and medium sized businesses in the country.