My paperless(-ish) office with OneNote and NAPS2

Screenshot of NAPS2 application. Two documents have been scanned and are shown side-by-side.
Screenshot of NAPS2, the scan to PDF application I use alongside OneNote

I’ve started using NAPS2 to convert paper documents to PDF to store in Dropbox or Microsoft OneNote as part of my paperless(-ish) office approach to productivity.

Predictions about the paperless office have been circulating for over 40 years now. And yet here I am in 2018 sitting next to a four-drawer filing cabinet containing letters and documents about everything from my house rental and utility bills to health records, university qualifications, and work-related documents.

OneNote

A couple of years ago I decided to try to keep an electronic copy of my most important (or frequently used) documents and after comparing the relative benefits of Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote and Microsoft OneNote, I finally settled on OneNote (with Dropbox as a backup in some cases) and started scanning.

OneNote stores its files in OneDrive, which I wasn’t using for much else—and given that I subscribe to Microsoft Office 365 I have about 1 TB of cloud space* at my disposal.

[* Disclaimer: There is no such thing as the cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer.]

I like OneNote because:

  • I can view the PDF on the page, I don’t have to wait for it to open in Acrobat Reader.
  • The documents synchronise between my desktop PC, laptop, tablet and mobile phone, so I can access them wherever I am and away from home.
  • I can annotate and highlight the document using the draw functionality of OneNote.
  • I can type notes on the same page, which are searchable.
  • OneNote has built-in OCR (optical character recognition) capabilities which means I can right-click the PDF print-out embedded within OneNote and extract editable text from the document to the clipboard to be used elsewhere—that can save a lot of typing.
Viewing a PDF of a scanned MOT test certificate for my previous car

Scanning

I’m fortunate to have an Epson flatbed scanner on my desk. It came bundled with among other things the Epson Copy Utility which allows me to use the scanner with a printer (or PDF writer) much like a photocopier.

But recently I’ve found the Epson Copy Utility to be increasingly unstable. Often, midway through scanning a document the application will crash and tie up the scanner requiring me to either hunt down the processes to cancel in Task Manager or reboot the PC, which is often quicker. Though, to be fair, the application is over 11 years old and is a 32-bit application running on a 64-bit system.

Hunting around for an alternative, I discovered NAPS2—Not Another PDF Scanner 2, which is also an open source project, which I wholeheartedly support. So far, the results have been superb and I haven’t lost a single document yet

For those who understand this sort of thing, NAPS2 supports both WAI and Twain. It allows you to reorder the scanned pages. It will save to PDF or image (it supports multiple formats including bmp, gif, jpeg, png and tiff). It supports built-in OCR. Or you can simply print the document—including send to OneNote straight from NAPS2.

My experiences so far

Having been trying to live a more paperless office experience for over a year now, I can’t see me wanting to give up my filing cabinet anytime soon (there are still some documents that I would want to keep in paper format) but this has certainly enhanced my productivity.

Before I started scanning, I decided on a document structure within OneNote. I store all my documents within the same notebook but in different groups and sections. I try to keep these as consistent as I can with how I have organised my filing cabinet, which helps me locate the hard copy when I need to. And I adapt and extend the structure when it seems sensible for me to do so.

When I started scanning documents to PDF and embedding them within OneNote, I didn’t simply start at the front of my filing cabinet and work my way through. Instead, I prioritised those documents I thought I might need most often. Whenever I am out and realise that document X or Y would be useful in OneNote, I add a task to Todoist to scan it when I get home.

What I should maybe do next is then use this as the basis for determining which documents to recycle or shred from my filing cabinet.

Having my key documents available wherever I am has been invaluable. Hurray for mobile phones, OneNote for Android and 4G network connections.

Overall, while there is a little overhead in sitting scanning documents as soon as they arrive—although many companies like insurance and utility companies now use PDFs via email as their primary documentation—I have found this approach to be entirely worthwhile. It keeps all my documents together, I can access them whenever and wherever I need them and I feel much more organised as a result.

No mobile signal on EE? Use EE WiFi Calling

Mobile phone on wooden desk
Photo by Tyler Lastovich (via Pexels)

When I moved to Crail a couple of months ago, I quickly ran into a problem: I don’t have good mobile phone reception in my house. I’m on EE.

After making a couple of calls standing out on the road, I knew that I needed to find a better solution.

While searching online to see if I could buy some kind of mobile signal extender, I discovered that EE offers WiFi Calling.

A bit like Skype Calling, EE WiFi Calling uses your broadband connection to route calls to the EE network. So you can make phone calls or send and receive text messages even if you don’t have a phone signal.

There are a couple of caveats, though:

  • It only works if you are on an EE pay monthly plan (not pay as you go, yet).
  • You need a compatible phone.

Find out more about how to use EE WiFi Calling and which handsets support it.

If you’re on an EE monthly contract and your phone supports it, I wholeheartedly recommend switching on EE WiFi Calling.

When I have a good signal my phone uses the EE network, but as soon as I don’t then my phone automatically switches to using WiFi to route calls and text messages. And as I’m also a BT customer, I can use BT WiFi to use any of the 5 million WiFi hotspots around the UK. Bonus!

Twilight for Android: stop your mobile device keeping you awake at night!

Twilight reduces your display's blue light emission.
Twilight reduces your display’s blue light emission.

When I blogged about f.lux the other day, which is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS, I meant to mention an equivalent application for Android. But I forgot, so here’s a post all to itself.

This week I’ve started using Twilight by Urbandroid Team after a recommendation from someone on Twitter. So far I’m really impressed.

In the past I’ve used two other applications, first Night Filter by Digipom before I moved to F-lux Screen Dim for Android, but I was never entirely satisfied with either, to be honest. I had to manually run each in the evening and because I could never quite get the colours quite right for me I ended up hardly using them at all as I found them distracting.

Like f.lux for the PC, Twilight runs in the background, automatically dimming the screen around sunset. The colour is subtle: peachy like f.lux, rather than burgundy like Screen Dim, for example.

If you’re looking for a screen dimmer to enable you to read more comfortably in the dark, then I thoroughly recommend Twilight.

Twilight is available on Google Play.

Changing the phone number on your SIM card with a Sony Ericsson K800i

Sony Ericsson K800i
Sony Ericsson K800i

A few weeks ago I moved my mobile phone contract from O2 to T-Mobile/EE at the Carphone Warehouse. It was the first time that I’d ever moved networks since I first got a mobile phone in 2001 or 2002, and the process was very simple. I wanted to keep my old number so this is what I did:

  1. Contact O2 to ask for a PAC. I did it online using their live chat facility.
  2. Buy new mobile phone contact.
  3. Phone customer service on new network (T-Mobile) and tell them the PAC.
  4. Wait 24-48 hours for the old number to transfer over to the new SIM card.

However, I discovered that the SIM card was still reporting the ‘temporary’ T-Mobile number rather than my original number, and it turns out that Android doesn’t provide a way to edit the number stored on the SIM card.

After a couple of hours of searching on Google, I ordered an old Sony Ericsson K800i phone on eBay as it turns out that this device does allow you to edit the number stored on the SIM card. It arrived a few days ago, as did a micro-to-SIM card adapter and today I popped the SIM card out of my new Google Nexus 4 and edited the number on the SIM.

Here’s what I did on the Sony Ericsson K800i:

  1. Contacts
  2. Options
  3. Special numbers
  4. My numbers
  5. Select your main number, it may be called something like “My mobile” or “Line 1” or similar, and press Edit
  6. Enter your new number, e.g. +447123456789
  7. Save

And it worked: Android now reports my original number. I’ve done the same for Jane’s phone too, as she moved from O2 to T-Mobile a few months earlier and experienced the same issues.

Jane has a Samsung Galaxy Ace running Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread) and it would appear that on this phone/operating system it is essential to make sure the date and time are set correctly otherwise it won’t connect to the internet and will report a “no connection” error.

I’m posting this in case it helps anyone else. Oh, and does anyone else need a third-hand Sony Ericsson K800i?

Mobile attitudes–how many apps do you have installed?

20110928-htc-hd2

In this month’s .net magazine there is an interesting article about Mobile attitudes that focuses on who is accessing the Web via mobile devices and why.

Based on research by MRM London, they group mobile Web users into one of four camps:

  1. Rookie – tend to be older, watch less TV, listen to less radio and surf the Web less than others. They tend to have around 9 apps installed on their smartphone, if they indeed have a smartphone.
  2. Rationalist – generally between 25-45, they are happy to use the Web on their mobile device but are very selective about what they access. They have a general lack of understanding about what extra value their mobile access can offer them.
  3. Everyday – mostly under 35, these are heavy mobile Web users who understand the value that mobile Web offers, but they would generally prefer to be sat in front of their desktop PC/Mac or laptop.
  4. Restless – for this demographic, mostly under 34, the mobile Web is an integral part of their everyday life. They understand what value mobile usage brings, and they consume a lot of media, not just online but TV, radio, magazines, etc.

Western

Something that struck me about the article was how Western these categories are. I wonder what differences there would be if this study was extended worldwide. How about mobile users in Africa or China or India, for example?

Mobile Web is just going to get bigger, user base will be larger and more and more developers will need to think about their mobile strategy more than they do now.

How many apps do you have installed?

The article talked about the number of apps that users tend to have installed. I guess the implication was that the more confident the mobile user about what they do online the more applications they would have installed.

I suspect (I hope) that HTML5 will change all of that as more mobile browsers become more capable of running complex Web apps that these app downloads will move to becoming simply website/web app URL bookmarks.

Anyway, it reckoned that the average user has 20 apps installed, of which they use less than half; rookies have only 9 installed, and those labelled restless have 42.

I’ve recently spent a lot of time on my mobile phone (stuck in bed for days after damaging my back, other blog post soon), and have just uninstalled the apps that I don’t use in order to free up memory and speed up my HTC HD2 running Windows Mobile 6.5.

What I have installed

Here’s what I now have installed (in not particular order), which are the apps that I actually use. This doesn’t include default apps that came bundled with the HTC HD2.

  1. Opera Mobile 10
  2. Spb Mobile Shell 3.5 (replacement user-interface)
  3. Spb Wallet (password safe)
  4. BBC News
  5. Nitrogen (MP3 player)
  6. SimpleAct QuickMark (QR code scanner)
  7. Mobipocket Reader (eBook reader for .mobi format)
  8. CoPilot Live 8 (GPS)
  9. Leaf GPS Dashboard (GPS toolkit)
  10. Panoramic moTweets (Twitter client)
  11. Microsoft Office Mobile 2010
  12. JAM Software TreeSize Mobile
  13. MSN Weather
  14. Gmail (Java app)
  15. SKTools (Registry editor, free-up RAM, temp file cleaner tools, etc.)

How many apps do you have installed on your smartphone? Do you use them all?