The Road to the Paperless Office
I have spent the last year working on a variety of solutions to the problem created by the massive amount of paper that we have to deal with in our offices. There are many solutions in the marketplace, many of which are very expensive. As is always so with consumer software, however, competition has produced several very fine products that are incredibly inexpensive. I have worked with most of those products over the summer and I think highly of several of them. My choice, however, is Documagix's PaperMaster Live for a street price of around $100. PaperMaster Live has a number of features combined together in one program that are particularly useful in the law business. It is very easy to set up and use and it provides storage for every generic kind of document a law office uses and needs to store. Most important is the ease with which the documents can be organized and searched, and it is here that PaperMaster Live beats out the competition with its capacity to save, index and store World Wide Web pages in their native format as well as indexing and searching scanned images. I used PaperMaster Live with the EasyPhoto SmartPage scanner (street price around $150) and the combination is just terrific. As I have noted in previous columns, the EasyPhoto software provides quick and easy scans of photographs of stunningly high quality, both in color and in black and white. The SmartPage scanner has a built-in sheet feeder and will accept documents 9" wide and 15" long.
When you install PaperMaster Live on your computer, it installs a button in your World Wide Web browser that allows you to download live web pages from the Internet and store them in your PaperMaster file cabinet. Installation also creates special macros that allow you to store WordPerfect, Word and Excel documents in your PaperMaster file cabinet. Finally, the PaperMaster Live application, when used in conjunction with the EasyPhoto scanner allows you to scan photographs and documents directly into your PaperMaster file cabinet.
When you open the PaperMaster Live application your screen
is filled with what appears to be the world's largest file cabinet. You
can add as many drawers to that file cabinet as you wish. You open a drawer
by clicking on it and inside the drawer you see traditional looking file
folders. The drawer can contain as many file folders as you want to put
there. Clicking on a file folder opens that folder which contains individual
files which can be documents created in WordPerfect, Word or Excel, documents
collected from the World Wide Web, and documents and photographs brought
into your file cabinet with the EasyPhoto scanner. PaperMaster Live
also has an import function which allows you to bring in documents from
outside sources. For example, if you have sent out a few thousand documents
to be scanned by an outside scanning service such as NightRider, you can
bring those documents into your filing system using the import function.
Finally, once you have located documents or sets of documents that you
wish to use someplace else, PaperMaster Live provides for
exporting those documents to other directories or folders on your hard
drive. Finally, this massive file cabinet that you see on your monitor
can be replicated an unlimited number of times. Thus, you may have hundreds
of file cabinets, each one of which contains hundreds of drawers, each
one of which contains thousands of file folders containing hundreds or
thousands of files. The PaperMaster Live system is limited
only by the size and storage capacity of the hard drive that you use. Moreover,
file cabinets do not need to be located on the hard drive itself, but can
be located on removable drives such as a Jazz, Zip drive or even on tape.
The short of it is that this is a remarkably flexible and nearly universal
document filing system.
Downloading Documents From the Internet
Let's say you are reading The Wall Street Journal or the New York Times on the Internet and you discover a story regarding one of your clients. By clicking on the PaperMaster Live button that has been installed into your Internet browser, you are able to save that page immediately to the in-box of your PaperMaster file cabinet where it can be later filed in the appropriate folder in the appropriate drawer. Unlike most other ways of saving web pages, the PaperMaster Live web page is saved in a fully functioning form that can be run off-line exactly the same way as it appeared on the World Wide Web.
Scanning Documents and Photographs
Scanning a document is simplicity itself. You can select the scan function from a menu or click on an icon of a scanner, either of which brings to the screen the EasyPhoto scanning application. The EasyPhoto scanning application allows you to select among a large variety of document types including photographs, letters, or so-called custom documents of any size. Once you have selected the document type and size, you insert the document into the scanner and click on the scan button. The EasyPhoto scanner allows you to scan multi-page documents into a single file. When the scanning is done, the PaperMaster Live software asks you what file cabinet drawer and folder you wish to file the document in. If you are unclear about where the document should go, you may simply place it in the in-box for later filing.
When a document is selected from the PaperMaster file cabinet, it is opened to a screen that contains thumbnail sketches of each page, spread across the top of the screen. Selecting one of the thumbnails displays the document full screen immediately below so that it is very easy to flip through the document, page-by-page, to find the particular material you are interested in. You then have an amazing number of options to do with that document. If there are missing pages, you can add pages. You can export a copy of the document to a directory on your hard drive, you can print the document on your printer, you can fax the document directly to another person, or you can send it as an attachment to an e-mail directly from PaperMaster. The image can be zoomed in or out and rotated in any direction. The image can be lightened, darkened, straightened, and cropped. A variety of tools allow you to attach a sticky note, to type text on the document, to create a link to another document, to create a yellow highlight of another document, draw a line under a document or circle a document in free hand, and it also includes a special set of stamps that allow you to select from a variety of rubber stamp images, including confidential, received, rejected, urgent, approved and canceled. If PaperMaster doesn't provide you with an adequate selection of rubber stamps or images to put on your document, you can create your own or import them from other applications.
Searching for Documents
When documents are brought to the PaperMaster filing system, they are scanned by an optical character reading module in the PaperMaster application. That optical character reading module produces a text file copy of the image document and provides a search mechanism for it. Thus, if you want to search all of the documents on your hard drive for the name "John Jones" you can do so simply by clicking on the icon that looks like a pair of binoculars and then typing in the search term in the dialogue box that appears. I have found this searching method to be very easy and effective to use for the vast majority of my search needs. If I need to do a more sophisticated search, however, I can always turn to my ISYS full text searching application which allows more complex "WestLaw"-like searches over all of the documents in my file cabinet.
I have concluded that it is hard to do better than PaperMaster
Live with an EasyPhoto SmartPage Scanner. You can spend thousands
of dollars and not get a better basic system. When you add the ISYS
information retrieval and management system (See LOC, June 1997), you get
a state-of-the-art document management system for around $600. As the World
Wide Web becomes a more important source of information, the ability to
save and index web documents will gain great value. Documagix and ISYS-Odyssey
Development are committed to improving their software over time, so you
can expect your PaperMaster Live and ISYS system to
grow with the rapidly changing document management landscape. We will continue
to focus a lot of attention on document management, so stay tuned for a
fascinating future and the road to the Paperless Office!!