Technology with Integrity
By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.
The paperless office is often mentioned as the goal of computerizing the office. Document imaging systems are getting less expensive and easier to use. Budget versions often come bundled with copier/printer/scanners. Many of these are still buggy and tricky to use and maintain. Good systems are still costly for a small office.
There are things you can do now to manage your documents that cost nothing and prepare the way for the future.
The goal of document imaging is store your documents in electronic form, and be able to find and view or print them as needed. Paper documents are scanned in, optionally ran through an OCR program, which creates a parallel document with the text in electronic form, and then indexed. Existing electronic documents are indexed as well.
The secret to finding them again is a good system of tagging. Each document can have one or more tags, such as customer, invoice number, date, etc. You can then search based on combinations of these indexes to find the documents you are looking for. In addition, you can use a full text index to look for words within all the documents. In higher end systems, all the documents, and their scanned images, are stored in a database which speeds the indexing and retrieval process.
You can duplicate a good part of this system using good naming conventions and a desktop search tool. Recently Microsoft came out with a desktop search engine, probably in response to Google desktop search. Both tools allow you to search documents stored on your computer and local network using both file names and full text indexing. They quickly return a list of documents sorted by relevance.
By using consistent, well thought out file names, you can duplicate the indexing system – put all the keys you would want to search on into the file name itself. For example, you can track Invoice number, client, and date by formatting the document name to include this information: “Jones Co. 1001 05-12-15 Invoice.doc”.
Similarly, you can include a series of keywords within the document that would then allow you to find that document by the category it belongs in.
Both the new Microsoft Desktop search and Google search allow you to install plug-ins which enable indexing and searching additional document types. This includes .pdf and .zip files. Many Scanning programs include the option to scan to .pdf. Google desktop supports a version tracking plugin for word and excel.
The pieces are all there. It is just a matter of good organization and planning to get your digital documents working harder for you.
Google desktop: http://desktop.google.com/
Microsoft Desktop: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/desktopsearch/default.mspx
Tim Torian has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He has a BS in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networks for the past 20 Years. His industry certifications include: Cisco CCNA and CCNI, Microsoft MCSE, and Novell CNE. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, and custom software development. They can be reached at (559) 733-1940 or on the web at http://www.toriangroup.com