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Turning paper files into electronic files

Here's an interesting question that arrived in my inbox this week:  I'm trying to move my paper files onto the computer.  Currently I scan a document and a .tif document is created.  I can open it on my desktop file but if I go into Word and try to open it is becomes a bunch of junk/odd symbols. Scan

Do you know of any easier way to scan in documents and store them on the computer that I'm missing?  One of my concerns is that I will lose the documents I scan into the computer. Do I need special software?

The answer:  How you scan and save depends on what you want to do with the scanned file.

Viewing and printing only.  A .TIF file is a picture which can be viewed using image software. If you want only to view it or print it, you could open it in a program that handles images (MS Paint, Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, MS Office Picture Manager, Photoshop, GIMP, etc).

Editing it in MS Word.  Word isn't able to open and edit image files, so if you want to work with it in Word, you'll need some Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software that will recognize the characters in the picture and convert them into text. 

Here's a link to some simple instructions to do this, using Microsoft Office Document Imaging as the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software:  http://www.ehow.com/how_4620364_scan-document-word.html

PDFs.  Some copiers are able to scan to PDF files. The same things hold true with PDFs-- if you only need to view and print, you can just open the PDF with Adobe Reader (or other PDF-reading software).  If you need to be able to edit the document, then you'll need to use a full version of Adobe Acrobat to edit the PDF, or you'll need some OCR software to the read the text of the PDF and convert it into a text document (which is then editable in your word processing software).

How many of you have gone paperless? (I haven't attempted it yet)  How do you tackle converting paper documents into electronic ones?  What file format are you storing them in?  If you have a tip or recommendation, please leave a comment!

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Here's a short guide with 7 strategies for going paperless: http://smallnotebook.org/2008/09/24/going-paperless/

It includes the important point that when all your documents live on your PC, reliable backups are *critical*.

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