Digitizing Documents

I’ve always liked the idea of having some kind of system of digitized documents. Now it’s finally feasible and “usable”. For many years, it has been possible to scan documents, run an OCR program to read them, and then search through them. However, the convergence of three technologies has finally made it easy for me to do.

  • First of all, hard drives are really cheap. on Memorial Day, I bought a 400GB hard drive for $100. With that much storage, it’s easy to store as much written information as you could ever read in your lifetime. (With audio data, you would still have a hard time filling that much space. With video data, however, 400GB doesn’t seem that large.)
    Frys Ad 400GB
  • Second, you can now buy a fast scanner for $400. I bought the Fujitsu ScanSnap fi-5110EOX2 a few months ago, and it’s amazing how easy it is to scan things with it. It looks like their latest model is the ScanSnap S500: (See Amazon reviews & comments)

    This scanner will scan both sides of 18 sheets in one minute. It also comes with Adobe Acrobat Standard 7.0 (which costs $299 on Adobe.com).
  • The third piece of the puzzle to fall into place is the recent popularity of Desktop Search. I think this has been around for a while, but Google and MSN Search have recently released free programs that will let you index all your documents. However, I recommend x1.com (See previous post about this).

So, if you have a stack of printed documents that you want to search through, get a big hard drive, buy the Fujitsu scanner, install X1, and soon you will be able to do quick searches for anything in that stack of documents.

I’ve been trying to archive everything I read. I save all my email, and if I read an interesting article in a magazine, I scan it or find a digital copy online. That way, if I later want to reference something interesting I read, I can quickly find it.

Others have tried this kind of thing, like Gordon Bell with his My LifeBits project.

3 Responses to “Digitizing Documents”

  1. Dan Yim Says:

    Are you insane, Matthew? Who has time to sit there and scan documents, even with a fast scanner?

    You’re mental, dude.

    But I admit that there is a part of me that is strangely attracted to the idea.

  2. Brian Pedigo Says:

    You should be working for Google Matthew. You’re a humble genius, IMO.

    I really like the idea — it sounds like what Google is striving to do with libraries all over the world. If I had $500, I’d be doing it too.

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