JANUARY 2008 IN
RICK ASTER’S WORLD

Digital-Ready Documents

Paper documents still have a place in our daily lives, but that place is becoming more and more ephemeral. I have written previously about my efforts to scan my paper files, turning them into digital documents. This puts the documents in a more accessible form and protects them from loss while at the same time saving space in my office.

Scanning is the predictable fate of many kinds of paper documents these days, as they ultimately need to fit into a world in which most documents are digital. And so many paper documents are now being designed to be easy to scan.

Scanner Glass

Part of this trend is a simple matter of making paper documents a convenient size to scan. Executives for decades have carried around planners and calendars with pages of various odd sizes. This year many of them switched to letter-size pages for their planners and calendars. The standard page size might not be quite as convenient to carry around, but it saves precious minutes when it comes time to put the planner page on the scanner glass.

The same kind of thinking has gone into many of the questionnaires and government forms designed over the past decade. Of course, standardized tests have been done on scanner-ready, standard-size paper for over 30 years.

Unlined Paper

Some of the innovations in digital-ready paper documents might have been seen as a step backward in the more paper-oriented world view of three years ago. When you know a document will end up on a scanner glass, it may make sense to write on unlined paper; to write on only one side of the sheet of paper; to write in only one column. Three years ago an unlined journal was hard to find; now they are everywhere. Perhaps compromises such as these make less efficient use of the paper, but they produce a gain in efficiency when you look at the total life of the document. A few small changes in the way you handle a document on paper can make the document easier to handle during and after its eventual conversion to digital.


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