- Written by Lee Coty, Contributing Editor
A Background conversation with Lee Coty, Contributing Editor Int2view.com:
Int2view: So Lee, is your hatred of filing really that bad or is it just an aversion?
Lee: Let me put it this way, in my world it’s filing, clutter and root canal, in that order.
Int2view: (somewhat sarcastically): Oh come on, it can’t be that bad! Did you have a bad experience as a child? Did a filing cabinet bite you?
Lee: Sort of. My college freshmen summer was spent working for a large insurance company as a file clerk. This was before desktop computers were around.
Int2view: OK, so? Having a summer job that entailed a little filing isn’t that terrible.
Lee: Think so? Picture a huge room filled with insurance agents on the phones at their desks. The front of the room was a line of five-drawer filing cabinets as far as the eye could see containing information about all the insurance policies written…ever. Each morning I was given a lengthy list of files to pull and at the end of day the files had to be returned.
Int2view: Come on, so you had to file a lot. Was it that bad?
Lee: Bad? BAD?? It was repetitive, mind-numbing & manicure destroying! And did I mention the paper cuts?? There’s no workman’s comp for that you know!!
Int2view: I get it, so you were traumatized a bit. What did you do?
Lee: I toughed it out, but I made two decisions –Never learn to type well (so I would never take a job that required typing), and never put myself in a position where filing was required…ever.
Int2view: So how’s that working out for you?
Lee: Who knew that computers would take over the world? I type constantly. But it’s not bad. I work at my own pace and haven’t worried about spilling white-out in years.
Lee’s review of NeatDesk from the Neat Company begins here.
By Lee Coty, Contributing Editor
Eliminating Office Clutter…or… What’s a 4 letter word that begins with ‘F’?
File, I hate to file (what did you think the word was….shame, shame). I don’t know about you, but our office is swimming in paper! There are invoices, receipts, vouchers, itineraries, stubs, business cards and small mountains of unidentifiable, slightly crumbled ‘these are really important’ papers.
Today’s computerized world has changed the way we do things….a lot. Email has caused the US Post Office to see (and bleed) red, taking notes involves a keyboard and we constantly hear talk of the paperless office. HAH!
Our office keeps records for three companies, investments and personal information. This results in something like the image at right.
Technology to the Rescue….almost
It made sense to use computer tech to ease being overwhelmed by paper documents, so I began scanning the mountain of paper that comes across my desk into PDF (Portable Document Format) files and saving them to folders on my hard disk. I thought it was a pretty good way to do the filing (ugh, that word). One problem, nobody else could figure out my system.
There had to be a way to organize and make sense of all the paperwork. The answer to my predicament arrived when the Neat® Company sent us the NeatDesk to review.
There are two components to the system, the scanner and the digital filing software.
The high-speed duplex desktop scanner is fast. It has a patented ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) with specially sized slots to process 10 documents, 10 receipts and 10 business cards in a batch. When the tray is removed it can handle large documents of up to 50 pages.
We received an early release of the Neat V5.0 software for review. “Neat 5 software uses patented "Intelligent Text Recognition" technology to identify and capture key information from scanned documents”. The new revamped user interface (The Dashboard) is terrific, providing an easy, logical way to process, display and access the information in the system using a filing cabinet, drawers and folders metaphor.
The Dashboard has all the information you need to get started and maintain the system. The left panel lists the contents of the filing cabinet (more on that later), the center area contains a video demo on how to get started and resources including a community link, a help center and additional video tutorials (very useful). The right panels show statistics regarding how many folders, receipts, documents and contacts have been entered into the system. Another area also displays the searchable contacts database.
Watch and Learn…then Do
This is how we got started. First we made some popcorn. Next, we viewed several tutorial videos. We formulated our organizational game plan and went to work.
In the “My Cabinet” area, we set up the “drawers” we normally use – i.e. one for each company. Then we created Sections in each drawer (i.e. 2010, 2011 and 2012). Within each section we created folders to hold the related information. As items were scanned or imported, additional folders were created as needed.
We quickly and easily processed all the documentation, confirmations, receipts and business cards from our test case, the trip to CES 2012 in January.
Waste Not, Want Not
I mentioned the not so sterling results of my previous attempt to reduce clutter by scanning without an organized system. My next question was – “What do I do with all the PDFs I already have?”
Simple answer – Import them into the logical, intuitive system created in Neat® 5. It was truly “point and click” to determine what to import and where to put it. At first, I did one group of files at a time to insure placement into the proper folder. I quickly realized it would be faster and just as accurate to select a whole bunch.
The files appeared in the “Recently Added Items” link on “The Dashboard” and were marked “Unreviewed”. I then verified the information in each item and put it in the correct folder. I used the settings menu to customize fields and columns. Like I said – simple!
The dashboard displayed that we had 369 folders, 127 receipts, 566 documents and 564 contacts (426 synched with Outlook).
Among the features we like is the option to select “Send to Neat” from the print menu in any application, rather than having to save as a PDF and import to Neat later. The ability to search the entire database and find what we need in seconds adds even more efficiecy, saving time and eliminating frustration.
Data can be exported to applications such as Outlook® and QuickBooks®. The option to export to TurboTax® can ease the process at tax time. The ability to create reports for expenses makes it easier to manage business and personal expenditures. No more excuses such as “I don’t know where the receipt is.” We successfully tested sending information to Excel®, Quicken©, and QuickBooks©.
As with any new system, it took time to initially set up the folders so the key information could be extracted and organized. Once done, the information is searchable and can be used to generate reports utilizing the Report Creator Wizard. The Report Wizard made it a breeze to produce a wide variety of reports using all the information entered in the system.
Neat® is great at providing technical support with video tutorials, solutions and access to a community of users. The Help Center provides answers as well as the ability to create an account to keep a log of your support issues.
The software license allows for installation of NeatWorks on two computers. Each computer maintains its own database. Currently, NeatWorks cannot be configured to share a database over a network.
Now that my desk is clear, I don’t pale at the thought of handling incoming mail, finding filed information or facing the accountant at tax time.
We look forward to seeing a network capable version. At CES 2012 Neat® Company announced NeatCloud and NeatMobile to provide users with broader access to their information. Release date is anticipated late Spring.
NeatDesk and NeatReceipts (a portable version) are available for Windows and Mac.
MSRP $399.95 – NeatDesk + digital filing system
MSRP $199.95 – NeatReceipts + digital filing system
MSRP $599.95– NeatDesk, NeatReceipts + digital filing system
Check the Neat® Company for deals.