How to Scan Documents Directly into Evernote

Thanks to Evernote, I have been able to go completely paperless in my new home office. For years this was a dream of mine; now it is a reality.

A Man Facing a Huge Wave of Paper - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sekulicn, Image #12153567

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sekulicn

In this post, I want to explain how to use a scanner with Evernote. This has been the single biggest clutter-buster for me. No more stacks of paper sitting on my desk or credenza. Those days are history!

If you are just getting started with Evernote, I suggest that you buy Brett Kelly’s remarkably practical e-book, Evernote Essentials, 4.0. It is worth setting aside a couple hours to work through this brief, 95-page book. It will save you DAYS of learning Evernote on your own.

Instead, I scan all loose papers—receipts, invitations, business cards, bills, warranties, letters, and even entire seminar notebooks—directly into Evernote.

Here’s how you can do the same thing in seven steps:

  1. Buy an Evernote-compatible scanner. I opted for the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300. Fujitsu, Canon, and Lexmark all make models that sync directly to Evernote. This saves you the step of scanning into a PDF and then importing into Evernote—a huge timesaver.
  2. Set up the scanner. This is the trickiest part. The ScanSnap process is not automatic. I tried it on two different computers with the same results each time. I had to setup an Evernote profile manually. Fujitsu needs to make this process easier. However, once it is setup, it is as simple as inserting your paper and pushing a button.

    In case you have to do this yourself, here is what my Settings look like. If this doesn’t apply to you, just skim past these images to Step #3.

    ScanSnap Settings - Tab 1
    ScanSnap Settings - Tab 2
    ScanSnap Settings - Tab 3
    ScanSnap Settings - Tab 4
    ScanSnap Settings - Tab 4
    ScanSnap Settings - Tab 6

  3. Gather all your loose papers. I had about a foot-high stack of loose papers when I started. I had everything from receipts, to bills, invitations, and multi-page manuals and white papers. There’s almost nothing you can’t scan into Evernote. The ScanSnap handles paper of all sizes up to 8½ inches wide. As long as it is not thicker than normal paper or even light card stock, you can scan it.
  4. Start scanning. I just started scanning and figured it out as I went. I got progressively better and faster. The ScanSnap even compensates for misaligned or downright crooked scans. It straightens them on the fly, so that the images are almost perfectly vertical. It took me about half a day to get through the paper I had accumulated.
  5. File and tag each item. You will want to enter “metadata” (i.e., information about the information) in the Evernote item that is created. For example, with receipts, I always start with the date, the vendor, and the amount. I use minimal tags; sometimes I don’t use any. Evernote indexes everything in the document, so you don’t need to repeat that in the tags. A good rule of thumb is to tag items with information that doesn’t appear in the document. Here’s an example:

    Sample of a scanned receipt in Evernote

  6. Throw the paper away. Yep, that’s right. Just throw it away. Or better yet, recycle it. Is your data safe? Yes. You have a local copy on your hard drive. Hopefully, you also have a backup of that. In addition, you have a copy securely backed up on the evernote servers. If you are skeptical, you might want to read this Evernote blog post on data protection. By the way, I do keep paper copies of a very few important records (e.g., birth certificates, passports, etc.) though I have also scanned them.
  7. Rinse and repeat. Scanning with Evernote is surprisingly easy once you get it set up. It doesn’t take any more time than creating a paper file, plus you have it instantly available and searchable no matter where you happen to be, thanks to the magic of “cloud syncing.”

Buying a scanner will set you back a few hundred dollars. I certainly hesitated when I saw the price tag. But it has been one of the best investments I have ever made. I love working in a clutter-free environment where I can instantly retrieve the information I need.

Question: How would scanning into Evernote fit into your workflow? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/r_lewis Ricky Lewis

    This is great! It has inspired me to work toward a paperless office. However, I run a small non-profit and wasn’t sure about spending the money on the Scansnap (plus I don’t travel enough to need a portable option). So I got the HP Officejet 6500A wireless (less than $150 on sale). Using the software my Mac automatically installed, I can wirelessly scan in the document and save directly to Evernote. It doesn’t do two sided but it is rare I have to take a few extra steps for that purpose.

    Thanks for the great post. Hope this helps some of those out there that can’t go for the ScanSnap.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.rcdavis Rick Davis

    Hey Micheal,
    Is there a way I can find out if my scanner is compatible for use with Evernote?

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  • Rodgauthier

    Checkout Scandrop at officedrop.com. Its a free scanning tool for twain scanners that allows you to scan to Evernote or Google docs. Just found it and it works, but i haven’t got the details all worked out!

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  • Dave Nicastro

    I’m in awe of your organizational skills with Evernote. Memphis is to Elvis as Nashville is to Michael Hyatt. I’m a Evernote newbie..couple days…and I flipped out when Evernote highlighted my searched words in a picture. Oddly, if a word was in a PDF, Evernote did not highlight the word but simply showed the PDF page. I’m wondering if I should bother making a PDF of my receipts if they don’t highlight. How do I get Evernote to highlight searched words in a PDF?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a feature of the Premium version. You can see the comparison between free and premium here. It is well worth the upgrade.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Smith/100002639584998 John Smith

    Can you also scan directly in Sage CRM

    document scanning
    services price calculator

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Smith/100002639584998 John Smith
  • Kenny Chua

    Hi Michael,

    I was hoping that you could help me with understanding the difference between using scansnap and scanning it into a pdf first, and then dropping it into Evernote vs scanning straight to Evernote?  If you scan straight into Evernote, I get a popup saying that it’s converting my file into a JPEG even though I have PDF checked in the evernote settings.  Do I really want all my documents as JPEG in evernote?

    If I scan it into a pdf file first and then drop it into evernote, it’s like an attachment.

    Which way is better and why?  What are you thoughts on this?

    Best

    Kenny

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      When I scan, it goes straight into Evernote as a PDF. You might post your question on the Evernote user forum, I am not sure I can help you.

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  • Charles

    Great walkthrough – very helpful.  I agree – Fujitsu can make this a much better experience.  I followed the steps above and tried scanning my first two pages (one document), but the two pages were sent to my Evernote as two separate notes in the notebook I had open at the time.  So, how do I tell the Fujitsu to recognize the two pages as one document, and then how do I get it to send the document to the notebook of my choice (not necessarily the one that is open at the time.)  Thanks!

  • Lambonline

    I have had Evernote for several weeks now and I used the scanner on my hp Photosmart all-in-one to practice scanning in documents until my ScanSnap arrived.  I was pleased that I didn’t have to do anything, whether printed or handwritten, to have Evernote find words in my scans.  But now that I have my ScanSnap and I have it set up like Michael shows with the  [ ]Convert to Searchable PDF not selected, Evernote isn’t finding anything.  :(  I’m so disappointed because it has caused me to start using way more tags just to make sure I don’t mis something.  Is there something I am not understanding about how to best set this up? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You might double-check the Evernote website or user forums. I think searchable PDFs or only available in the paid version. Thanks.

      • Lambonline

        Yes. That is true.  And I have the paid version.  :-/

  • Les

    Done and Done. Excellent tut. 

  • Gage Pope

    Thanks for the info.  I’m looking forward to organizing my life with the help of Evernote and Scansnap.

  • Oldkingpriam

    Thanks very much for such an informative post! 

  • http://www.Appculture.net DM Cook

    Have you ever figured out a better way to handle metadata tagging with multiple items? I hate how difficult this is to do in Evernote, and it seems so easy to fix. Maybe I’m not doing it right.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I’m not sure what you mean. If I select several notes, I can drag them to a note, and it will tag all of them.

      • http://www.Appculture.net DM Cook

        Fascinating. See, if you select a bunch of notes and add a tag to one, it won’t add the tag to the rest, so I assumed this wasn’t available. Funny that you need to drag it over — but hey, at least it works! Thanks for the great tip.

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  • http://twitter.com/mawade1 Michael A. Wade

    Michael,

    Thanks for the post.  I am a huge Evernote fan as well.  I was just getting started with Evernote back in September of 2011 when I met you and heard you talk about productivity at the Building Champions Experience Conference in Washington State.  I may be over thinking this but I was wondering when you scan your receipts do you scan each receipt as a seperate PDF or all the receipts into one pdf (Lets say a weeks worth).  Thanks for all the great information you provide.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/statham.john.1 Statham John

    Nice
    post! Seattle, WA is regarded as one of the country’s greenest cities. Eco
    Papyrus’s document scanning and paper management services allow businesses’ to
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    part with http://www.ecopapyrus.com/.
    Thanks.
     

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  • Bill

    first, thanks for all your great posts and information.  I have been an Evernote and SnapScan user for a while but recently made the switch to Mac and seem to have taken several steps backwards in my Evernote usage.  

    On the PC i can scan directly to Evernote and it will prompt me to create a file name before it saves the document to both my PC and in Evernote.  I can’t seem to find this feature on the Mac version of the SnapScan software; am i missing something?  The way it is set up if I want to add descriptive information to the filename I have to save it once then rename and re-save…

    Hoping for an easy solution,
    Bill

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I don’t know of a way to do this. I just accept the detail but give it a descriptive title in Evernote. Thanks.

    • Sleahcim

      Hey Bill,
      I just went through this myself and in my search I found a way to make this simple. 

      My solution (for Snow Leopard 10.6.8) can be found in response to Seminarian72′s question here: http://discussion.evernote.com/topic/29622-scanners/page__gopid__173269#entry173269

      If you have Mountian Lion (10.7+) you can find a solution here (the solution that lead to my solution for my OS): http://computersight.com/operating-systems/how-to-scan-to-evernote-on-max-os-x-mountain-lion/?93822#comment-93822&reload

      I’m not sure if either solution works for Lion but I’d give it a shot. 

      The beauty of this solution is that each time you scan you enter the title of the Note into the “Name:” field of “Image Capture” and once the scan is finished it opens the scan in Evernote and all you have to do is add tags. 

      Note: I haven’t tried this using SnapScan but I’m pretty sure Image Capture works with almost all scanners out there that are TWAIN compatible and connected via USB.

  • JamesOnly

    solid device.

    Do they ahve something like xcanex?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2p_Nt2WQE0
    I was looking for scanner to scan book as well.

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  • John Perker

    Document scanning
    has become an indispensible technology for any kind of business
    organization in today’s world. The advantage of document scanning is
    incredible and completely change the way your business is currently
    running. It does not matter how big your business is or what industry
    you belong to. Document scanning has already proved itself as an
    important aspect for a streamlined business process. Document scanning
    is the process of scanning all paper documents into a digital format.
    Once the documents are scanned they can be electronically archived on a
    hard drive, CD or DVD, online database or program, etc.

  • Troy Sorzano

    I found a little know secret that the Brother ADS-2000 has the ability to scan directly to Evernote very much like the snapscan products. I created a tutorial on how to set up the ADS-2000 on my blog. http://abraindump.com/blog/2013/12/05/scanning-directly-evernote-brother-image-center-ads-2000/ Hopefully it can help someone out.

  • http://tiboine.com/ Tor Ivan Boine

    Have you tried out the new evernote scansnap?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I bought it in December and love it. It is very fast and accurate.

      • http://tiboine.com/ Tor Ivan Boine

        cool. waiting for it to be available in Norway. But I guess that wont happen any time soon :s

  • Sara Collaton

    Great post! Does the scan/search method work with a free account?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think so, but I am not sure.