The Paperless Office

By on March 3, 2005

Programming is a mostly paperless endeavour, but I still wind up attending meetings where I’m bound to take some paper notes. For a couple of years I tried to handle this on a PDA, but it doesn’t work very well. Even if you avoid the problems with handwriting recognition, the screen is too small and you can’t really draw nice diagrams that you can discuss with other people in the meeting.

Over time, I’ve developed a system for dealing with paper notes. I take notes on a legal pad, and at the end of a meeting, I take all the pages I’ve written (usually just one or two), and fold them in half. Instead of ripping them off the legal pad (where they’ll get lost), I tuck the bottom ends up under the pages. Since I fold all of the pages from one meeting together, I’ve got neat little groups of notes.

I was going to go snag a bunch of hanging files and start a file for each project for these notes. I hated that idea, since my file drawer is like my trash can, only I look at it less.

So I hit on a better idea: I fired up my trusty copy of IrfanView, dropped my notes pages on the scanner, and scanned them in as line art. I used IrfanView to create multipage tiffs. With compression, the tiffs are small and can be viewed by most fax programs, at sizes that would allow me to print things back out as I needed it. Then I cranked up subversion and put my notes right in the repository alongside my other project documentation.

Now my notes are readily available, and my file drawer can go back to its rightful purpose: storing extra cables that came with monitors and printers.