Productivity Tip: Portable Scanning AND File Syncing

A client of mine, Margaret, recently acquired an iPad. After using the iPad camera, she realized that all of her magazine articles that she had clipped out over the past few months could be digitized! Eureka! And her question to me was: is using the camera the best option for this need?

I challenged her with a question as my answer. “Sure, that’s great to take a picture of the information you want. The photo will be stored within the camera roll on your iPad. Now how will you ensure that this new photo, or new electronic file, is organized in your own filing system and THEN that this file is then synced across all of your devices?” There was a pause at the other end of our Skype session.

Let’s review Margaret’s computing options for her job and personal needs. Margaret has a 4 yr old iMac, a 3 yr old Macbook, a 1 yr old iPhone, and an iPad3 that she primarily uses for personal correspondence and documents. At work she has a PC desktop for her teaching responsibilities. If Margaret is not careful in how she sets up her e-filing system, she will run the risk of creating multiple file versions and soon she will feel overwhelmed when she realizes – WHERE did I put that file and WHICH one is the one I need?! So by asking Margaret this question, Margaret quickly realized that there must be a better solution.

YES! Take Margaret’s idea one step further – use the iPad as a portable scanner and store that new file within a cloud-based synced folder. For Margaret that means we’ll make sure the file is stored within one of her Dropbox folders that is automatically synced across her devices.

So we need an app that optimizes scanning functionality and one that can be linked to an existing cloud account. There are lots of scanning apps to choose from – some free, some fee-based. Having used ScannerPro by Readdle for many months now, I highly recommend the $6.99 USD purchase price (at time of posting, and I have no affiliation other than I’m a highly satisfied customer). ScannerPro lets you share the new file by email, or by uploading to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, or another WebDAV-enabled online storage solution.

Here’s a video on how to use ScannerPro to scan a magazine article and save it in Dropbox (4:39 min) .

For those of you who like the steps documented:

1. Choose the information you want to scan.

2. Lay that information as flat as possible and try to position it in the best possible light.

3. Open ScannerPro.

4. Position the camera over the information you want to capture. Avoid shadows as much as possible and do your best to hold the iPad steady.

5. Take the picture by tapping the Camera icon.

6. Adjust the borders (tap and drag each corner until you have surrounded the information you want to retain).

7. Tap Done.

8. Tap the Sharing icon at the top right of the screen.

9. Tap “Open in…”, and choose Dropbox.

10. Log in to Dropbox if asked for a passcode (depending on your settings).

11. Name the file and select the folder location.

12. Tap Done.

Think of everything that you can do with a portable scanner – scan receipts and invoices, scan handwritten notes and sketches, scan magazine articles, etc.  For me at this time, ScannerPro is easy and reliable to use and it’s my go to app many times a week.

Have fun! Susan

Productivity Tip: Access your e-files offline from your iPad

The more I use my iPad, the more I love it.  All my non-confidential files are organized electronically according to my own mental map. And I’ve organized these files within my own personal Dropbox folder. Why? So I can access these files wherever I am, online or offline. Also, then I can share specific folders or files with others when I want to. (Here’s a previous article if you’re new to Dropbox).

To access your electronic files offline from your iPad, you do need to be proactive in your planning in the future use of your electronic files. What do I mean?

Let’s say you will be traveling to Chicago to present at a conference. You have your presentation materials backed up on a memory stick, in hard copy, in your email, and on your iPad. Great! You’re all set, right? Well, what happens if there’s an ISP glitch at the venue and you can’t get online. And you’ve lost your hard copies. And your memory stick is not compatible with the loaner machine that you’ve been given. Since you can’t get online, you can’t access your files in email or on your iPad. Ok, this might be a bit far fetched but you still haven’t put a solution in place to make sure you’ve covered all possible scenarios. Here’s the trick: tag your materials as favorites within the Dropbox app. That way, regardless if you are online or not, you can get to them. Whew!

Here’s a video on how to do this (6:13 min): 


1. Have the Dropbox app installed and configured on your iPad (I highly recommend enabling a Dropbox password). This includes setting up a personal Dropbox account.

2. From your desktop machine (whether PC or Mac), move the files and folders that you want to access from your iPad into your Dropbox folder. (You could just copy the files but then you may create versioning woes for yourself down the road.)

3. On your iPad, go into your Dropbox app. Navigate to the file you want to mark for offline viewing.

4. Load the file so that you can see the file contents on your iPad screen. Tap the hollow star icon in the top right (blue bar) to mark that file as a favorite (Dropbox’s terminology). That will change the star display from hollow to filled in.

5. Go to your Favorites pane. Tap the black star icon in the bottom left of your screen and make sure the file is listed in your Favorites list.

You control how many files are listed in your Favorites pane and you can view Favorites files anytime, anywhere, as many times as you like.

To remove a file from the Favorites pane in Dropbox, tap the checkmark icon in the blue title bar. Put a checkmark in the box to the left of the file name (for the file you want to remove from Favorites). Then tap the red Remove button.

Note – by removing a file from Favorites, you are not deleting it from your file system. You are simply removing it from the Dropbox Favorites list which means it will no longer be available to you offline should you need it.

Thanks for stopping by, Susan