Controlling Your Paper: 3 Paperless Office Solutions

by Kelly Totten on January 21, 2011

Like many others, I am in pursuit of the paperless office. There are many solutions out there, but finding the right solution is difficult. For my purposes, mac compatibility and an online solution were a must. In addition, I needed a solution that would accept emailed receipts, since75% of my receipts are in email format. I explored three solutions: Dropbox, Shoeboxed, and OfficeDrop. Keep reading to find out the pros and cons to each….

Initially, I really wanted Dropbox to work for me. I already have an account that I use to share files with clients. Dropbox is unique in that you can sync your files online as well as with other computers. You can adjust your sharing permissions on a folder by folder basis. In addition, you can place files in the “public” folder and share them with a link. Add to that an iphone app to get your docs on the go, and it’s a pretty slick tool. The downside with Dropbox is you can’t email docs to it without another application (Habilis and Send to Dropbox solve that issue).

The major downside of Dropbox for me was file structure. I want to be able to send files directly to the specific folder they belong in. In my case, I’ve already dealt with the accounting side of the receipts and I’m simply just looking to archive. The other issue is that I don’t really want the hard copy of the receipts taking up space on my hard drive. I like that it can sync to multiple computers and all, but I really want to limit things that are stored locally. Receipt archives don’t fit into the “must have” on my system.

The cons to Dropbox are probably not issues for most people and I think it’s a great solution if these two things aren’t issues for you. The file directory issue is not an issue at all if you are uploading receipts prior to entry in your accounting system. Uploading receipts to an inbox type of folder and having your bookkeeper move them into the file directory after processing is a great workflow process (but your receipts will take up hard drive space on multiple systems). - Scan Receipts and Business Cards

Shoeboxed allows you to scan, email, or mail receipts and business cards into their system. It’s online only, so there are no hard drive concerns. It also has an app for the iphone that allows you to take a picture of your receipt and submit it. You can upload your restaurant receipts while still at the restaurant…no chance of losing them. The big deal with Shoeboxed is it pulls information out of your receipt (the amount, vendor, card used…) and it integrates with QuickBooks. You can select a “category” for the receipt to keep it organized…and it can even automatically categorize some items from specific vendors. The mail in service is great if you don’t want to spend your time doing the scanning. Another nice feature is the email address. Just use your Shoeboxed email address when you’re shopping online and your receipts will automatically go to your Shoeboxed account. Anything that doesn’t look like a receipt goes to your “shopping inbox” for you to deal with later. There’s a new “documents” section for all those non-receipt papers too.

I really like Shoeboxed, especially the iphone app. I don’t like that the QuickBooks export puts everything in one debit and one credit account. It seems as though some manipulation within QuickBooks will be needed or you’ll have to do an export for each category and just use one payment method. If this is a feature you plan to use, make sure it works for your needs. Scanning and email attachments are a little awkward…you still have to enter some data and preview the pdf. It’s a little more cumbersome than the other options, but it does give you good information., paper clutter

Like Shoeboxed, OfficeDrop allows you to scan, email, or mail receipts for upload. I really like the file structure options in OfficeDrop. You can setup a traditional file structure and you can set up your email subject lines to automatically send files to the right folders. I almost chose OfficeDrop just because of this option. It also translates your documents via OCR into searchable pdfs.

OfficeDrop is missing the slick QuickBooks integration and iphone app, however. Those aren’t deal breakers for me, but I certainly prefer to the iphone app Shoeboxed offers. OfficeDrop seemed great at the beginning and I planned to use it, but it didn’t work as well in practice as I had hoped. I began sending emails to my account and 3 of the first 6 were not able to be processed. Since so many of my receipts are in email format, this was unacceptable.

The Winner

Shoeboxed had the most to offer for my needs. The others are good options too and may serve your needs better. I really like the option of mailing in receipts to save the time of scanning or dealing with the email attachments. The iphone app is great too; it solves the problem of receipts gone blank (fading over time) and receipts lost in the dark corners of your wallet. To sweeten the deal even more, Shoebox has an accountants offering. I can set up accounts for my clients on my account, so I can see their information from within my login.

**Note I am an affiliate of these programs and may receive a commission, if you click the links in this post.

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