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Don't clip it, scan it!

If you often clip articles from publications and file them for later reference, read on. There's a simple and inexpensive technology available that can not only make the filing job easier, but the result more useful.

The technology--electronic scanning--is what's behind the paperless office. In the last few years scanning technology has made major leaps. Not only is it now easier to use, but it's far more accurate-translating text into editable electronic files.

You've probably heard that putting the paperless office concept into practice is both expensive and complicated. And for the most part that's true especially for a large business. However, when it's scaled down to the clipping-service level, it becomes much less expensive than it was just a year or two ago and very easy to implement. (See "The Paperless Office," JofA, Nov.94, page 73).

But why would anyone turn to high technology to perform such a simple task? Consider this: If you clip an article, you must label it and place it in a file cabinet. When you want to retrieve it, you've got to return to the file cabinet and search out the right folder. And if you want to share a copy of the article with a client or colleague, you've got to trek over to the photocopy machine and then send the copy to the targeted person. A lot of steps, a lot of time, a lot of paper.

INSTANT RECALL

The alternative is to attach a scanner to your computer. Whenever you come across an article you want to save, click on the scanner, and with a single motion the article is copied. The file is then stored in your computer for instant recall. And if you're connected to a network or the Internet, a few mouse checks can electronically send the file to a colleague down the hall or a client across town. The entire operation can be accomplished in less than a minute--without leaving your desk.

How it works. The scanner takes an electronic picture of the material, which could be text, a drawing or a photo. That image is stored as a picture file on your hard disk. Or, if you wish, the text portion can be converted into word-processor-formatted text using optical character recognition (OCR) software; once formatted like that, the text can be edited. Microsoft's new Windows 95 operating system has a built-in facility to handle scanned or faxed documents-giving a major boost to the paperless office concept.

Suggestion. If you plan to store many clippings in your computer, set up a directory and a host of subdirectories that resemble the organization of a filing cabinet with appropriate folders. Such a setup makes finding an article simple. Most good word processors, especially the Windows-based products, have excellent text-search capabilities. In addition, you can speed up the search function by adding a few key words to the top of each document.

HARDWARE NEEDS

Do you need a roomful of expensive hardware to do the job? Not at all. While there are many fine scanners on the market, two new products--PaperPort and Winfax Scanner--make. scanning easy and convenient. Each one, priced at about $300, is no bigger than a small roll of paper towels and fits neatly in the space between a keyboard and a monitor. While you're at the computer, you can simply slip the clipping into the scanner. There's no need to actually turn on the scanner; slipping the paper into the feeder automatically does it. Each scanner can hold a small stack of paper for automatic feeding. Neither product requires an electronic card installed in the computer, as do most other scanner setups.

An alternative to these two products is the hand-held scanner, which is small and generally starts at less than $300. With a hand-held device, you can scan pages of a bound publication, which you can't do with the PaperPort or WinFax Scanner.

Hand-held scanners have a minor drawback, however. They generally don't produce as sharp an image as a stationary desktop scanner because they must be maneuvered manually over the image.

Another alternative is the full-size flatbed scanner, which is about as large as a desktop computer. Not only is it more expensive (starting at about $1,000), but because it's so much larger, it's not as convenient to use for quick scanning.

Less-expensive scanners (hand-held or flatbed) copy only in black and white. While the scanners can record a color image, the picture reproduces in shades of gray. Scanners that reproduce in full color cost several hundred dollars more.

HIGH-DENSITY NEEDS

The most economical hand-held scanners copy at resolutions of 300 dots per square inch, which is adequate for most clipping scans. However, if you want to copy a graphic or a photo and maintain the details, you'll need to spend several hundred dollars more. The highest density scanners have a resolution of 1,200-far more than the average person needs.

If you're going to use a flatbed scanner, be sure it has a sheet feeder; the last thing you want to do is hand feed one sheet at time.

If you don't plan to convert the text image into text and you want to be able to view it on the computer screen, consider getting a software utility, such as Outsideln or XT Gold for Windows (available at software retailers). Such utilities can view nearly any file, whether text or image. While you can't edit the text or image, it is easy to see what's in the file.

Once you get the hang of scanning, you may want to step up to the paperless office by scanning documents such as invoices, bills and tax returns. Just be aware that as you get closer to a full paperless office operation, you'll need more sophisticated and expensive software and a procedure for storing and indexing the documents.

RELATED ARTICLE: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

* CONSIDER USING A SCANNING device to handle all your manual clipping and filling operations. It will make you more productive.

* SCANNING AN ARTICLE saves an the steps of continually filing, and retrieving paper clippings.

* WHILE ELECTRONIC SCANNING is complicated and expensive when used companywide, it's easy and inexpensive if it's used as a personal clipping service.

* YOU DON'T NEED expensive hardware to do the job. Two new products, PaperPort and Winfax Scanner, make scanning easy and convenient; they fit neatly in the space between a keyboard and a monitor.

* AN ALTERNATIVE is the hand-held scanner, which fits in the palm of your hand. It can scan the pages of a bound publication.

* FOR LARGE JOBS, consider a flatbed scanner. It generally produces better images than a hand-held device. And be sure to get one with an automatic feeder.

RELATED ARTICLE: For more information

WinFax Scanner is made by Delrina Corp., (800) 268-6082.

PaperPort is made by Visioneer Communications, (800) 787-7007 or (415) 493-9599.

STANLEY ZAROWIN is a journal senior editor. Mr. Zarowin is an employee of the American Institute of CPAs and his views, as expressed in this article, do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA. Official positions are determined through certain special committee procedures, due process and deliberation.
COPYRIGHT 1995 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:use of electronic scanning devices
Author:Zarowin, Stanley
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Oct 1, 1995
Words:1189
Previous Article:How auditors can detect financial statement misstatement.
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