Organizing papers is an old problem. Some people still use binders, some scan and store them as files. Yet, most agree that there isn't a simple, intuitive, robust and affordable way to go paperless. Not until 42Tags. Did we say simple?
In order to understand the problem and our solution, let's begin with the following scenario:
John is married to Maria. John and Maria have many paper documents in their house, and they continuously accumulate more and more papers that they don’t want to throw away. These paper documents include: warranties, invoices, tax statements, bank documents, contracts, business cards and more.
Currently, John just organizes the papers in numerous binders but this has major disadvantages:
1) Papers take up space, and years of accumulated papers take up a lot of space.
2) Organizing papers in binders is a tedious and time-consuming task.
3) Finding a paper, especially if it wasn't recently accessed can be a very frustrating task without any guarantee of finding it!
4) Copies and Reference. Sometimes you just need to email, fax or review one of your important papers and you don't want to invest too much time on it (see number 3 above).
5) Perpetual backup. Some papers need to last for years. Physical papers have good chance of getting lost over the years (moving homes, accidentally discarding them, fire, water damage, etc.), whereas scanned files with a proper backup (CD, off site, web) can last forever.
These disadvantages make this a bad solution.
So, John decides to migrate his papers to his computer, but the question is how.
What other options does John have?
1) Use scanner software and just save files in folders.
2) Use document management software.
Let's start with the first option - using scanner software and just saving files in folders.
That is what we initially did and we suffered a lot, so then we decided to develop 42Tags. I'll explain.
The first problem is using scanner software. John's scanner software offers too many options and is not 'click optimized'. It will also take him some time to teach Maria, who is not as computer literate as John, how to use the software.
Now let's say John and Maria, who have recently gotten married and want to take care of their mutual financial future, signed a one-page contract with a financial fund.
John scans that page, and now needs to figure out where to store it.
Let's look at John's current folder hierarchy:
Where should John put the scanned page? Should it go under Finance because it is a financial fund or under Contracts? This document should also be in Maria's folder because it is relevant to both of them.
I am sure that you are now convinced that scanning and using regular folders is a bad solution. Now we can move to the option of using document management software.
We personally extensively searched for suitable "document management software" before we developed 42Tags but we didn't find any because:
1) We searched for a reasonably priced solution. Products that cost more than $100 were not an option and were usually too complicated for the task.
2) All the products that we investigated didn't give a comprehensive solution: most of them still used folders (so what’s the point?), some of them required too much effort, and none of them used tags in order to do the job.