Go Paperless at Home with Google Drive

Every day, I’m handling and processing a lot of information that’s coming through that glowy rectangle that we call a computer screen. Even so, I’m having a hard time managing the few pages of paper I get in my mailbox on a daily basis.

Some of that paper is getting lost, important things that I should keep are recycled, graymail is lying on my desk indefinitely (not to mention spam), sensitive information is not handled properly… I don’t want to deal with any of this!

What I’m really targeting here is a paper-less home. I want to be able to scan, archive, shred the physical copy and forget about it… right until I need it where I must be able to find what I’m looking for quickly.


I have a multi-function printer that has the ability to scan to a specified FTP location at the touch of a single button. From that location, some software could pick it up and automatically process it.

I evaluated Google Drive against other services and software. Here is what I found:

Feature PDF from scanner Foxit Phantom Evernote* Google Drive*
Storage location Local Local Cloud Cloud
Maximum storage size Local Local +1 GB / Month Up to 5 GB
Maximum PDF size None None 25 MB 2 MB
Maximum number of pages Infinite Infinite 100 10
OCR None Manual Automatic Automatic
Price Free 80$ 5$ / month Free

The text in the PDF must be searchable so I can find what I’m looking for quickly (that’s the whole point). That means the solution I choose must have OCR capabilities.

There is some commercial software that’s doing exactly what I want but those are targeted to businesses and cost quite a lot. Foxit PhantomPDF Standard is the cheapest PDF editor that includes an OCR engine I found but there is no way to automate the process. A real deal breaker.

Let’s be realistic when comparing the remaining two cloud services: most if not all the paper I scan is at most a few pages. Longer documents are processed through a separate workflow and will be stored somewhere else. Evernote would have worked great but the 5$/month premium isn’t justifiable if I don’t use what it has over Google Drive.

How to

I think all the scanners have to way to “one-button scan” to a target machine by now. Check the user’s manual of your scanner or multi-function printer. Once it’s done, all you have to do is to install the Google Drive client on that machine, configure it so your scanner outputs the files in the right folder and you’re good to go!

Once you press the button, the paper will be scanned, moved to the cloud, OCR’ed and archived. Don’t forget to shred the original.

Looking for something? Hit https://drive.google.com, type some keywords in the search bar and you’ll instantly get it. Google magic!

I can finally find that banana carrot muffin recipe, T4 tax form or receipt for that hard drive without going through that stack of paper that’s lying on my desk.

That makes me wonder: how do you manage your paper?


2018-03-21: I moved to Office 365 (OneDrive) since because it has wayyy more features for the same price. I also use the excellent Soda PDF software (and is made in Montreal!)