18 Nov 07

Ok, well, I’ve never jumped on the “Green” bandwagon simply for the sake of being “Green”. However, I’ve always been on board from a practicality standpoint. My first buy-in was because my home trash was always too full and I would have have to pay those awful “overfull” charges because my trash was heaping out of the can. So when large recycling bins came into play and significantly reduced my overage, I decided that I too was an enviroNERD. Perhaps not because I want the deer and rabbits and humans to live in harmony, but because it’s practical. Disclaimer: I’m not AGAINST deer and rabbits and humans living in harmony, but usually the people touting that sort of thing are also asking me to give up practical and sensible hobbies in my life.

My office is fairly small from a population standpoint, only about 45 or so people work there. But, real estate wise our office is pretty big. How does this relate to the green conversation? Well, I’ve decided that recycling cans and paper isn’t enough. I’m recycling carbohydrates too. Ok, not literally. Let me reel you back in. I’m very lazy. Get it now? I’m a “large” proponent of recycling my energy. Dispensing it on things other than paper delivery seems to make more sense to me.

PDF and virtual paper applications really have “gained” me a lot of “weight” in my workplace. Literally and figuratively.

Adobe PDF as an independent application is really only widely known as the “PDF Reader”, but there are some great and useful applications that come with the “full” (and expensive) version. The “full” version of Adobe Acrobat allows you to modify PDFs, add notes, highlight text, modify text and some other less interesting features. However, my favorite “practicle” feature is the PDF printer. This allows you to “print” any document (or website) “to PDF”. So, here’s how it works. When you install Adobe Acrobat it will also install a printer (with the rest of your printers) that when you select it to print a document, instead of “printing” it pops up a “Save As” box so that you can name your new PDF. This really is the most practical way to create a PDF file. The files are MUCH smaller than if you (like many administrators) just run to the photocopier or scanner to scan an image of a paper document you had to print out first.

There are other “PDF printer” type applications. And many of them are free! One that I’ve used in the past when my employer wouldn’t spring for the full Adobe Acrobat was CutePDF (http://www.cutepdf.com/). There are some versions of it do cost money, but for the use I mentioned above you can download their free PDF writer.

Ok, so one more product plug (no, I’m not being paid for this). Beyond the above there is another product that I use a lot more often. It is called “eCopy”. This software is actually tied to our copy machines at my office. It’s VERY useful. It has excellent compression (meaning the file size is very small) and really can be used in place of paper. So, though I can print to PDF via Adobe, printing to eCopy is most of the time more practical if I want to make annotations to a documents or if I want to combine multiple documents and document types. Unlike its Adobe cousin when you “print” to eCopy it immediately opens the software. If you already have the software open with a document up it will ask you if you want to, 1) add to the end of the current document, 2) add to the beginning of the current document, or 3) create a new document. The tools to highlight text or scribble (like using a marker on the sheet) or typing in new text are much more intuitive than the standard Adobe Acrobat. That said, Adobe Acrobat “prints” actual text, whereas eCopy really produces an image that you can write on. What’s the difference in that? Well with the natural Adobe Acrobat product you can select text and with eCopy you have to run the document through a text recognition process if you want to do that.

So, my intention here was not to bore you with things you can’t actually understand or use, but to give you an idea of how it simplifies my life. I recently started reading pieces of this blog “PDF for Lawers” http://www.pdfforlawyers.com/ and it is pretty nice. This guy obviously knows more about the subject than me, but I still find many of my own practical uses.

Last but not least, I use eCopy for archiving in my accounting department. It’s very easy to take a deposit or A/P documents to the photocopier and mass scan documents to store on the network. I’ve converted all of my 2007 deposits to PDF files in hope of eventually ridding this pile of useless paper from my file cabinets. My hope is to do the same with all our prebills and A/P within the next two years.

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