iDocument: The Paperless Life, Simplified

If you’re like me and are completely in love with your Doxie scanner, then you’ll no doubt be scanning almost anything you can get your hands on, whether it needs scanning or not! It’s a great first step towards de-cluttering your desk and making everything as easy to find as possible. And even if you don’t have a Doxie, there’s a ton of other great scanners out there that can quickly turn all of your paper into digital documents.

But once you’ve scanned all your paperwork, what do you actually do with it? That’s where iDocument comes in. Could it be the app your paperless workflow needs?

It’s been brought to our attention that the app has several crippling problems; be sure to check out the comments below for extra info.

iPhoto for Documents

iDocument works in a very similar way to iPhoto so you should feel right at home

iDocument works in a very similar way to iPhoto so you should feel right at home

iDocument could be best described as “iPhoto for documents”, and it’s an almost perfect description. It works with almost any common document format you can think of (and some you probably can’t) and rather than keep your documents organised in folders on your Mac, iDocument uses a library in the same way iPhoto has its own library file. Whenever you add a document to iDocument, it imports it to the library. This keeps everything in a central location and eliminates constant Spotlight searching or hunting through folders trying to find the PDF you’re looking for.

iDocument imports files into its library folder

iDocument imports files into its library folder

Documents are presented in a familiar thumbnail view with access to folders (think albums in iPhoto) available in the left column, as well as tags and collections (which work like smart albums).

The library method isn’t for everyone, though. It has the same disadvantages to it as iPhoto where you’d need to move all your documents out if you decided you no longer wanted to use it. If you’re looking for something like Dropbox or Google Drive to view documents on your iOS device as well as your Mac, then that isn’t possible with iDocument. Originally, an iPhone app was available but it has since been removed and is currently “in maintenance” with no information about when it will be available again.

Similarly, accessing documents on multiple Macs would require iDocument to be installed on both. You can use the Sharing functionality that allows you to send documents to other Macs running iDocument (again, very similar to iPhoto’s sharing functionality). It isn’t as refined and rather than access an entire library, you simply send files back and forth. Since you can’t necessarily use Dropbox to sync files between Macs running iDocument then the sharing functionality is a workaround.

Sharing involves sending files back and forth between other Macs running iDocument should you need to

Sharing involves sending files back and forth between other Macs running iDocument should you need to

Search

iDocument has a particular ace up its sleeve, and that’s search. If you store documents in a folder then you’re likely reliant upon Spotlight to search them. iDocument’s search functionality is not only faster but it’s instant. Using its own search facility means, unlike Spotlight, it doesn’t get bogged down with searching for other type of files and folders.

Search works much, much better than Spotlight

Search works much, much better than Spotlight

You can also tag your documents easily which means, depending on the document and tag used, it can appear in two places at once. It’s a common first world problem when we’ve got a letter from the bank – does it go in the “letters” folder or “finance”? With tags, it can be both!

Smarty Pants

If you’ve ever used Smart Playlists in iTunes then you’ll know that you can automatically search for music using certain criteria such as artist name and how many times it’s been played. iDocument offers the same functionality in two areas: Collections and Smart Rules.

Collections are the equivalent of smart playlists. You can set up a custom search based upon certain criteria. iDocument comes with a few example ones such as “iWork” and “Microsoft Office” where these rules search for documents of that type.

You can quickly filter documents based upon any criteria you set

You can quickly filter documents based upon any criteria you set

Smart Rules goes one step further and can perform an action once the criteria has been met. The example can be used to set the document’s label to green but you could use it for almost anything you want. If you want to flag any documents that contain the word “overdue” in them, a Smart Rule will do that.

Smart rules take collections one step further

Smart rules take collections one step further

Security

You can optionally encrypt documents within iDocument. PDFs support native encryption but Office and iWork documents don’t. However, any document within iDocument can be encrypted with a “master password”. It’s a shame the password cannot be set per document but it’s still an additional level of security that you’d otherwise not have.

iDocument can encrypt any type of document it can handle using a master password

iDocument can encrypt any type of document it can handle using a master password

Encrypted PDFs show as a white background whereas files encrypted by iDocument have the colours reversed.

Incoming!!!

Incoming is one of my favourite features and works in a similar way to tools such as Hazel

Incoming is one of my favourite features and works in a similar way to tools such as Hazel

My favourite feature of iDocument is Incoming. You can designate folders that iDocument watches and whenever it sees a compatible document that it can handle, it’ll have the option to import it. The whole process can be automated so all you need to do is tell iDocument to automatically import the file and delete the original and it will do exactly that. It’s a great feature to use with a specific folder that you can scan to as it actually helps automate the process of scanning a document and editing the information within iDocument.

Whilst it’s not quite as useful as, say, being able to directly import from a scanner, it does at least reduce the steps necessary to get those scans into iDocument.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for an easy way to manage your documents, especially scanned items, then you really can’t go wrong with iDocument. It’s quick, easy to use (especially if you use iPhoto) and has some great features that would be of benefit to anyone. You’ll have to sacrifice accessing documents on the move, however, and inter-Mac work isn’t so smooth with iDocument.

It’s nice for quick visual organization, but it’s not going to be what you want if you prefer to manage your documents in traditional folders.


Summary

A great app to keep all of your digital documents in one place but it may not be the best solution if you're needing to access those documents on the move using a mobile device.

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