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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  • http://www.albertkinng.com Albert Kinng

    I bought it. For some reason I saw it everyday in my Dock but I never use it. I don’t know why. Maybe was the first try, I start putting my files there and then I realized not every file can be put in that app. Audio files, movie files you name it Suddenly I was looking for other options. It’s still there because I want to use it! I love the idea of a iPhoto-like app for documents but until they let you put every file inside it wont work as a standalone app for documents… It’s like the developers think that people just want to organize paperwork. It’s pretty obvious they want you to use iTunes for music and iPhoto for the media but they aren’t thinking big enough. Sometimes you want to have certain files in other places like work files in iDocuments and family files on iPhoto. Get it? Hope they update the app to be able to accept all kind of DOCUMENTS.

    • http://philgr.com Phillip Gruneich

      I believe that you’re looking for something like this: http://www.ironicsoftware.com/yep/

      • http://www.albertkinng.com Albert Kinng

        Nope. That’s the same as iDocuments. At least that’s what it says in the description. Paper, pdf and documents are fine in iDocuments. I want to be able to store everything.

  • stormgen

    Don’t buy it if you are sort of control freak (like me) or very organised guy.

    Unlike iTunes, iDocuments only organise all the files in the hierarchy as you set inside the app itself. This means when you go to Finder, you will see all your files arranged in folders named with Date by the app. SO, you can almost NEVER find the files in Finder, only iDocuments itself.

    • Dominic

      Well iDocument is a database that stores your files into the database just like website’s databases. So you can’t find anything via finder if you had already stored a file on iDocument.

      So for different people they want different type of Softwares, some software’s stored datas are unfindable from the finder’s search which can secure the top secret projects or files with password.

      So your comment is just unnecessary and you’re trying to prevent users from purchasing or trying out the app — This is very unfair when the developer spent much time on developing such a great applications for Mac and we must respect their hard contributions to the apps that was built for everyone.

      • Jurij Burkanov

        Dominic, paying 50 bucks for a not-working piece of software – this is unfair. I have paid for this **** more then a year ago and I almost feel myself responsible for preventing other user repeating my mistake.

      • http://www.albertkinng.com Albert Kinng

        True. The app doesn’t work as well as it’s supposed. As I said it’s in my Dock just because I paid too much for it. It’s not finder friendly. It’s not Spotlight friendly (unless you set it up afterwards) and definitely doesn’t store any type of documents just texts,pages, pdfs and word files. At the end you are cover with just a folder in your finder with that name.

  • Jurij Burkanov

    Don’t buy it. I did it at December 2012 in hope to organize my docs, scanned as searchable .PDFs. After 3 months of using the app with about 500 docs I had to quit. There are multiple reasons for not using iDocuments, but the most important is the the software is absolutely unreliable:
    1) They are unreliable: some of the files went corrupt and were not opening after some time
    2) Some files disappeared, after “investigation” I found out, that iDocuments delets some files without asking the user: nice option, right?
    3) The marketing bla-bla on their web-site is marketing bla-bla. Or just a pure bullsh*t: there is no integration or support of DropBox by any mean.
    4) The values in Metadata fields (author, dates, e.t.c) sometimes get messed and all your tagging / sorting work, “smart folders”, goes to hell
    5) The app hasn’t been updated for a year or so: the software is, practically, dead – there are only some marketing activites left to press the last drops of juice from the wallets.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Ouch, really? Very sorry to hear that. I shall add a note at the end of the review mentioning your comment. Thank you for sharing.

    • a reader

      Hi Jurij, I was reading this article because I’m an “old” user of iDocument (I used it during 2 month the first time some years ago and during 3 weeks on January 2013) and I was reading the comments at the end and saw your comment and wooow ! That’s exactly what happened to me the 2 times !!!! Luckily the second time I had made a backup of everything. But not the first time of usage :-(

      Since this time I discovered “doo” from the Mac App Store, I gave it a try and was totally in love with it :-) As a result I uninstalled iDocument and deleted my Evernote account just to use Doo. I know some people canno’t leave without Evernote… it was not my case. I was not an heavy user of Evernote.

      So for the other reading here : be careful of iDocument. If you want to give it a try, feel free, but be sure to backup all the documents you will put in it before. I hope it will work well for you (when it works well it’s a really nice app).

      • Jurij Burkanov

        Hi. Doo is a nice try, I know some their devs and CEO in person. I can’t switch to Doo now, because it’s still way too “beta”, IMHO. Other problem by Doo that they rely on an AI, which is bad choice, because if even we, humans, have a hard times sorting or docs, then if the docs are tagged and re-tagged by an AI – the results can be devastating :) Beside of that Doo guys are reinveting all the wheels they find: and so they still have a very poorly functioning table view, while using a standard one (as all mac apps use) would be a pure profit for both users and devs. But anyways, they’re going in the right direction and I wish them luck. I personally stay (so far) with EagleFiler, which is very stable and had no issues since I’ve started using it last summer. EF has no sync (that’s bad), but other functions are well done.

    • Chin

      Could’n agree more. I switched to ‘doo’ already.

  • Kultist

    This does nothing that a good folder hierarchy can’t do.
    I’ve had iDocument installed on my Mac for some time now, and never got into using it. It just feels like another layer of tagging and filtering over the Finder’s own tagging. In the end, since I know exactly how I organize all my files, I always end up going through the Finder. Besides, I think iDocument haven’t been updated in some time and is starting to look like abandonware.

  • Chris

    I have this app however it has lost/corrupted some files of mine which made me delete it, other than that it does organize things well, but after having to re write a paper I lost all trust in it.

  • Moes

    iDocuments is a really good idea and I would love to love it.
    I’ve been using this app for years now. Since the beginning I stick wth it, hoping they will fix the bugs and issues soon. I have to admit they don’t. In five years there ‘d be a couple of updates. None of them fixed the big problems.
    - Incoming folders never worked (it works once and then never again. You have to recreate the rule every single time.)
    - They announced a sister iOs app years ago. There once was an app but syncing never worked and they abandonned the iOs app.
    - Icyblaze, the dev company behind iDocuments, launched a few apps over the years but don’t focus on polishing their existing apps. It’s such a pity, because iDocuments have such a big potential.
    - In 5 years I’ve lost 4 files (corrupted, impossible to open or simply vanished). It’s not much, but it’s too much for an app that stores all my professional papers (contracts, invoices, etc…)
    I would love it to work because it’s for me, on “paper”, the perfect app. But it has too much problems to be reliable and I’m looking for a replacement that would have the same kind of UI.
    EagleFiler could be the one but is really too ugly. Feels like a Mac OS 8 app…

  • Moes

    iDocuments is a really good idea and I would love to love it.
    I’ve been using this app for years now. Since the beginning I stick wth it, hoping they will fix the bugs and issues soon. I have to admit they don’t. In five years there ‘d be a couple of updates. None of them fixed the big problems.
    - Incoming folders never worked (it works once and then never again. You have to recreate the rule every single time.)
    - They announced a sister iOs app years ago. There once was an app but syncing never worked and they abandonned the iOs app.
    - Icyblaze, the dev company behind iDocuments, launched a few apps over the years but don’t focus on polishing their existing apps. It’s such a pity, because iDocuments have such a big potential.
    - In 5 years I’ve lost 4 files (corrupted, impossible to open or simply vanished). It’s not much, but it’s too much for an app that stores all my professional papers (contracts, invoices, etc…)
    I would love it to work because it’s for me, on “paper”, the perfect app. But it has too much problems to be reliable and I’m looking for a replacement that would have the same kind of UI.
    EagleFiler could be the one but is really too ugly. Feels like a Mac OS 8 app…

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