Going Paperless

4 minute read

Millennials don’t have printers. We just don’t.

Okay, I do actually have a printer. It’s a really old HP that is so old that I have to go in the BIOS to reset it every time I have to print something because it no longer recognizes the cartridge. The ink is expensive and dries out, so I don’t like using it. I certainly wouldn’t use it to print out the constant stream of research papers that I printed out at the office. Since moving to working from home, I had to adapt.

Pros and Cons of Paper

Staring at a fixed computer screen for hundreds of technical pages never worked for me. There are several reasons why paper is king when it comes to reading papers:

  • You can markup and take notes easily.
  • You can move around and get comfortable. I find it very uncomfortable to sit at a desk and read for an extended amount of time.
  • Paper is easier on the eyes than a backlit screen.

But there are some ways that digital paper is better:

  • You can search through your notes and documents automatically. Good luck finding that one paper that mentioned “concept X” in that big stack.
  • They take up much less physical space. You can pretty much store an entire library on a tiny flash drive or other device which makes it easier to take reading with you on trips or when you find a few moments in the day to read on a portable device.
  • It’s easier to share your notes with others and collaborate.
  • Save the trees! This is a big one. I estimate that I saved about a ream of paper (~500 sheets) over the past year.

Going Digital

I knew that printing more wasn’t going to be an option. I wasn’t going to drop a ton of money on an industrial printer. Reading less and becoming stale wasn’t an option either. My solution was to buy a high quality and responsive tablet with a stylus for doing my technical reading. It needed to be a high resolution display with a high refresh rate to cause the least amount of eye strain.

Once I started using it for my technical reading, I took it a step further and I decided to start digitizing my notes. In the before time, I would typically fill up notebooks with all my random ideas and thoughts. The problem is that then you end up with a mish-mash of scraps of paper with all these great ideas, plans, and thoughts that lead to nothing because they can’t be referenced or searched. With digital notes, that problem goes away. Everything stays organized (maybe), filed away by category (if i’m on top of it), and is searchable (YAASSSSS!). Depending on which notes app you use, handwritten notes are searchable as well as the types notes. It’s also really nice to be able to allow the technology to augment note-taking ability. With digital, I can draw perfectly straight lines and perfectly curved shapes. I can use multiple colors, pens, and highlighters. I can insert pictures, pdfs, and other reference materials. It’s paper notes on steroids.

I still use paper for when digital isn’t handy, or for daily goals and TODOs that get replaced quickly. I prefer paper for stuff that is short lived and referenced throughout the day like a TODO list. The digital is better for stuff that needs to be referenced later on and for persistent notes. I wouldn’t want to go through my device to find my TODO list every time I need to reference it since I’m also using that for reading and other digital tasks.

My setup

  • tablet: ipad pro
  • Note taking:
    • Goodnotes (Something like $10 when I got it) for creative and intellectual work or projects
    • Notes (free built in apple app) for standard adulting and organization stuff to keep track of
  • PDF annotation: PDF Viewer (free without premium features). Honestly, this is the best app for this kind of thing and I have tried many. It has all the options for inverting colors entirely or making papers a soft yellow instead of a harsher white backlight.
  • Newsletter creation: Pages (built in apple app)

Summary

Overall, It’s hard to think about going back to printing out so many papers and keeping binders full of ideas. Once you have experienced laying out ideas on a fully customizable and editable canvas, it’s hard to go back to ink and paper. Changing colors, sizes, and notations once you ideas come is a different type of creative experience that I really enjoy, and makes me excited to create.

The drawback, however, is that a really nice tables is pricey. You can get a budget one, but you want something very responsive with a high quality display or else it won’t be as enjoyable. There are now really nice dual laptops and surface pro type devices that let you do the same kind of stuff in a full-on computer environment that lets you get by without an extra gadget if you already need a computer.

But hey, save some trees :).

#blog