Getting Paperless in Sales, Part Two: File Slinger

In our business life Apple devices are, unfortunately, in many cases used just as better mobile phones and not for working productively. For doing the easy stuff, not the complicated things. Even though Apple advertises that an iPad Pro could replace a regular computer I often see them, e.g. in mechanical engineering, being only used for video calls or for checking email.

Is it a workhorse or rather a toy?

I’m using the iPad Pro productively since it became available and I’m already looking forward to the next version, which will probably be released later this month. From my personal experience in working paperless in the last few years the answer is:

It’s both!

I remember a conversation with a member of our company’s board. He told me that he owned an iPhone for the first time and he had problems using it because he was missing a file manager. And he’s not alone with this. Even experienced Apple users talk to me about the same thing — and I am not talking about Joe Bloggs.

My opinion is that the way the iPad works is different from a traditional PC, but not necessarily worse. Quite the contrary. It may take a little creativity to recognize the benefits, though.

Nothing is more constant than change

In a bigger project there is often a requirement description. However, this usually has room for interpretation, and if the customer doesn’t agree with the result because he imagined the result differently, the big search for documentation begins. Besides the actual description of the project requirements there are often agreements sent back and forth by email, and with a project duration of several months no one remembers everything. Long talk short, if the documents are paperless and the content searchable it’s easier and faster to find the information you need.

As told before I’m using the iOS app Devonthink to Go to store all the information I need for my projects and research. From about 100 GB of data roughly 50% are email. Another 10% are actual technical information for my research, just about the things a technical engineer usually keeps in her or his closet in the form of books.

Devonthink to Go is your ideal companion for searching. Few email systems allow searches that can be as complex as they can with Devonthink to Go. Maybe you have already seen search terms like this if you are using the app:

NEAR(Steve Jobs,2)

If you haven’t please have a look at the app’s manual for advanced search terms. Press the question mark in the search field to quickly open it.

With the ability to use complex search queries you can find the data you need quicker. And with the help of automation you’re spending less time fiddling with the application and more time getting work done.

The iPad Pro is powerful enough for this job but don’t try to search for email with Apple Mail or Airmail if your mailbox is 50 GB or more. Instead you could import your email into DEVONthink Pro Office on the Mac and delete it from your email app afterwards. I usually keep only the email from the last twelve months in my mailboxes.

There is no other app in the App Store which is able to deal with such much information as Devonthink to Go, and I think I have tried them all.

Consequently, I have developed a script to optimize my workflow for storing data. The workflow deals with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, Zip archives, PDFs, RTFs, email messages, images of all kinds, as well as audio and video files.

How does it work?

The script first asks you for a search term. This could be a company or project name, or just anything else. The clipboard content it’s used, if available, and if you run the script several times in a row you are asked if you want to save to the same location. Therefore you don’t have to choose the project or group over and over again.

In general you’ll have the best experience when you’re using slide-over and when you drag the files to the Shortcuts app instead of using the Share menu. Quick tip: If you drag a message from Apple Mail into the workflow an EML file is saved 🙂

I have prepared a little video to demonstrate the process.:

And now there is just one more thing about this script … 🙂 If you drag a proposal into the workflow a reminder is created automatically in OmniFocus including a document’s item link. So you can quickly open the document when the task pops up in your task list.

Why a script?

– You don’t spend time with navigating the group structure

– You have no problems finding the right location even if the group name is long

– You can save the file immediately to the right place even on a small device like the iPhone

– You are able to chain actions, e.g., it makes sense to automatically create a reminder when making an offer to a client

– It automatically creates a structure within the projects

– You save time because you no longer have to manually create a group within the project group

– You are able to rename the documents without additional effort

– You can put the files into the right place just as fast on devices without drag-and-drop

– You can file the document right away instead of moving it from the global inbox later

Next time I’ll write about how your Apple device can assist you when you get a phone call. I’ll connect Filemaker Go with Airmail, Devonthink to Go, Bria and OmniFocus 🙂

Please feel free to download this Shortcut workflow for free — and don’t forget to share and subscribe.

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