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Green Communities: The Rebirth of the Paperless Office
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Minnesota Community Living September/October 2008

From the President
By Mark Schoenfelder

Green Communities: The Rebirth of the Paperless Office
By Mark Johnson, ArcStone Information Services, LLC – Community Management Online

Preparing for the Best Winter Ever!
By Steve Hoogenakker

2nd Annual CAI-MN Golf Tournament

Association Budgeting: It’s That Time of Year!
By Sara M. Lassila, CPA, Jelinek Metz McDonald, Ltd.

The 2009 Budget: A New Level of Agony
By Alan D. Seilhammer

Member News

Green Communities: The Rebirth of the Paperless Office Back to Index

By Mark Johnson, ArcStoneInformation Services, LLC – Community Management Online

The expression “paperless office” is an expression that has been with us since before the advent of the personal computer. Many thought the future of computer technology would provide us with an opportunity to do more “paperwork” while reducing the emphasis on actual paper.

The vision of the paperless office has never fully materialized, but is now slowly heading in that direction. Office paper consumption actually rose at 5.7% annual rate from 1985 to 1999. Consumption has gradually been going down at a pace of about 0.9% per year since then. (source: Global Insight RISI)

The paperless office ideal has had a renewed importance today because of our society’s emphasis on “going green”. That’s not a bad direction to head in; but, I would like you to consider that there is a lot more to be saved than paper and toner by being green and paperless. In fact, my idea of being green has to more to do with another kind of “green” and that green is money. “Being green” and “saving green” are, at least in my mind, complimentary objectives.

Whether you are a member of an association board, work in a property management environment, or provide products and services to the association industry, there are many technologies available today that will help you save, not just paper, but time and money. Let’s look at just a few.

Paper-Reducing Technologies
Stop! Think before you print. Before I get into paper saving technologies, I need to ask you a few questions. Does the act of printing something on paper help you feel productive? Is what you print thrown away a short time after printing? Is what you print filed away in a cabinet that sits in (expensive) office space, only to be forgotten about and thrown out a few years later? Do you proof-read drafts of your documents before you print?

Depending on your answers to those questions, you may not need any new technology to save a lot of paper and money. You just need to modify your behavior a little. Ben Franklin said it best when he said: “Waste not, want not.”

The personal computer, and its favorite companion, the printer, have increased our productivity, information gathering, and the ease at which we can print information we gathered without giving the print button a second thought. Printing a document should be the last step in the process of working with a document (if it needs printing at all).

Preview the document first with the print preview option found on commonly used software products. I also find it useful to print to “PDF” (portable document format) to get a better idea of what the finished product will look like.

Proof-read before you print and don’t forget to utilize your program’s spell checker before printing, too! Most software products allow you to have automatic spell checking and automatic correction turned on while you’re typing, but you may need to turn on that setting. Outlook is an example of a program like that.

PDF Software
I’ve already mentioned portable document format (PDF) printing. I have seen a lot of situations where documents were first printed on paper, then scanned into a portable document format (PDF) file for electronic storage and/or distribution. Printing straight to PDF and not to paper at all is a much more efficient and cost-effective way to go.

PDF’s are more secure than Word and Excel documents and users of the PDF’s only need to have a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader installed to view the files. Be aware that PDF’s are not 100% secure. They can be altered with special software.

The software to directly print to PDF from your computer is readily available and is very affordable; even free, if you don’t mind putting up with advertisements. I have been using a product called “PDF995” for a number of years. PDF printing software works like one of the printer choices on your computer. I have mine set as my default printer. This forces me to choose a real printer before I can print hardcopy and forces me to think twice before printing. There is usually no real need to print-then-scan documents, unless the document requires a physical signature.

There are other PDF output providers, such as Primo PDF, on the net. Primo PDF also offers a cheap alternative to the full Adobe Acrobat product. That product will allow you to create fill-in-form PDF’s, among other handy features. Search the internet for “PDF Software” to see the products that are available.

Paper Saving Print Technology + PDF Printing
There is a relatively new paper-saving software product in the marketplace that is getting a lot of attention. It’s called “GreenPrint”. The software is designed to eliminate unwanted pages from printing. We’ve all printed something recently that included a last page with just a page number or URL on it. Those pages typically get tossed and we’ve wasted a sheet or more of paper. It happens to me all the time.

GreenPrint’s system has paper and ink saving pre-set for your typical unwanted pages. You can elect to override those pages to allow them to print and you can elect to eliminate additional pages as well as ink wasting graphics. The area in red in the screen capture below is a page that will not be printed unless you elect to override that.

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GreenPrint’s system has paper and ink saving pre-set for your typical unwanted pages. You can elect to override those pages to allow them to print and you can elect to eliminate additional pages as well as ink wasting graphics. The area in red in the screen capture below is a page that will not be printed unless you elect to override that.

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You can also print preview multiple page documents within GreenPrint

GreenPrint’s basic version is free for home use and includes a PDF printing option. Enterprise pricing is $70 per license (computer) and payback is predicted at six months. There are special discounts for types and sizes of organizations. Go to printgreener.com for more information.

Document Storing, Sharing, and Collaborating
There is a relatively new set of products in the marketplace that allow you and your organization to securely store, and share documents. I’m going to risk shameless, self-promotion by describing the online system my company developed in order to better help you understand what this type of technology does and how you can benefit from it. Our system, called “Wonderfile” provides the following electronic document management benefits:

  • Online document libraries for you to store your documents securely and paperlessly. Good bye filing cabinets.
  • Document “tagging” that provides a way for you to organize and search for your documents without building directory structures.
  • Document sharing with clients, fellow board members, friends, family, vendors, or anyone else you choose to share your documents with.
  • Built-in electronic workflow can be utilized to move files through a series of steps, edits, and approvals.
  • Collaboration – Documents can be worked on by multiple parties and the system will keep track of each revision and each party can be notified when the other party uploads his or her revised copy.
  • Cost-Effectiveness. What does it cost to keep paper documents in filing cabinets in office space, or in a banker’s box in a warehouse? A lot. What does it cost to retrieve those documents; especially if you’re not sure where they are? What price to put on lost documents? These problems and costs can be eliminated by going paperless with a system like Wonderfile.

Here are a few pictures to help you see what a system like Wonderfile does:


I can login and view the contents of my document libraries. These libraries can be private or shared. The documents can be read-only, or they can be edited by others. Wonderfile will keep track of revisions.

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While in one of my libraries, I can add tag categories, tags, permissions, and notes to my documents. New documents can be uploaded at any time and revisions can be tracked. I can also elect to share documents with other people. Those document “share” can be password protected.

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Shared libraries can have levels of permission set for each user:


One of the most powerful features is being able to easily route documents from user to user by creating a series of tags and generating a work-flow process around them. This “work-flow” process automatically notifys users via email when they need to review a document.

Going Greener
I’ve described a few different ideas for saving paper and creating a greener organization. If you’re interested in learning more about going green with your office, please visit one of our more popular blog posts – ArcStone’s Greenification Agenda at: http://www.technologytranslated.com/2008/09/23/arcstones-greenification-agenda/.

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