By Brooks Duncan, CPA, CMA, DocumentSnap, Vancouver, BC
You wouldn’t think that fear and computers would go together, but I have found that many people are very uneasy when working with digital files. Their fear? That they won’t be able to find the file that they need when they need it. We’ve all had to search through folders and folders looking for that document that we know is there somewhere.
This uneasiness is completely understandable, but there are things we can do to put our clients (and ourselves) at ease, and become more productive at the same time.
One of the biggest things you can do is to use a consistent naming convention. If you know how your files will be named, you can use that to search later.
An accounting firm employee gave me this great tip: when they name their client files, they include a code with the first three letters of the client’s last name and the first three letters of the client’s first name in the filename. That way, they know that they can always use that code to search for a client’s document. Is there a way you can incorporate something like this into your client’s setup?
Tools like TextExpander (Mac) and Breevy (Windows) can help make consistent naming conventions easy.
Most scanners come with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. If you enable it, not only will your PDF documents be searchable by name, but you can search by the contents of the PDF. This is incredibly useful for finding documents.
If you are an Evernote Premium member, Evernote can make your PDFs searchable for you as well.
You Already Have What You Need
Mac and Windows users already have great search capabilities built-in. The Mac has Spotlight, and Windows has Windows Search. These features can find files by name, type, date, or content. The key is to learn to tailor the results to zero in on exactly the file you are looking for. For example, if you were looking for a Comcast bill, you could type comcast into the search box. This would work, but the results would include files from all over your computer of all types.
It might be more useful to enter comcast created:8/1/2013–8/31/2013 kind:pdf on the Mac or comcast created:8/1/2013..8/31/2013 type:document on Windows. This is an extreme example, but you can see how powerful the search tool can be.
Tools Can Help
The built-in search capabilities are great, but for even more power there are specialized tools. X1 is popular on Windows, and has the added benefit of being able to search Outlook. Alfred on the Mac is a productivity powerhouse. You can find and control almost everything on your computer with a few taps.
The Key Is Findability
However you choose to implement digital technologies for your clients, take a bit of time to learn how to find documents and other files, and be able to transfer that knowledge. Your clients will be amazed when you bring up a document from three years ago with a few taps, and being able to find what they need makes them feel productive and secure.
For more information contact Brooks Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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