It’s well known the average college or university student is drowning in paper. So much paper that Penn State University saved $123,000 the year it told students to use 0.75 inch print margins. Going paperless doesn’t have to be a pain, and there’s no better place to learn the habits than in the progressive atmosphere of a college or university. You’ll be able to take notes digitally, scan in class syllabi, create searchable PDF documents, and send those PDF documents off to your professors.
Taking Paperless Notes
One of major culprits of paper clutter at university has to be the notebook. Now is the time to take your laptop to class so you can start typing your notes. If you have a newer version of Microsoft office, chances are you’ve installed OneNote. This interesting little program allows you to organize notes in “notebooks” and “pages” while allowing you to type and handwrite notes, insert images and media, and insert screen captures. If you don’t have Microsoft Office, or you’re looking for something that will sync your notes across your computers and mobile devices, then EverNote is worth looking at. EverNote does offer a premium service allowing a larger upload limit, larger note size, and the ability to let other users collaborate on your notes – perfect for that class study group.
Processing the Paper You Already Have
Along with all of the notes, there are handouts and class syllabi that need to be processed and organized. The first piece of equipment you’ll need is a proper scanner. Canon offers two product lines depending on your scanning needs. Their imageFORMULA line includes sleek, small, and quick document scanners that can scan both sides of a document at once. If you prefer a flatbed scanner for scanning photos, books, and magazines along with your documents then their CanoScan line may be a more suitable choice. Either can easily fit or store in a cramped university dorm room.
Maybe you need to search your university handbook to make sure that prank won’t get you kicked out, or you want to find that one important physics handout, you’ll need to make your document searchable. And how do you make your scanned document’s content searchable? You’ll need to run OCR, or optical character recognition, on them. Nuance OmniPage can handle the job and can even preserve a documents layout and formatting in the majority of cases. If you save the result to a standard PDF file, you can use the free Adobe Reader to search for words or phrases in an entire directory of PDF files. If, on the other hand, university tuition has you eating ramen, you may find SimpleOCR and Primo PDF Printer two free alternatives to scanning in documents and creating PDFs, just without the bells and whistles.
Reducing Printing Needs
Speaking of Primo PDF Printer, you can select it as your printer in virtually any program allowing you to create PDF files from webpages, Word documents, or anything else you can think of. Because PDF files have become the de facto cross-platform standard for documents, there’s a good chance you can strike a deal with your professors to e-mail in your assignments and papers.
If your professor or university requires that you print out your assignments, there are a few choices. It might be time to dump your inkjet printer. Although they’re cheap, the ink is expensive and by going paperless you’ll be printing on them much less often, leading to the print heads clogging with dried ink. A slightly larger initial investment but more economical choice for printing black and white is a laser printer. The laser printer’s toner cartridge can print out thousands of pages before going empty and toner keeps for much longer than ink once opened.
If you start to print so little you still can’t justify the price of a laser printer, or simply don’t have the room in your dorm for a laser or inkjet printer regardless, then there is always the print shop. Mostly all university campuses will have a computer lab or print shop that will allow you to spit out that midterm paper. Fedex-Kinko’s also allows you to upload your document and pick up a print of it the next day for the same price per page as a photocopy.
There are a number of pieces of software, a little strategy, and a lot of good habit fostering that go into becoming paperless while you attend university. In the end you’ll be more organized, more efficient, and less burdened which means more time to study and, hopefully, a bit more time to party too.