Smartphones are digital Swiss Army knives. Your Android phone can help you go paperless, replacing all those pieces of paper with a single device in your pocket and some cloud storage. The future is here — it’s possible to have that long-awaited paperless office today.
Scan Receipts And Other Documents
There are many different ways to scan receipts and other documents and add them to your phone and cloud storage, but Google Drive and Evernote are some of the most popular applications you may already be using.
Use the Scan feature inside Google Drive to scan a physical document — open the menu, tap Add New, and tap Scan. Point your Android phone’s camera at the document and Drive will pick the document out of the photo and save it as a PDF file. Google will also perform optical character recognition (OCR) on it so the text inside the document will be searchable later. The resulting PDF can be accessed from the Google Drive application or website.
If you’re an Evernote user, you can scan receipts and other physical documents and save them directly into your Evernote account to keep them organized. Create a new note (or open an existing note), tap the plus button, and tap Page Camera to capture an image of a physical page and attach it to the document. This works like Google Drive, picking the document out of a photo. Evernote also performs OCR so the text in the documents will be searchable.
If you use another cloud storage service like Dropbox or a note-taking service like OneNote, check your service’s app for document-scanning features. You can always just take a normal photo with the app and upload it, even if you don’t have document-recognition and fancy OCR features.
Ditch The Notebook
Go digital with your notes. Google Keep is integrated with Android, and is available as a Chrome app and on the Web. Evernote is a popular, full-featured note-taking solution. Simplenote now has a beautiful, official Android app and is focused on just-plain-text simplicity. Microsoft’s well-regarded OneNote note-taking solution is now available for Android, too. Pick an application and use it both on your phone and computer, and you’ll have access to your notes everywhere without having to juggle papers and worry about losing them.
Print To PDF
Need to save something for later? You don’t need to print it. Instead, just send a digital copy to your phone. For example, let’s say you want to save a receipt, plane ticket, or any other document you might need later. Instead of printing it to a piece of paper, print it to PDF.
In Google Chrome on your computer, you can print straight to Google Drive and your document will appear as a PDF in the Google Drive app on your phone. You can also use the Print option in Chrome on your Android phone and save the current page to a PDF file in your Google Drive.
Prefer another cloud storage service? No problem. Just use any standard tool to print a document to PDF and save it in your Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or other cloud storage folder. It will then be available in the appropriate app on your phone. Google Chrome for Android has this functionality built-in simply by selecting Print from the options menu.
Save References for Later
The PDF printing option gives you a full document along with images, which is essential for many types of documents — think plane tickets, concert tickets, receipts, and maps. However, sometimes you just want to print out a document so you can read it later.
We recommend Pocket for this. Install the Pocket app on your phone and the Pocket browser extension on your desktop Web browser. Click the Pocket button in your browser and the current page will be saved to your Pocket queue. The Pocket app on your phone will automatically download an offline copy of the page’s text and images so you can read it later, even if you have no Internet connection. Pocket is often used to save Web pages for later reading, but if you’re in the habit of printing out recipes and other reference material, it can be a useful alternative to printing. You can also use Android’s Share feature to save a link from any app to Pocket.
Replace Paper Maps
The Google Maps app included with Android is obviously an excellent way to replace paper maps with GPS, navigation, and search features — but what about when you don’t have an Internet connection? Maybe you’ll be travelling and don’t want to get hit with roaming fees, or maybe you’re driving through an area without any cellular coverage.
Skip the paper map and save a map area for offline use inside the Google Maps app. You can open the Google Maps app and see where you are on the map without a Wi-Fi or data connection later. Tap the face icon to the right of the search box in Maps and scroll down to the bottom of your profile screen to view your offline maps.
You can’t get navigation directions offline with Google Maps, although you can get navigation instructions while you have an Internet connection and continue following the route while offline. If you want offline navigation instructions, try another one of these offline GPS apps for Android.
Read Magazines and Newspapers
If you read print magazines, you can subscribe to them and read them on your Android phone or tablet in several different ways. The Google Play Newsstand app offers digital copies of print magazines and newspapers, which you can subscribe to. The cross-platform Zinio magazine subscription app does something similar.
Your newspaper or magazine of choice may also have its own dedicated application instead. For example, if you read the New York Times, you can install the NYTimes app and subscribe to the New York Times via the app, cutting out the paper newspaper altogether. Amazon’s Kindle app also offers newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and you can read your subscription with the Kindle app on Android as well as dedicated Kindle eReaders and the Kindle apps on other platforms.
Of course, you may prefer to dispense with the traditional magazine and news apps entirely. Flipboard is an excellent way to read online content with a magazine-like experience.
Be sure to check out our guides going paperless with an iPhone or with Windows Phone 8 if you have another type of phone!
Image Credit: Sebastien Wiertz on Flickr