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Going Paperless: App Choices

In my last paperless post I defined 3 layers of security for my data. So next I need to pick the tools that give me the best convenience on each level. I don’t believe much in “one size fits all”. I rather think that specialised products can give me the best user experience on the security level that they were designed for.

For LEVEL 1 (Top Security)

Again these are documents that could be related to my identity, financials or legal stuff.

  1. 1Password

    I’ve been using 1Password of AgileBits for years now and never ever have I had a problem with it. Although it sports high end encryption of all the data that it holds, using it does not get me out of my flow at all. In fact, after only a few days of use, it became part of my muscle memory – or keyboard tango as a friend just called it.1Password securely stores my:  Logins, Online Accounts, (Online) Identity Information, Secure Notes, Software Licences and 
    Information of Financial Accounts (credit card numbers and PINs, etc)

    At the moment 1Password sadly does not offer a way to view and use attachments from its Secure Notes section through the mobile version of the software. That’s a big thing for my paperless workflow. Hence I’ll need to store sensitive documents in a different place if I want to have them at hand on the go.

  2. Dropbox with Boxcryptor

    Dropbox does not offer encryption as an on-board feature but Boxcryptor by German software manufacturer Secomba integrates with Dropbox and might fill the encryption gap quite nicely. Reader Malte pointed me to the service and I’m currently evaluating it for the described purpose. From what I read on their website and in available reviews the service seems very promising.

For LEVEL 2 (Casual Security)

This level likely will contain the majority of my documents. Invoices, administrational correspondence, etc. Stuff that I would not like to see in the public, but which would probably not really hurt if it got compromised. So, some rather casual security should be enough here.

Basically my decision is between using the Evernote service or Dropbox. Both have their strengths.

  1. Evernote

    The virtual “everything bucket” has a pretty user interface both on the Mac and on iOS. And using it feels rather non-techy, which is a clear advantage when I want to share things with people who (while using a computer and/or a smartphone) are not quite as much into “computery things” as I am… You probably know what I mean…
  2. Dropbox

    The virtual “everywhere folder” on the other hand offers by far more flexibility in managing documents on file level. Which becomes relevant where automation comes into play. Also Dropbox has a highly functional iOS client.

  3. iCloud

    There is one more thing. Apple’s iCloud service keeps documents in sync between Macs and iOS devices. Critical requirement is that the application must be iCloud enabled. The iCloud magic is constructed around files and applications – not around files and projects. Meaning what? With iCloud the files only appear in the application used to work on the file. I couldn’t manage the files in a folder structure. However most projects do contain different types of files – i.e. outlines, pictures, tables, pdfs and maybe a presentation. With iCloud these files would be scattered across different applications with no way (please someone correct me!) to see and manage them all joined up in a project folder. That’s just not what iCloud seems to be meant for.

    The only scenario on this level of my paperless system would be to use iCloud for work in progress that I’d like to progress on different devices. Then, whenever a file reaches a major new version, move it from iCloud to a folder based storage. I must try and see if that’s convenient for me.

So the decision for me basically is between better options for automation and more pretty ahm non-techy sharing. Coming back to the expectation that level 2 of my paperless system will contain the most of my documents, I think automation weighs heavier. Level 2 needs a workhorse compatible with the tools that make it groove. So I’ll go for Dropbox.

The sharing option gets more relevant on level 3.

For LEVEL 3 (No worries about Security)

Here it’s all about the fun stuff. Managing and sharing birthday present ideas, my favourite recipes, notes for holiday preparation or trip itineraries, you name it.

  1. Evernote

    What can I say – this is where Evernote really excels. I’ve decided for the premium service because for just 40 EUR per year it allows me to share defined notebooks with other people. It also lets me define some high priority notebooks that shall be available offline on my mobile devices. Great value for money, given the many use cases.
  2. iCloud

    Wait – why iCloud again? Well there are indeed use cases for my paperless level 3 that play perfectly with the iCloud logic: My calendar, my address book, my shopping lists, my to-do application – all of which have moved from paper to digital a while ago already.Few people think of these applications actually as part of a paperless system. But adding dates to my calendar, clipping information from the web or from paper into an action of my to-do list, transforming paper business cards into a digital contact is maybe the most frequent activities in a paperless setup.



3 layers of security in my paperless setup and numerous use scenarios can hopefully be handled with just 4 main services and a special add-on that sounds extremely promising to me. It’s getting exciting – for a nerd. Stay tuned.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jason Kratz #

    I know this is an older post but I just came across it. Dropbox is encrypted…you just dont have control over the encryption. This means Dropbox employees have access to your documents but nobody else does.

    My opinion is that if you want true security you cant store anything in a system like Dropbox. It has to be local. I suppose 1password negates that a bit but I wouldnt want to be using it for a large collection of documents. Local means having a good backup plan and that is one place where the cloud can come in handy. I use CrashPlan and they do allow you to create your own encryption keys.

    10. March 2013
  2. Thanks Jason. I agree with your view on better not storing documents of personal significance with a provider that could ultimately read your data. Because if they can read it, then hackers or surveillance institutions can get to it, too. Hence encrypt before upload.

    10. March 2013

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