Going paperless in your home or office is now a reality thanks to applications for your Mac that make it possible. We’ve taken a look at the best paperless office software for Mac so you can eliminate paper and go digital for good.
It’s almost 40 years since the paperless society was first envisioned and yet most of us are still no closer to making it a reality. Although the technology is there now for society to go paperless, we’re still a long way off a truly digital world.
In fact, even in 2019, it’s estimated that the average US office worker still goes through a staggering 10,000 sheets of paper per year.
Even clunky old fax machines are still a part of daily office life although nowadays fax applications allow you to send and receive faxes from your Mac too.
Here we look at how you can easily go paperless on your Mac with a range of different apps and tools. If you’ve also come here looking for an alternative to Mariner Paperless or the now discontinued iDocument for Mac, you’ll definitely find something here to solve your problem.
Advantages Of Going Paperless
Whether you’re thinking about going paperless in your home office or workplace, there are many compelling reasons to do it sooner rather than later.
Here’s a few of the most common reasons to go paperless.
- Reduces printer, office supply and administration costs.
- Easier and faster to search and find documents you’re looking for which results in a significant increase in productivity for companies. For instance, if you’re in an office dealing with clients on the phone asking for specific information, you can find it instantly without the need to trawl through filing cabinets or papers and call them back later.
- It enables you to scan and then shred confidential documents.
- Less paperwork means less clutter.
- It’s arguably more secure to store files in on your hard drive or in the Cloud as you’re less likely to misplace or lose digital documents. We still however recommend backing them up to one of these Mac compatible external hard drives in case the worst happens. An external storage solution is also useful because the more you digitize your paperwork, the more hard drive space you need.
- Less paper use is better for the environment.
Mac Document Management Software Tips
The best way to go paperless depends on your needs but when it comes to the right tool, here are some useful points to consider.
- Does it support Optical Character Recognition (OCR)? This means you can scan images, PDFs and other text and make it searchable by keyword on your Mac. The more accurate the OCR scanning (apps like ABBYY Finereader Pro for Mac offer 99.8% accuracy) the more chance you can search documents accurately and the less time you’ll spend having to go through them and change errors manually. Although there’s a close relation between Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software for Macs and paperless office tools, there is a difference. While OCR technology is mainly concerned with converting images or PDFs to text that can be searched or edited, paperless office solutions are more about digitizing documents and organizing them which is what this article focuses on.
- Does the software support scanners or all-in-one printers? To digitize all your documents, you’ll need to scan them in first either via a scanner or a multi-use printer with a scanner built-in. This usually requires a TWAIN compliant machine which most are nowadays. You’ll find that certain apps like Mariner Paperless and EagleFiler recommend using specific scanners such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap range as they produce the best results with those particular programs.
- Do you need iPhone or mobile camera support? Most paperless apps allow you to upload photos of documents or receipts taken with your phone. However, there are dedicated iPhone apps such as Scanner Pro which do a much better job and include OCR scanning, search tools and auto-cropping.
- Does it allow tagging of documents? It’s much easier to find things if can tag documents by type such as “insurance”, “certificates”, “identification” etc. Since Mavericks, macOS supports tagging in Finder by default and some programs such as EagleFiler and Yep automatically import these tags to make things easier.
- Does it use a standard folder structure that you can easily access in Finder? This is important because if the app uses it’s own proprietary folder structure or library (like Apple Photos does for example) and there’s a problem with the software, you may not be able to find where your documents are physically stored on your Mac. Only the developer will be able to resolve this if there’s a problem.
- For receipts and financial documents, do you need it to add-up end of year reports, category totals and other summaries? This may be important if you plan to go paperless with your finances, tax returns, investments etc. Not many paperless office solutions on Mac offer this although Neat and Mariner Paperless do.
- Do you need your paperless office to support online signing or e-signing? Again, not so many paperless solutions support this on Mac yet although Adobe Acrobat Pro DC does this better than any other app. You can sign documents either in the app using your mouse or Touchpad or by using a Mac compatible drawing tablet. Alternatively, you can also sign-up for dedicated e-signing services like HelloSign which handle online signing of legal contracts and other documents.
- Finally, what’s the developer support like? If you end up having problems with the app, you may find your entire library of documents impossible to manage or effectively “held hostage” by an unresponsive developer. The same goes for updates to macOS. If the developer doesn’t update the product frequently to keep pace with macOS, you may find yourself unable to access your precious documents. This happened recently with Mariner Paperless which currently doesn’t support macOS Mojave.
With all this in mind then, here’s our list of the best paperless office and document management solutions for Mac in order of ranking.
What makes ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac stand out from the rest is speed, accuracy and convenience. ABBYY is extremely easy to use, fast at scanning and has the best OCR recognition of any app we’ve used on a Mac.
In our opinion, OCR is an essential feature of any paperless filing system because the ability to search documents by keyword or number is priceless. If the OCR scanning is poor, it’s much harder to search documents for the information you need.
The OCR engine in FineReader Pro For Mac is easily the fastest and most accurate on the market with an accuracy rate of around 99.8%. The accuracy is so good in fact that other paperless software vendors such as eFileCabinet, DEVONthink Pro Office (see reviews below) and many other companies developing their own in-house solutions, use the ABBYY OCR engine under license.
When it comes to PDFs in particular, FineReader Pro for Mac is second to none allowing you to instantly scan, edit and search them by keywords within seconds. It works with all TWAIN compatible scanners or all-in-one printers and digitizes documents within seconds of scanning.
We also really like the concept of “Hot Folders” in FineReader Pro which means that any document or file that’s dragged into that folder on your Mac, is instantly scanned into PDF or PDF/A formats ready for archiving. There’s no need to even open the application itself as it all takes place in the background.
ABBYY Finereader Pro for Mac is a powerful solution for creating a paperless environment whether its at home or in the office. If you’re looking for a digital filing cabinet on your Mac that makes it as smooth as possible to go paperless, it’s the best tool you’ll find.
ABBYY Finereader Pro For Mac usually costs $119.99 but for a limited period you get 25% off ABBYY Finereader Pro meaning it costs $59.99.
Note that users based in the UK or Europe need to go to the ABBYY Europe store to get 10% off.
Students and teachers can also get 30% off.
For more, you can check out our full review of ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac.
Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is aimed at offices that want to go completely digital to everything from scanning documents to e-signatures.
Adobe Acrobat Pro DC can not only scan and OCR documents, but it can be used to send and track large documents instead of attaching them to emails. You can see who has read, received and downloaded documents and it’s more secure than attaching confidential documents to an email.
You can even use your Mac’s iSight camera to sign documents in Acrobat Pro DC although if you want clients and customers to e-sign documents, you’re better using Adobe Sign too.
Adobe Sign allows you to prepare and send any type of document for e-signatures. Adobe Sign is even integrated into Microsoft Office products so that you can sign legally binding documents online without having to leave MS Office.
Acrobat DC also allows you to control who can see documents and what permissions they have to prevent unauthorized printing, distribution or editing of important documents.
On its own Adobe Acrobat costs $14.99 per month but if you’re in education, it makes far more sense to subscribe to the entire Adobe Creative Suite as students & teachers currently get 60% off.
This includes access to all of Adobe’s industry leading applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Premier Pro.
You can also try a free trial of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to see for yourself.
You can also read our full review of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for more.
Neat isn’t just a document scanner – it’s a complete paperless filing system to automate book-keeping and all the other tedious things that get in the way of running a business.
Neat is designed to stop you misplacing invoices and extracts vital financial data to track spending, expenses, sales and income taxes. If you’re looking for a mix between a paperless office system and an accounting solution on your Mac, Neat is an excellent solution for small businesses. In fact, if you already use QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks for Mac, then look no further as the Premium and Business versions of Neat are fully integrated with it.
You can try Neat free for 30 days and plans start at $7.50 for individuals and $12.50+ for small businesses.
Mariner Paperless is an advanced digital receipt and paper management software that was created for people who want to go completely paperless. Mariner Paperless is ideal to scan paper documents such as contracts, receipts, bills and memos to create a clutter-free office environment.
Among the highlights of Mariner Paperless are OCR scanning so you can scan documents by keywords or numbers, ability to make notes on scanned documents and digital filing that meets IRS requirements.
One of the things we like most is that Mariner Paperless adds up running totals for all financial documents and receipts. This includes things such as Taxes, Bills Due, Property and Expenses. This is rare in any paperless office solution and is especially useful if you use personal finance software on your Mac alongside your paperless solution.
Although Mariner Paperless works with most all-in-one-printers and scanner, it has partnered with Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanners for best results. The Fujitsui iX100 model is the most recommended as its wireless and portable so you can take it with you anywhere.
Although it took a while to be updated to be macOS Mojave compatible, the latest version of Mariner Paperless 3 now works with Mojave.
Mariner Paperless is one of the best paperless solutions available for Mac and if you need something that keeps track of your spending, it’s the best there is.
Paperless currently retails for $49.99 direct from the developer.
DEVONthink Pro Office is a dedicated personal document management software for Mac made specifically for macOS. It’s designed to make the digitization process as smooth as possible and even uses artificial intelligence to organize your documents.
You can sync documents to mobile devices and even though there’s no PC version, you can share files with other PC users. In fact DEVONthink Pro Office is an excellent choice for teams of researchers or journalists that need a central database to share and collate information digitally.
What we like about DEVONthink is that it learns from the way you file documents where things are supposed to go. DEVONthink Pro Office also uses ABBYY OCR scans documents so you can also search by keyword and it will even suggest other documents that may be of interest to your search terms with a “See Also” feature.
You can sync DEVONthink Pro Office with iPhones and iPads via iCloud or choose to sync via Dropbox, WebDAV or even a USB stick instead.
The Pro version of DEVONthink supports separate databases for each project, automatic grouping for better organization, RSS feeds and support for AppleScript.
If you’re looking for a complete document management software on your Mac for home or office use, DEVONthink Pro Office is a highly accomplished solution.
You can try DEVONthink Pro Office free for 150 hours before you have to upgrade.
EagleFiler has been around on Mac for over 15 years and although it’s a bit dated, it’s still a powerful digital documentation management tool that works on the latest versions of macOS.
EagleFiler is not only a digital office but it can be used for filing away snippets of all kinds such as your favorite web articles, classroom notes, shopping lists, manage bookmarks and more.
What we really like about EagleFiler is the ability to use Hotkeys that you can configure and instantly send items to the app when pressed.
EagleFiler makes it easy to tag, search and find almost any clipping you can think of. It even works for archiving emails and can convert Outlook mails on Macs into standard mbox or .eml files.
On the downside, there’s no OCR scanning in EagleFiler and it’s quite a lot to learn in one go to get the best out of it. However, for $40 it’s an extremely powerful package that’s been lovingly maintained over the years by developers C-Command Software.
Evernote is one of the best note taking applications for Mac users and although it’s primarily a productivity suite, it also serves as a powerful but easy to use paperless document management system.
If you’re looking for something that makes it easy to take photos of documents, receipts and bills on your phone and file them away for safe keeping, Evernote is a good choice. Evernote Premium is particularly handy as a receipt scanning software thanks to the mobile integration via Scannable.
A nice touch that many users aren’t aware of is that Evernote also OCR scans documents that you upload to it so you can search it even without tagging things.
The accuracy of the OCR engine is pretty good although it doesn’t always get it right and so it’s also recommended to tag items too. The Evernote team also provide some useful tips on how to go paperless with Evernote.
One way it makes things easier is by adding a “Print to Evernote” option to scanners so that you can instantly scan and send documents to Evernote after scanning.
The only thing we don’t like is that Evernote creates its own proprietary database of your documents. Although this enables the app to work so well, it also means that if anything goes wrong, you can have a hard time rescuing your documents.
Evernote Premium costs $7.99 per month and students can get 50% off.
YEP calls itself the “iTunes for documents” and if you want a paperless filing system that’s modeled on iTunes coverflow system, then look no further.
YEP is more of a document organizer than a scanner but it does work with most flatbed scanners and all-in-one printer-fax-scanners. What we like about YEP is that it doesn’t “take over” like some document management apps do – it stores everything on your Mac in its original format but simply provides a more convenient way to access it all.
YEP takes some learning at first but it’s particularly good for cataloging PDFs and Microsoft Office documents. If you have thousands of documents however, you will find that YEP can get a bit slow as it populates the database every time you open it. At just $26.99 it’s also an excellent cost-effective paperless database solution although it’s not particularly sophisticated compared to proper paperless office software.
ExactScan is basically an interface for scanning documents with any scanner or multi use printer. Some of the notable features of ExactScan Pro include Paper Size Detection, Skew Correction, Color Smoothing, Print Support and AppleScript Support.
It also supports OCR scanning to make PDFs and images with text searchable although the accuracy isn’t great and there are far better options on the market for this.
For what it is, ExactScan Pro is quite expensive at $99.99 but if you want a simple document scanning solution that works with almost any scanning device, it does the job.
eFileCabinet has been around since 2002 and actually uses the engine behind ABBYY FineReader Pro (see review earlier) to scan documents. As a result, you get superb OCR accuracy but with more features aimed at the needs of medium to large offices.
eFileCabinet is a sophisticated Document Management System (DMS) that offers powerful enterprise level features although it’s aimed more at small to medium-sized businesses.
eFileCabinet supports eSignatures and integration with Microsoft Office, Salesforce CRM and DocuSign. It’s got some very powerful search features if you need to search for documents by keyword, author or specific variables.
Which Scanner Is Best To Go Paperless?
A decent scanner is an essential piece of hardware to go with all of the paperless systems reviewed here. There are literally hundreds on the market but there’s one in particular that’s frequently recommended by paperless software developers and vendors.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap range is recommended by popular apps like Mariner Paperless and EagleFiler. The reason is because ScanSnap scanners are fast, accurate, easy to use and come in a variety of handheld or desktop versions. They can also convert any document to PDF and even perform OCR scans.
If you want something you can take anywhere, then look no further than the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 Wireless Mobile Scanner. It can scan a coloured page in just 5 seconds, it has a rechargeable battery and it’s very light to carry.
Alternatively, if you want a desktop scanner, try the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Color Duplex Desk Scanner. It can handle feeding 50 pages at one time and you can scan around 1,500 pages an hour with it if you want to digitize your office in one go.
In general, we’d recommend staying away from Flatbed Scanners as it’s incredibly tedious to lay down page after page for scanning. Scanners with auto feeders like the ScanSnap range make life a lot easier.
These are the best Mac tools to say goodbye to paper in your home or office for good. There are a few other applications we haven’t included because they’re no longer being updated. Presto! Page Manager is one example of a dated home office document organizer that used to be popular on Mac. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since OS X 10.11 so we can’t recommend it for the latest versions of macOS.
If you want to scan multiple PDFs in one go, you may also find our look at the best ways to combine PDFs into one document on a Mac useful too.
For managing notes and other clippings digitally, check out our guide to the best note taking apps for Mac.
If you have any questions, problems or suggestions regarding the software featured here, let us know in the comments below.