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What's the Best Personal Document Management Software for Home Use?

When it comes to personal document management software, there are a lot of choices out there. Yet most cluster together with roughly the same features: a database back-end, rudimentary scanning, and almost no ties into your other software. Is there any document management solution that provides the effortless organization that a home user needs without sacrificing features? Absolutely, and that solution is FileCenter, the low-cost leader in personal document management software. In this article we'll discuss seven points to consider and show why we recommend FileCenter.

Article Summary:

  • Avoid a database for personal document management
  • Personal document management software needs an intuitive layout and a search engine
  • A document management system should tie into the Save/Open functions of your other programs
  • The document management solution should provide handy tools to help with organization
  • Scanning should be as simple as possible
  • Since PDF is now the standard for scans, a good document management solution should include PDF tools
  • With the Cloud's increasing importance, consider personal document management software that works well with your favorite Cloud service
  • Jump to our recommendation »

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Avoid a Database for Personal Document Management

Almost every personal document management system out there burries your files away in a database. In fact, so many paperless document management software packages use a database that some folks get stuck in the mindset that a database is a requirement for personal document management. It's not. Databases make sense in large companies, but when it comes to single-user systems, the drawbacks of a database far outweigh the few benefits.

In fact, what are the benefits? Only one, really. A database lets you password-protect on a document-by-document basis. But when only one user ever accesses the files, the regular Windows security features which prevent other users from accessing your private files more than meet that need.

So what are the drawbacks of a database? First and foremost, they increase the complexity of your system. Databases require maintenance. In addition, they're prone to corruption, which can destroy every document they hold. But maybe the biggest drawback to databases: they don't work with your other programs. To explain, because the files are hidden away away in a black box, the only programs that you can use with your files are the ones that the document management system specifically integrates with ... and those aren't many. Do you have a favorite file utility? Do you want to use DropBox or Google Drive to access your files? Too bad (see below). And if you ever decide to switch to different personal document management software, you now have to figure out how to get all of your files out of the database. And it isn't always easy. Or even possible.

FileCenter is possibly the only personal document management software available that stores your files in regular Windows folders (while providing a better interface). What are the advantages? First, that's where your files already are, so you won't need to import anything; and if you ever stop using FileCenter, there's nothing to export. You still have full access to your files. But perhaps the main advantage is that you can keep using all of your favorite programs with your files, including DropBox or other Cloud services (see below).

Personal Document Management Software Needs an Intuitive Layout and a Search Engine

The interface to your files matters. In our experience, the most intuitive layout uses a concept that you're already familiar with: the filing cabinet. Putting files in cabinets, drawers, and folders not only makes sense, it is the fastest way to reach a file, typically only requiring a few mouse clicks, much faster than thinking up search terms and keywords, typing them out, and scrolling through results. So the document management system's primary interface should be organizational, bolstered by a powerful search engine for hunting down the files that aren't where you expect them to be.

In FileCenter's case, that's exactly what you get: an electronic file cabinet interface with cabinets, drawers, and folders, so you can easily migrate your paper files to the computer. And for the occasional time when you need to search for a lost needle, FileCenter allows you to search the full body content of your files.

A Document Management System Should Tie into the Save/Open Functions of Your Other Programs

A personal document management system is worthless if you can't put all of your files into it. Most systems only let you bring in scans. But what about the rest of your programs? Word files, spreadsheets ... many of your files are generated right on your computer. You need to organize those files too. FileCenter has the unique ability to capture the Save/Open functions of almost any Windows program out there. This means that you can always use your cabinet interface for saving and opening files. This has the distinct advantage of making it so nothing slips through the net.

The Document Management Solution Should Provide Handy Tools to Help with Organization

A good personal document management solution should do more than just hold your files. It should make it easy to organize them consistently. For example, you probably save files more than any other task. And each time that you save a file, you have to figure out a logical name. Wouldn't it be better to decide just once what your typical filenames will be, set them up, then let the software offer up names for you? And instead of setting up the same folder layouts over and over again, wouldn't it make sense to set up the layouts once, then just drop them into place wherever you need them? And shouldn't you be able to bookmark locations you visit often, and set up shortcuts to the programs you use the most, and be able to rename and move files in one quick step ... and the list goes on and on. Consider the organizational tasks that slow you down and make sure that any personal document management solution you're looking at addresses them. (Incidentally, FileCenter has features to perform all of the above.)

Scanning Should be as Simple as Possible

You're probably looking at personal document management software because you want to start scanning. Scanning is a huge speed bump, so ideally you will get the files scanned and stored in as few mouseclicks as possible. Most personal document management offerings include at least rudimentary scanning capability. In evaluating them, ask yourself these questions:

Are the scanned documents searchable? In other words, was OCR included as part of scanning? Can you give the document a name at the time you scan it, or is that an extra step? Can you scan directly into the document's final resting place, or will you have to manually save or move it into place afterwards? How difficult will it be to add more pages to an existing scan? How about re-scanning some pages? Can the personal document management software automatically split up a stack of scanned pages into individual documents?

FileCenter works hard to streamline the scanning process. When you're scanning dozens or hundreds of receipts and documents, every mouse click counts. So FileCenter goes out of its way to smooth out or automate every step possible, from trimming off mouse clicks to splitting up files and even to automatic document naming and saving.

Since PDF is Now the Standard for Scans, a Good Personal Document Management Solution Should Include PDF Tools

PDF has become the de facto format for storing scans. Not only that, electronic bank and financial statements are almost guaranteed to be PDFs. So your personal document management solution should include features for working with PDFs. For example, you should be able to open and see your PDFs right in the program. One common task that leaves a lot of users scratching their heads is combining two PDF files into one. Ideally, this should be as easy as dropping one PDF on another one (like in FileCenter). Pulling pages out of PDFs or deleting pages should be just as easy.

With the Cloud's Increasing Importance, Consider Personal Document Management Software that Works Well with Your Favorite Cloud Service

We mentioned this in the first section, but it's worth saying again. If you use personal document management software that has a database, you can't use DropBox or Google Drive or OneDrive or SugarSync or any other Cloud service for accessing your files away from home, like on your smart phone or tablet. A database is an unrelenting dictator. Using FileCenter, on the other hand, gives you almost limitless options. Any of the Cloud providers mentioned work seamlessly with FileCenter, along with potentially even hundreds of others.

Our Personal Document Management Software Recommendation

FileCenter concerns itself with making document management as easy and efficient as possible for personal users. This starts with a clean, intuitive interface that users rave about and extends to the file-related tasks that burden users on a daily basis. It's time to discover why users everywhere are turning to FileCenter. Download a free trial today!

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