Knowing about digital file types is very important if you are planning to go paperless.
I apologize to those of you who find this to be too basic – but it could help others.
Two Main Categories of File Types
There are literally thousands of file types out there – but for our purposes, the things that we will scan the most are documents and photographs.
File Types for Documents
When you scan a piece of paper, for normal purposes – you will want it to be stored as a PDF file type.
This stands for Portable Document Format.
When a document is stored as a PDF it keeps the formatting of the original document.
This has two advantages:
- The recipient does not need to have access to the software that was used to create the original document.
- The recipient cannot easily change the document.
For example, let’s say you create a document in Microsoft Word, then save it as a PDF, and then send it to me.
I won’t need to have the Microsoft Word program or any other word processor installed on my computer to read it.
Mac users can open a PDF file in Preview and Windows users will probably use some form of Adobe Acrobat (I don’t do Windows, so feel free to correct me in the comments).
When I open the PDF file in Preview – I will not be able to change things easily.
I can annotate the document by adding notes and highlights etc. – but I won’t be able to delete things or reword things without it looking like the document was altered.
My Pet Peeve
Have you ever received a newsletter from school or a resumé or some other document as a .doc file type?
I hate when this happens.
It takes some time for my Word program to fire up and reading is tedious in a word processor. If you scroll or click somewhere in the document – you risk altering the original by mistake.
If you are guilty of sending documents like this, take a minute or two to convert your document to PDF before you send it out.
File Types for Photographs
Their are many file types that you can use to store digital images.
A few of the more common ones are JPG, JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, and RAW.
There is a good discussion of the different types here on Wikipedia.
Ultimately you will need to decide which file type makes the most sense for you based on how you plan to use your photos.
Usually, if I am scanning photos, I will store them as JPG or JPEG file types.
Jpg files are what is known as lossy – which means that you will loose some of the pixels in exchange for a smaller file size.
Png file types are not lossy, but they are bigger files.
Why You Need To Know About File Types
In a paperless office you will be scanning a lot of things.
You don’t want to mistakenly store, let’s say a bank statement, as a JPG file type.
JPG files are not multi-page type files.
So each page of your bank statement would then become a different file.
You also may face a security issue if you automatically upload jpg file types to a photo sharing service or iPhoto.
Alternatively, in a PDF format all of the pages could be stored as one document.
If you have an automated process on your computer, where all JPG’s get dumped into iPhoto for example – then your bank statement will now end up in iPhoto and possibly in your shared albums – which is probably not a good thing.
The Quick Summary
Keeping it simple:
- scanned documents = PDF files,
- scanned photos = JPG files (or one of the other digital image file types).