Automate a little, will ya? A little idea called IFTTT…

paper files converting to PDF file then emailed to google drive via IFTTTRecently a colleague wanted to save some space in her office and thought to get rid of her filing cabinets; however, (a) the cabinets all had paper files that need to remain available in the archive, and (b) there are a LOT of files! I suggested that the paper files be scanned to PDF, and after some research to make the process less cumbersome I came up with a process that uses our printer/copiers’ scan-to-email-attachment function, but bypasses the tedious download process, instead of saving the PDFs directly to a specified location in your Google Drive. From there you can easily preview and rename the PDFs accordingly and suddenly you have an archive of whatever you want right from your desktop—or, if shared, anyone else’s! (If you go a little further and batch OCR your PDF files, you have a fully searchable archive!) And, more importantly, now you can finally put that fish tank you always had your eye on into your office.

ifttt-bannerStep-by-step instructions

To do this automation, you set up a personal account with IFTTT.com (“If This, Then That”), then enable this simple IFTTT “recipe”. Here’re what my settings look like. Because all of our printer/copiers are set up with the default sender kin@umn.edu, when a message with that address in its From: line comes into your inbox and it includes an attachment—which is exactly what happens when you scan to PDF—the IFTTT recipe will trigger the attachment to be saved to a user-specified folder in your Google Drive. And badda boom, you’re done.

(NB: If you’re fastidious, and you want to use GMail’s filtering functions, you can then automatically delete the message + its attachment from your Inbox. Tweaked properly it will feel as if you are sending a scanned PDF from the printer/copier directly into your Google Drive. Sweet.)

Let us know at KINtribute@umn.edu if you run into any trouble and want some help, or would like to talk about other possible applications of this technique. If you’re a DIY-er, here’s a Lynda.com article to walk you through IFTTT. And check out more recipes at IFTTT.com. Finally, here are just a couple follow-up articles that can give you other ideas about what IFTTT and scripting can do for you…

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