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8 Document Prep Tips for Smoother Scanning


Scanning paper documents seems simple, but can turn into a pain very quickly. These tips ensure the process stays simple.

Time to scan the documents (and yes, since you can’t hear my inflection or in case you don’t remember this gem from the 80s, that was a reference to the Dunkin’ Donuts’ commercial).

When it comes to capturing paper documents, regardless of the type of device you’re using, there are a few tips on how to prep documents for scanning that can make the process as painless, efficient and fast as possible.


The Top Tips for Prepping Documents for Scanning:

1. Pick a Match. Making sure you have the right device is crucial to a smoother scanning experience. Options for capture devices are available in such a wide variety of speeds and sizes – from high-speed devices with the capability of thousands of pages per hour to a small, personal desktop scanner capable of only 10 pages per minute – that it’s easy to give up and just pick one that looks like it might fit. Ideally, you need a scanner that meets your needs. One that has the ability to be fast enough to finish the job, but with a bit of capacity left over for times when you need a bit more capacity than usual.

  1. Speed – Choosing the right scanner can become overwhelming… so can the price. So, search for a device that isn’t going to suck up more of your time than necessary, a “fast enough” device. 
  2. Format – What size documents are you scanning? Do you need to scan a lot of photos or legal-sized documents or insurance cards? Whatever you’re scanning, you want to be sure your equipment can handle those formats.

2.  Automatic Document Feeder (ADF). You know the tray on your device that you place your      documents in to scan, the one that automatically “feeds” your documents into the scanner? That’s what the automatic document feeder is. Make sure it’s working! You don’t want to feed documents in one at a time, unless you’re scanning documents or books that are fragile. From 10s to hundreds of documents, go ahead and drop them in and push the button.

3. Ripped Pages. Imagine an 18-wheeler slamming on the brakes on a rain-slick road. What’s going to happen? It’s probably going to jackknife. That’s also what’s going to happen if you feed a partially ripped or torn page into your scanner. The last thing you want to have to do is open and remove the pieces of the document that was torn, if you can even reach them that is. Go slow, to go fast. Take the time to take ripped pages. A little document preparation before scanning goes a long way.

4. Check for Metal. Be sure to feel for and remove any paper clips and/or staples. Either one of these can damage your scanning device and your documents and potentially require repair services. If you do come across a stapled document, separate the pages – many times the pages will stick together if you don’t. Same concept as checking your pockets before you throw your clothes in the wash so you don’t end up with melted, smeared gum or ChapStick all over your new jeans.

5. Fan it Out. Sometimes the paper being scanned can be too “clean,” which means it could double-feed more easily. Create a little space and air between the documents by taking your thumb and fanning the edge of the stack, kind of like you would with a deck of cards or when you’re searching through a book. This should eliminate static electricity that can cause the pages to “stick” together.

6. Multi-feed/blank page detection. This doesn’t exactly fit under the category of document prep tips, but still, it helps productivity. The majority of scanners will detect a double feed or blank page, allowing you to find that double-fed document and rescan it.

7. “Batches . . . we do need stinking batches.”* When it comes to organizing documents, do it by file type – it’s easier for you to save groups of documents to the same location. You can also add batch separator sheets with barcodes for document scanning when you have large volumes of documents to be scanned – but we’ll save that for another time. You are also able to more easily group and file or dispose of the paper documents with batches.

8. Keep it Clean. You’ll want to make sure the paper is ready but, in addition, you’ll want to be sure the scanner is as well. Clean smudges, dirt, and any accumulated muck from paper off the glass on the scanner. You should clean as frequently as you can scan. The more you scan, the more you should clean.

When it comes to scanning your paper documents, following these eight simple tips will help ensure smooth sailing. If you’ve tried any other tips that worked for you, we’d love to hear them. Please share them in the comments section below. 

*For you Blazing Saddle fans, couldn’t resist. For you non-Blazing Saddle fans, here’s where that’s from. The line was in John Huston’s film adaptation in 1948 (a good move, if you like a late-era Western), but was originally from the novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Nevada, bit of movie trivia.


Learn about the difference between copiers, printers, and scanners with this  helpful guide. Read it here! ›  

Topics: Productivity Tips and Tools