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What going paperless means

Posted on: March 7, 2013

Going paperless (or as paperless as possible) is not just about saving the Earth. Not many people can tell you how not using a ream of paper actually translates to how it saves trees, water, and fuel.

Going paperless is more about changing mindsets, expectations, and behaviours, particularly when you are in a system that is still paper-dependent.

At CeL, our attempts to go paperless started with getting a networked copier that sent PDFs of whatever we scanned to our email accounts.

  • Mindset: We do not need to rely on paper forms. We can think outside the cardboard box.
  • Expectation: Do not use or print paper-based forms. We will find alternatives.
  • Behaviours: Use electronic forms to reduce inefficiencies. We will overcome.

We have since continued our paperless efforts with trying services like SignNow and HelloSign to complete all manner of forms.

Video source

I should add that SignNow is not completely free. As CeL staff used and started really liking the service, we realize that there now is five form limit for the free service. Go beyond that quota and you need a paid subscription.

What I really liked about that service was it had a true mobile app experience. Forms that my staff sent me appeared in the app. I did not have to import them. I could sign, update, or add or details to the forms and send them off via the app. Personally I found the experience better and more fun on my iPad than via the Web tool.

But we have since moved on to HelloSign.

Video source

The video highlights the main problems with receiving forms online (you need to print, sign, and scan) and you cannot really do anything if you are on the move.

HelloSign is currently free and integrates extremely well with Gmail and Google Drive. With extensions in Chrome, you can launch PDFs in Gmail with HelloSign and you can have all received, sent, and signed forms in a special folder in GDrive.

But its mobile app is nowhere as slick as SignNow. Whereas I could discretely sign documents with my phone or iPad mini while at a meeting with SignNow, the signing experience is still superior on the Web interface with HelloSign.

In order to really use the HelloSign app, the user has to prepare the online version of the form and a PDF version. The mobile app seems to work with the PDF version only.

HelloSign is also very “verbose”. When it is time for you to sign something, you get an email notification. When you complete the form and sign it, you get another notification that the form is sent. When the recipient views the form, you get yet another notification.

If you do not sign a erroneous form with HelloSign, you get email reminders. I do not know if there is a way to deactivate this reminder.

I also cannot get the dates to break out of the US system (MM/DD/YY) despite changing the settings in HelloSign. SignNow works perfectly in this respect.

So… if you are an anal-retentive, update-craving signer who sits at a computer logged into to Gmail/GDrive all day, go with HelloSign.

But if you are a more mobile person and prefer a less in-your-face system, go with SignNow.

4 Responses to "What going paperless means"

Great idea.


Thanks, we think so too.

The devil is in the details and there are many demons to exorcise from a system so dependent on paper and what that entails.


[…] What going paperless means ( […]


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