If you are anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship with paper; it’s just one of those things!

In fact, I think it the love part is what makes it so hard to go paperless; we have come so accustomed to the visual bookmarking of where items are and have come to tolerate the traditional way that paper based documents are collected and shared; we tell ourselves that it is just simple to use paper, well, mostly.

One of the simple devices we have come most familiar with in the paper based world, is the 3-Ring Binder; everyone knows what they are, they have been in use for over 100 years, we can put basically everything that is paper based into them and when we organize them with a Table of Contents and Tabs, navigating through them, especially when in the same room with others, is fairly straight forward.

Binders are even easy to modify once they are assembled (unlike stapled or bound documents); we can take out or put in pages, add, remove, or change tabs, develop the table of contents, etc. and with a few relatively simple steps, your binder is ready for its purpose.

Interestingly though, like most simple things, to try to technologically replace the traditional binder was somewhat of a challenge. With there being so many file formats, computer systems, and stringent internet connections; the roadblocks to developing a user friendly alternative actually resulted in many developers giving up and developing software for everything but Binders.

Until Now…

When we sought out to “build-a-better-binder”, we knew it had to be just as simple and user friendly; it had to look and act like a binder. We also recognized that the many before us who tried, but failed to develop a digital binder, were trying to change the way users were thinking, venturing too far away from what they were used to.

We identified what needed to be done and it was something so simple, yet so ground breaking…

Don’t change a thing – just enhance what we are all used to using!

Thus, we went to work; ensuring that we took all the good things about your everyday binders and made the process almost identical, just a bit easier and more feature rich.

It was amazing, even in early versions, users quickly grasped how to use and navigate through our binders, easily finding what they were looking for and as a result users were instantly attracted to it.

For users to get into the deeper levels of what was possible, once the users spent small amounts of time expanding their mind to the features afforded to them with digital technology, they were hooked!

The Digital BinderTo start, the most simple thing that we did was we made it look and operate like a traditional 3-Ring Binder. Next we ensured users could easily add any number of documents from a huge list of programs (even integrate with many Document Management Systems) without the need to convert the electronic documents (to say PDF or something) ahead of time.

Then, it had to be very easy to change the content, if it is updated, without having to start over. Of course, organizing the binder with tabs and a table of contents had to be just as easy as adding, removing or re-ordering the pages, if not easier, so we chose easier.

And we succeeded!

What happened next was quite interesting, the “hate relationship” with paper began to come to the surface; it takes way too much time and resources to work with paper.

All of a sudden we found that paper is actually quite restraining. For example, if you are not next to a printer, or if you are without a pen. Or what about when you have the need to share binders, or collections of paper; couriers are slow, mail is worse (if it gets there) and it takes forever.  When it has arrived, it is no longer current, then, you have to update it, uggh.

The next “hate” that surfaced; those that did not assemble the document, or knew where certain content was, even with a good Table of Contents and the associated Tabs, users would have to default to “flip-and-scan mode” trying to find what we are looking for.

Collaborating introduced additional issues; highlighting, marking up, adding notes for changes, then getting them to someone to perform edits, were all frustrations that we found countless workarounds for; emails would fly about with document attachments, all but completely annihilating any chance of document version control or security.

Deadlines had to be far enough back to allow for the construction of these documents after the changes were made, and as long as everyone met the deadlines, (never happens) you must employ multiple print devices, 24 hour printer service technicians and a fleet of staff, just to put a simple binder together.

The great news is we thought about these situations (and more) too and developed tools for scanning our indexed pages, identified and built workflows for sharing annotations from groups, and with that ability to link back to a single version controlled original document; order was quickly restored.

Now, because the movement of the documents was so nimble and orderly, deadlines could be extended (although still never met) however, more time could be spent to ensure that final product was right.

In the end, we actually discovered the beginning; The Digital Binder – The Best Thing Since Cut Paper!