The paperless office has been an IT dream for decades. But despite huge leaps in technology, it's still permanently a few years out, and most people prefer to use both, depending on the scenario.
In order to understand why, and figure out whether, why or when this will ever change, I've listed the pros and cons for computers and paper.
|Validation (spellcheck, form values)||Computer||1990s|
|Document Editing (delete, move sections around, etc)||Computer||1990s|
|Store & search||Computer||2000s|
You can convert formats from computer to paper by printing, and vice versa by scanning. This helps you gain the benefits of that medium, but the conversion process is not perfect.
- Accessible - search engines can now crawl documents and automatically extract important data, because of open formats such as HTML. Browsers can display data according to the user profile (e.g. large fonts).
- Store & Search - search engines have made a massive difference to tehe ability to find documents, and online services such as Photobucket and Google Documents enable online storage of information
Likely to change in the next five years
- Doodles - via pen / touch interface and standard vector graphics (Flash, Silverlight or SVG formats)
- Handwriting - via pen / touch interface, with OS support
- Collaboration - office suites and content management applications will be integrated with new collaboration features such as Wikis, Blogs, and Voice over IP.
Paper is still better than monitors in many ways. When was the last time you quickly doodled a diagram on your computer? Or scrunched up your monitor to fit in your pocket? But videos, hyperlinks, storage, and search are all much better on a computer. With the advent of wikis, blogs, instant messaging, and other technologies, it's getting easier to work together on computers too.
Paper will only be eliminated when computers have the edge for every feature and every person. This is not likely to happen soon, and in any case most people are very happy working in a world that combines the two.