Technology

Paperless Tools

These products can help brokers save paper.

As commercial real estate professionals take their companies paperless, they should realize there are several tools that can assist with their green efforts. Most of these materials are easy to obtain and may even already be on site.

Monitors

Using one or two monitors that support two side-by-side 8.5-inch by 11-inch documents is the most important tool in a paperless office. This enables commercial real estate professionals to work on one document while reviewing the other, eliminating the need to print a document to review it.

Most laptops designed in the last four years support two screens (laptop and monitor), and any of Samsung’s large-screen monitors (21 inches at 1600 x 1200 resolution or higher) are good for supporting multiple documents on one screen. Users should note that higher resolution is always better and ensures maximum performance.

Laptops

Since computers are an essential part of going paperless, brokers should consider buying a lightweight laptop such as the Sony TZ. If the laptop is easy to carry, users are more likely to take it with them to meetings or to work from home. Seeking out laptops with an always-on Internet function, also called a WWAN connection, allows brokers to fax or e-mail documents to clients from remote locations.

For ultimate portability, brokers should consider a laptop such as the OQO-2. Weighing less than a pound, the laptop comes with Internet capability, is equipped to run Windows Vista, and can be outfitted with a 120-gigabyte hard drive, which is big enough to store thousands of transactions.

Digital Fax Services

Fax machines shouldn’t be viewed as pieces of hardware anchored in the office, but rather as client-driven scanners to a digital file cabinet. Whether commercial real estate professionals use j-fax, e-fax, or another service, brokers should think about dumping their dated fax machines as soon as possible. Switching to an electronic fax service that allows brokers to send and receive faxes in their e-mail boxes eliminates excess paper and costs between $9.95 and $14.95 per month. Some services offer an additional fee for a toll-free fax number.

Scanners

Scanners are important office equipment that vary greatly from brand to brand. The Fujitsu Scansnap scanners are efficient and work well. These particular devices hold 30 pages, scan both sides of a page in seconds, automatically adjust for color or black-and-white documents, and save to PDF through one button. It also is important to have a scanner on each desk to work toward freeing documents from their digital analog format.

Software

As for the right software to use, only two tools are needed: one to read, edit, and manipulate documents and another to search them. Adobe Acrobat is the industry standard for creating, reading, and filing of digital documents and brokers should use version 7 or higher.

Using an effective search engine that can read documents is another software option for commercial real estate professionals. The free Google desktop search will assist users who are organizationally impaired as will the Windows Vista search engine.

Todd Clarke, CCIM

Todd Clarke, CCIM, is chief executive officer of NM Apartment Advisors in Albuquerque, N.M. Contact him at tclarke@nmapartment.com or (505) 247-1411. For more information on going paperless, see his blog at www.nmapt.com/tech.

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