PDF Archiver put to the test: Keyword, organize and archive PDFs

Featured image PDF Archiver

A few months ago I got from the developer Julian Kahnert received an email in which he briefly gave me his software "PDF archiver"and offered me a test. Unfortunately I only got around to testing the software now, but I have to say: * Spoiler alert! * I should have done it earlier.: D

What exactly does PDF Archiver do?

In principle, this little software is programmed for a very special task: display metadata of PDFs, allow keywording via finder tags and then rename the PDF file and store it in a folder structure that works according to the year.

For this reason, this software is particularly useful for people who scan documents of all kinds and save them as PDFs. In principle, it does not matter how the process of capturing as PDF is carried out, since the software works with all PDFs and even converts photographs of receipts that are available as JPG into a PDF. So don't get it wrong: The PDF Archiver is not software for scanning, but for further processing the scans.

more detailed description of the concept can be found on Julian's blog. But I wanted to keep it brief at this point, because the application in practice - which I describe in the next paragraph - is ultimately more practical and you then understand more quickly what the software actually does.

This is what my folder looks like, in which all the scans from my feeder scanner are loaded. Not very meaningful ...

This is what my folder looks like, in which all the scans from my feeder scanner are loaded. Not very meaningful ...

How do I use PDF Archiver in the office?

The best way to understand how the software can be used in the office is to briefly introduce my own "workflow":

For several years now, I've been using the to scan all receipts, contracts and documents that I want to find again quickly Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 a. It stands next to my monitor on the desk and can be activated by opening the cover. Then I put the corresponding document (can also be several pages) in the feeder and press a button. The scanner then pulls the individual sheets through in a monkey tooth, scans the front and back at the same time, automatically chases the result through text recognition and finally a searchable PDF lands in my "ScanSnap" folder on the Mac, which can even be found using the Spotlight search when I type in a company name or something similar that appeared in the text.

So far so good. So now I have a folder with well over 500 scans, but all of them have cryptic names like "2014_02_02_22_02_00.pdf". That is of course not very helpful. Everything is also in a folder, which becomes a bit confusing after a few years. And when I search for an invoice and enter "invoice" as a search term in the Finder, I get all PDFs ejected in which the word "invoice" was found. For me, that's significantly more documents than I actually have invoices. So also rather unsatisfactory.

The main screen of PDF Archiver shows at a glance the files on the left, the current document in the middle and the tag management and information such as the date and brief description of the PDF on the right.

The main screen of PDF Archiver shows at a glance the files on the left, the current document in the middle and the tag management and information such as the date and brief description of the PDF on the right.

PDF Archiver creates order in PDF chaos

With the PDF Archiver I have now started to organize my entire PDF archive. Since something can always go wrong, the first thing I did was to copy the folder with the scans (⌘ + D) - just to be on the safe side. After starting the software, the folder was specified that contains all the unsorted PDF scans. This is, so to speak, the "inbox" that PDF Archiver constantly monitors. For this reason, the folder is also called "Watched Folder" in the software.

You can now see all PDFs in the folder in the left column. In the middle of the window you can see a view of the respective PDF that is currently selected and on the right you can find the overview of the keywording. The date is already assigned in the first line (wrong in the screenshot; bug will be fixed!) And at the bottom you can find all the suggested tags that the program already has in memory - a collection of all previously assigned tags. The list is currently empty in the screenshot because I entered a new day in the search. If you want to create a new tag, you type it into the search field and then press return. It is already assigned to the current document and will appear in the list of available tags in the future.

In principle, all of this information is already backed up, but there is also a save button, the function of which was not clear to me at first. If you press this button, however, the tags are written to the file and the file is moved to the "archive folder" and ticked in the left view. If you have not yet specified this, the "PDF Archiver" program will tell you that this must first be done in the settings. Once that's done, the file disappears from the "Inbox Folder" ("Watched Folder" in Settings), as I want to call it, and is moved to the "ScanSnap Archive" folder, as I did called him to me.

Here is an example of how PDF Archiver files are stored in the folder structure and with new file names.

Here is an example of how PDF Archiver files are stored in the folder structure and with new file names.

In the archive folder, the software automatically creates subfolders for the respective years, so that this results in a rough structure. In addition, the files are renamed so that the new file name consists of the date, the content of the "Description of the document" text field and the selected tags.

In my case, "2014-04-21-08-32-09.pdf" then became "2014-04-21 – appointment-tax-audit__finanzamt_steuerpruefung.pdf". That helps a lot - even if I somehow don't like appointments for tax audits. ;-)

Various options can be set in the settings of the program. However, it is particularly important to define the two folders "Archive Path" and "Monitored Folder".

Various options can be set in the settings of the program. However, it is particularly important to define the two folders "Archive Path" and "Monitored Folder".

Small issues with my test

When I sorted and tagged my PDFs, I noticed a few things that weren't working as they should:

  • the date was not taken correctly from my file name and the current date was always used as the date
  • right at the start the view of the available tags showed strange entries like "01", "22" or "33"

I reported these bugs to Julian and he wrote me that he could recreate them and fix them in the next version. So it may well be that you no longer have such problems. If you notice something that should be different, or you have an idea for a new feature, Julian sends a short email. He goes to great lengths to make the users of his software happy.

Setting options of the software

If you look in the settings of PDF Archiver, you will find some options that I would like to explain in more detail here. The screenshot above shows you the options page.

At the top, the two paths are defined, where the unedited PDFs are and where the edited PDFs are to be moved. The checkmark next to "Description" ensures that the new file names are as compatible as possible with other operating systems. This means that spaces and special characters are converted.

The "Tags" option is interesting for the tag suggestions when assigning them in PDF Archiver. If you have not activated this option, the software only scans the archive folder for tags used for the last two years. If you tick the box next to tags, all existing archive folders will be scanned for tags. In the case of large archives, however, this can bring the software to its knees a little. And it is also questionable whether a catchphrase is needed in the proposals that has not been used for over two years. For this reason, the best option is to leave the tick here unchecked.

And the Images option is intended for people who often take photos of receipts with their iPhone and then want to have them converted into a PDF. I only work with PDFs and that's why I turned it off.

The advantage: more precise search for keywords is possible

The big advantage that I see when assigning keywords with the PDF Archiver is the more precise search option that you have in the Finder. For example, I can now display documents that contain a specific tag. "Invoice", "Health Insurance", etc. These tags are also displayed in the search in the Finder and can thus quickly display certain types of documents.

When searching, I narrow it down to the "ScanSnap Archive" folder and then enter the beginning of a keyword. Suggestions for existing tags appear below, which can be selected by clicking.

When searching, I narrow it down to the "ScanSnap Archive" folder and then enter the beginning of a keyword. Suggestions for existing tags appear below, which can be selected by clicking.

Faster processing through keyboard shortcuts

Anyone who, like me, has to work through several hundred PDFs will be happy that the software can also be operated using keyboard shortcuts. After a short period of getting used to it, the work is much faster. Incidentally, the use of keyboard shortcuts is also an idea from a user, which Julian then implemented.

Here is a list of keyboard shortcuts that make working with PDF Archiver even easier.

Here is a list of keyboard shortcuts that make working with PDF Archiver even easier.

What's next? Features for upcoming versions

At this point I would like to let Julian speak. He's sure to have a list of features to look forward to in the coming versions. I asked him about it and he gave me the following information:

User feedback has been very important to me since the beginning of the project. This is how many of the changes were based (https://pdf-archiver.io/changelog) based on suggestions and requests from users. In this context, for example, zooming using keyboard shortcuts (⌘ + and ⌘ -), deleting PDFs using keyboard shortcuts (⌘ ⌫) and the use of a "monitored folder" after requests were implemented. PDF documents from the monitored folder are automatically read when the app is started so that tagging can start immediately. The aim of all of these extensions is to optimize the workflow.
This is exactly the direction in which the features of the upcoming versions should go. Specifically, there is an optimization for the macOS Mojave, which will be released in autumn, and a dark mode. In addition, a freely selectable file name structure is also conceivable in later versions.

After starting PDF Archiver you have to choose a subscription option. However, the amount will only be calculated after the test phase of one month.

After starting PDF Archiver you have to choose a subscription option. However, the amount will only be calculated after the test phase of one month.

A word about the payment model

As you will surely notice when looking at the AppStore, Julian has provided the option of a monthly or annual payment as payment. The software was recently available for the one-time price of EUR 3,49 and a donation model, but unfortunately it is not enough for him to finance the project. In order to get paid at least a fraction of his work, he had to switch to the subscription model. Even if many users dislike this, I would like to break a lance for the developer's point of view. If you want to continuously improve and develop software, you have to invest a lot of free time in such a project. And even if the 3,49 EUR a year neither make me poor nor Julian rich, it is a constant support for Julian, which ultimately shows a little appreciation for his work.

Since I will use the PDF Archiver regularly, I have decided on the annual subscription model. I wish Julian that even more users support his project financially and that he can implement additional features. In any case, his support is world class: During my test, I emailed him three reports about problems with the software. He replied to it within a few minutes and wants to have the bugs fixed in the next version, which will probably fall out of the "Apple mine" in three days. This is a service that you only have when dealing with individual developers. One waits months or years for solutions to errors in Adobe or Apple software. ;-)

So if you also have an extensive PDF collection that needs to be spruced up in terms of keywords and file names, then I can only recommend the PDF Archiver to you:

[appbox app store id1352719750]

 

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4 comments

  1. Julian says:

    Hello and thanks for the article. The described bugs have been fixed with version 1.3.2 of the app. It can now be downloaded from the Mac App Store. ????

  2. EBG1912 says:

    Hello, I've been scanning everything with a ScanSnap10M for 1500 years. The long file names given by the software are shortened to YYY-MM-DD, followed by plain text. I can use it to search too. I create annual folders. After coming across your blog today, I'm always on the lookout, I immediately downloaded the archiver and tried it out. After several attempts, the description did not help me much, I came to a solution. I have to say that it is not worthwhile to work with the keywording. I have to call up every document and allocate a day. In the end I have countless tags, e.g. doctor, sport, Rewe, prescription, Apple, invoice, appointment, vacation, etc. etc. and behind each day there are several or even many documents. Perhaps I did not understand the principle either, if that is the case, I would be very grateful for an explanation.

    • sir appleot says:

      Hello! I think that's the way it is. I go into PDF Archiver every few days and tag the unedited documents. But I only assign 1-2 tags per document. This is usually enough for me so that I can later find everything from the health insurance company or another insurance company, for example. If there are any tips from other readers on how to handle this better, I look forward to your feedback. :)

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