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Internet Security & Neat

April 13th, 2014

On Monday, April 7th 2014, technologists around the world learned of a dangerous security flaw in the technology that safeguards your privacy when accessing web sites over SSL. The technology team here at The Neat Company reacted immediately to the announcement, springing into action to apply the appropriate changes in order to guarantee the security and privacy of our customers’ data.

This work had a great outcome: our website, e-commerce site, and entire product suite of desktop, mobile, and web applications have been patched and our SSL certificates replaced.

We would like to go further and share some helpful tips for our customers during this period of heightened awareness of internet security and how it affects your life and business.

Reset your passwords for the most sensitive sites that you use

You should strongly consider changing passwords on internet accounts that demand the highest level of security, such as banking, email, brokerage accounts, e-commerce sites and, of course, cloud applications like NeatCloud that you depend upon to run your life and your business.

Each account should have a unique password and if the site offers two-factor authentication, we recommend enabling this feature as well.

Use a password manager

The most popular solutions among the Neat team are 1Password and LastPass. Both provide a big boost to your business and personal security by generating complex, more secure passwords and by aiding in the password reset process.

Secure your own personal and business websites

If you run websites that collect data from your visitors, please ensure that you work with your technology team or advisors to understand if your site may be vulnerable. Free tools like those offered by LastPass can help with this, but you’ll want to work with a professional to understand the results of this and other security scans.

If you would like to learn more about Neat’s security policies, please consult our security page. If you have questions or concerns, our team would be happy to hear from you at security@neat.com

If you would like to learn more about the flaw in question, click this link.

Tax Time with Neat

April 12th, 2014

It’s that time of the year again, when I realize that my taxes are due way too soon and I have done almost nothing to prepare.  But it’s ok – because the little I have done to prepare for tax time, I’ve done with Neat. And that makes all the difference.

Because I’ve gotten into the habit of scanning any important mail into Neat as soon as I open it, I already have all of my various tax forms and documents digitized and organized. Which means that when I finally do get around to firing up TurboTax and filing my taxes, I’ll have all of the necessary information right there at my fingertips. I don’t scan all of my receipts yet – I know that I should, and I’m working on building that into a habit as well. But even though I don’t keep all my receipts digitized, Neat helps take the stress out of doing my taxes.

With all of my mortgage documents, W2 forms, and other important tax papers in one place, I’m able to complete my taxes in record time. Plus I never have to worry about losing any vital documents while procrastinating. This is a far cry from my old routine, where I would generally wait until the last minute to file my taxes and then spend hours frantically searching my house for the “safe place” I’d stashed my tax paperwork. It’s amazing how much of an impact even a little bit of organization can make on efficiency and productivity, and this is a great example. Just knowing where to find your files when you need them, with Neat, helps make things easier.

I’m not the most organized person in the world, and I wouldn’t even consider myself to be a Neat power-user, but the level of effort I put in and the results I get back are right for me. Even a minimal routine with Neat helps to save me time, and it reduces the hassles and headaches of a paper-based life. It’s something I’m often reminded of, but never so much as I am during tax time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get these taxes done before the 15th!

Send Documents without an Attachment Size Error

April 1st, 2014

If you send documents via email, you’ll likely end up frustrated. Why? Because more often than not, large documents end up exceeding the attachment size limit on your end, the recipient’s end, or somewhere in between. The error messages range from obscure to maddening, and they never bear good news. When this happened to me in the past, it was almost always at a time-sensitive moment when I urgently needed to send documents to an important partner, customer, or advisor (see Murphy’s Law). However, it’s now been months since I’ve had this problem – due to three simple tricks in Neat. Interested? This post spills the beans on how I beat back the “large document blues”.

Send Documents via Web Import + Send Email

We’ve all done it. We’ll finish up negotiating a business deal, so excited to have agreed to the terms that we promise to “email” the signed PDF we know full well to be dozens of pages long. Ever try to send a scanned PDF of, say, 50 pages? It usually doesn’t end well, because most of the popular email providers have size limits on their outbound attachments (e.g., GMail and Outlook.com both limit attachments to 25Mb).

It’s no fun at all to be itching to press ‘send’ on a signed document but be unable to avoid an error message related to attachment size. I’ve had this happen to me dozens of times, and the worst part is that even if your email provider allows the attachment to be sent, the recipient’s email server might very well reject it due to size. And how can you know the inbound attachment size limit of your recipient’s email service? You can’t.

To cut out the hassle, send documents via NeatCloud instead. Start by uploading the document via the Import menu on NeatCloud. Then find the document in your NeatCloud inbox (or whatever folder you’ve moved it to), checkmark it, and click the Actions menu:

Send Documents via Email
Send Documents via Email

From the above Actions menu, click “Send via Email”, and fill out a simple form indicating who to email it to. When you click “Send”, you’ll have kept your promise to “email the document”, but you’ve done it the Neat way. You’ve sent a link to the document without worrying about email attachment sizes, because Neat sends a convenient “download” link to the recipient.

Send Documents via Web Import + Share Folder

A variant on the above send-via-email process is to send documents using our “Share” feature. Upload the document to NeatCloud as above, then move it to a dedicated folder containing only documents that you wish to share with the desired recipient. Checkmark the folder containing the documents, click the Actions menu, and choose “Share Selected Item”. You’ll see:

Sharing a Folder
Sharing a Folder

The recipient will receive an email invitation to access the NeatCloud folder and the documents therein. We’l also put a special icon on the folder to remind you that it’s shared. That helps to avoid the unpleasant situation of forgetting that you’ve shared the folder and accidentally adding not-ready-for-sharing documents to it. The “shared folder” icon looks like this:

Shared Folder Icon
Shared Folder Icon

Your non-shared folders will keep the same icon that you are already familiar with.

Send Documents within a Multi-Seat Account

If you routinely use Neat to share or send documents to colleagues, partners, or customers, you might want to take advantage of having multiple users for your account. Home & Office plans allow two users to share a NeatCloud account, making it perfect for spouses or business partners. If you need to share the account with more folks, you may want to sign up for a business plan. This will give you up to five seats for your account. That saves you from always having to be on point for creating folders, sharing them, sending email notifications, etc. Check out the business plan here.

Wrapping Up

You know you’ve had to send documents that are well above your email provider’s size limit, and you know how frustrating it is to run into size-related errors. Want to put that in the past and never worry about it again? Try NeatCloud and use the above techniques to move beyond the large-document blues.

Receipt Images from your Smartphone: the good, bad, and the ugly

March 12th, 2014

About six years ago, when we started building the technology behind NeatMobile, capturing receipt images via smartphone was still a bit of an oddity. We’ll admit it: when we used the early versions of NeatMobile at restaurants, airports, and pubs, we’d get a bit of a stare down by folks that thought it was a little peculiar to see someone carefully lining up their smartphone camera to take a picture of a receipt. And we’re quite sure that receipt pictures were not what early smartphone makers had in mind when they added cameras to their smartphone designs. The receipt images weren’t all that crisp back then, because smartphones most often had fixed-focus camera lenses, instead of the auto-focus camera sensors that now make it a breeze to capture great receipt images.

Yet from humble beginnings, year after year our approach became more mainstream, and now we can safely say that anyone with a smartphone and a receipt can be just a tap away from a Neat expense report. In the meantime we’ve been tuning up our smartphone camera skills to bring you tips and tricks about how to capture the best possible receipt images, even in “less than ideal” conditions. After all, the better the receipt images, the better your paper trail for expense reports, audits, and invoices to clients.

After working our magic on nearly 50,000,000 receipts to-date, we’ve improved our technology to handle just about any kind of receipt image you can throw at us. But, if you want to play it safe, here are some ways to improve your odds:

Shadowy Receipt Images

Photographers love to talk about ambient light and point lights, because the lighting environment makes all the difference in the resulting photograph. Receipt images are no different. Let’s contrast and compare two wildly different lighting environments – on the left is a receipt image I captured in an environment that had very little ambient light, but had two point lights (two bright pendant lights not too far behind me). On the right, a receipt image that I captured outdoors on a partly-cloudy day with no artificial lights nearby.

Receipt Images w/ 2 Point Lights
Receipt Image with
2 “Point Lights”
Receipt Images w/ Ambient Light
Receipt Image with
Ambient Light

Which do you think our system processes better? Well, we have outstanding shadow correction technology, and the above two examples are admittedly extreme, but the closer your receipt image is to the lighting on the right, the better off you’ll be.

Stuck in a low-light environment, with all kinds of lighting oddities surrounding you? Try turning on your flash. The flash will help illuminate the receipt so much that the various surrounding lights won’t cause such an uneven outcome on your receipt images.

Specular Reflection

Ever go to the hardware store to choose a paint color for a room in your home? One of the questions you’ll no doubt think about is whether you want to choose a “matte” finish (non-reflective) vs. a glossy finish. Believe it or not, your paint finish decision has some similarity to a decision that retailers make for their point-of-sale register tape, which of course becomes your receipt. Check out the shininess in the receipt image below. It’s just a bit glossy (we’ve seen much worse) but the receipt image reflects the flash from the smartphone camera:

Receipt Images w/ Specular Reflection
Receipt Image with
Specular Reflection

The above receipt is no problem for Neat, but receipts that are much more glossy can cause a bit of grief on occasion, sometimes making the receipt unreadable (even to the human eye). The workaround? Turn off your flash, leaving less light for the receipt to reflect.

Handwritten Receipts

We’ve saved the most complex for last: what if your receipt image is a mess of handwritten amounts and items, like the diner receipt below:

Receipt Images w/ Handwritten Amount
Receipt Image with
Handwritten Amount

No automated system is going to be able to make sense of that. However, with NeatVerify, we’ll go the extra mile to get you accurate receipt details even for handwritten receipts.

Our Challenge To You

Got a receipt image that is particularly complex? Check out a free trial of NeatCloud, upload your toughest receipt images, give NeatVerify a whirl, and let us know in the comments how we did!

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