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FileThis: A better file cabinet for the digital age

LAS VEGAS—Most of us now have online access to documents we once saved on paper in real-world filing cabinets: bank and credit card statements, bills, tax forms, and the like. But downloading them regularly is time-consuming—and failure to do so could make them inaccessible at some future date, either because the institution doesn’t store them indefinitely or because you’re no longer a customer.

FileThis, a Web-based service that’s about to emerge from a lengthy beta test, addresses the problem with technologies that automate retrieval and filing of electronic documents, as well as scans of paper ones. While the beta test version supported automated retrieval of documents for storage on either your Mac or Windows desktop or major cloud-based services such as Google Drive and DropBox, the company today announced plans to debut its own cloud-based storage service later this month, with new (and also automated) categorizing and tagging tools that should make searching for specific records much easier.

FileThis web app

The new FileThis cloud service includes automated categorization and tagging tools that should help you find specific documents.

The storage service will be part of a major site overhaul that includes a complete redesign as well as the introduction of fees for moderate and heavy use. FileThis will remain free for those who only retrieve documents from up to six connections (a connection is a login to an account on a single site, no matter how many types of accounts you maintain on that site).

However for six to 12 connections it will cost $2 a month or $20 for a year, and for more than 12 connects, the fees rise to $5 a month, or $50 for a year, or $125 for three years. Also, the service will only check connections once a week for the free and $2/month services; it checks the top-of-the-line service daily. Since FileThis has no advertising or marketing revenue (meaning it doesn’t try to sell you anything), the fees don’t seem unreasonable. (Beta testers will have to set up new accounts on the new site.)

filethis ipad app

FileThis plans to introduce an iOS later this month, to accompany the formal launch of its cloud-based digital filing cabinet service.

FileThis has been offering its Fetch technology for grabbing online statements for some time. Essentially, this works like Mint and other financial services that download transaction data: You provide your login credentials and FileThis Fetch downloads statements using Web scraping technology.

You tell FileThis where to store the statements during setup, and the service creates a FileThis folder on the site (or your computer), with subfolders for each connection. At launch of the paid service, the company provides native support for downloads from some 300 companies, and is adding “dozens more” each month, a spokesman says.

To add paper documents, you scan them designating as the destination an upload folder FileThis places on your computer during setup. Within subfolders, statements are identified with what FileThis calls a relevant date that the company’s technology determines by analyzing the document’s contents. This means it doesn’t matter when you upload or fetch a statement—the date on the file will likely reflect when it was actually issued.

If you choose to save documents on your hard drive or third-party cloud service, that’s about the limit of FileThis’s organizational features. But the company’s own cloud-based storage service does more. First, it automatically categorizes documents by type (e.g. employment (for payroll stubs), finance, medical), and additionally, assigns tags—thereby creating a sort of virtual file system for accessing documents in different ways. You can also manually assign tags.

FileThis co-founder Brian Berson says FileThis’s focus on vital records helps its accuracy in categorizing and tagging since its technology was designed to look for such documents.

Berson says an iOS app will debut along with the new site, with an Android app to follow by midyear. FileThis also plans a Windows tablet app sometime this summer.

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