TECHNOLOGY

PRODUCT WATCH

Is It Blue-Button Scanning Mojo?

In the early days of sheet-fed personal scanners, Fujitsu’s first ScanScap was one of the most feature-rich and easiest to use. But today a number of scanners are competing in this space. How does the latest ScanSnap iteration stand up?

Over the years I’ve sold or supported a number of scanners, including ones from Fujitsu, and I owned its original ScanSnap model, which I found an impressive machine. So I looked forward to putting the new ScanSnap S1500 through its paces based on all the advances in the personal scanner market space. Here’s what I found.

The setup.

Getting started is simple, and everything you need comes in the box. First, you run the included DVDs to install ScanSnap Manager (the scanner driver), ScanSnap Organizer (file management software), CardMinder (business card management software) and Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard, as well as Abby FineReader (for OCR). Next, you plug in the ScanSnap using the included USB cable and lift the feed chute cover for the automatic document feeder. Then, just push the lighted blue button, sit back and ScanSnap Manager does the rest.

The feature set.

The ScanSnap S1500 has an impressive resumé. It is a color duplex (double-sided) scanner that can scan 20 pages per minute at resolutions up to 600 dpi for color or gray-scale or 1,200 dpi for black-and-white documents. It has a 50-page automatic document sheet feeder that handles business card to legal-size documents (though smaller items can be scanned with the special carrier sheet). Plus, it features automatic page cropping, de-skewing, rotating and blank-page removal.

All settings can be changed using ScanSnap Manager, which ultimately gives users three choices once they push the blue scan button: using Quick Menu, which allows users to scan their document and then decide what they want to do with it; setting the ScanSnap to perform the same action every time the blue button is pushed; or using Profiles to create up to 20 preconfigured scan settings, such as scanning directly to a searchable PDF.

In addition, the S1500 has two features not previously included in the ScanSnap series that make it even easier to use. The first is a feature that automatically increases the dots per inch as the document or font size gets smaller, to enhance readability. The second feature adds ultrasonic page-length detection for improved paper detection and handling.

Other technologically advanced features include the ScanSnap’s ability to detect highlighted text in a black-and-white document and create keywords for searching and routing options, as well as the ability to crop an image based on drawing a line around a portion of a document with a standard highlighter.

Constraints for advanced users.

All of the tools included with the ScanSnap are clearly designed for simplicity and user-friendliness. However, more advanced users may find themselves constrained by some of the limitations inherent in the software and its underlying design.

First, the ScanSnap isn’t TWAIN-compliant. For the average user, this will have no discernable impact, but it could affect more advanced users (e.g., in how they interface with graphics programs). Second, while the Organizer software provides some very good basic-level tools, it lacks advanced features for file manipulation. The same holds true for the CardMinder software.

CardMinder will only OCR the front of a business card (though it will capture an image of both the front and back of a card and store it). But also, it only allows capture of the person’s name, company, job position, a phone number, fax number, mobile number, e-mail address and Web site URL—in other words, it has no capabilities to add or rename fields. On a positive note, CardMinder does have a function to reverse the sides if you scan cards in reverse, and scanning them using the automatic document feeder is wonderful compared to scanning them one at a time using a dedicated business card scanner.

The bottom line.

Particularly for users who are new to scanning or looking to upgrade from a slow desktop multifunction machine, the ScanSnap is tough to beat when you compare everything you get for the price, which is around $400. And that includes the power of Adobe Acrobat 9, as well as software that organizes your images, OCRs files and automatically converts them to MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint or searchable PDF.

It appears that Fujitsu has spent the years since introducing the first ScanSnap to continuously improve the design, focusing on making scanning as intuitive as possible for the average computer user. Those improvements are evidenced by the ScanSnap’s ease of use, where anyone can start scanning by pushing a single blue button. The S1500 is definitely blue-button scanning mojo, and I don’t believe you can find a better scanner at this price point in this market segment.

Scorecard

With a maximum possible score of 20, here is how I rate it:

Ease of Use: 5
Quality of Materials: 4
Feature Set: 5
Value for Cost: 5
Total Score: 19

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Nerino J. Petro, Jr.

, is a legal technologist and the Practice Management Advisor for the State Bar of Wisconsin. A former practicing attorney, he blogs on legal technology and practice management issues at www.compujurist.com.

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