I’VE LONG HEARD from time management and productivity experts that you should only handle a piece of paper once. As an obsessive-compulsive neat freak, to me this has come fairly easy. But from working in law firms for almost 10 years, I know that I’m in the minority. I’ve worked with attorneys who were forced to sit on files because their chairs were the last clutter-free horizontal surface in their offices. I’ve also seen legal staff peer over stacks of folders and individual pages to have a conversation with co-workers. This clutter is an obvious hindrance to time management, given the hours it takes to catch up on filing or to find a particular document, and from an administrator’s perspective, it’s certainly heading in the opposite direction of a highly productive workplace. Thanks to Fujitsu’s ScanSnap iX500 desktop scanner, there is hope for these clutter-challenged souls.
My experience at law firms has taught me that you can influence behavior with both sticks and carrots. If the proposed carrot is technology, then it must remove obstacles to the desired outcome as opposed to erecting new or additional barriers. Assuming that a desktop scanner is a means to reducing workplace clutter, it must be easy to install, simple to operate and fast at producing results. The iX500 is an attractive carrot, performing well in all three areas.
LOOK, NO CABLES!
The iX500 builds on five generations of desktop scanners and delivers on connectivity needed by today’s mobile and cloud-linked workforce. The newest feature of the ScanSnap is its ability to connect to your PC, Mac or mobile device via your wireless network. Unlike other devices that promise to easily link to multiple technologies, I found the iX500 extremely easy to connect to my Windows 7 laptop, iPhone 5 and iPad 3. The initial installation of the ScanSnap software took only minutes. This process required that I connect my scanner and laptop with a USB cable; but, once complete, I removed the cable and used the ScanSnap Manager tool to make a snag-free wireless connection between the two devices. This feature offers almost complete freedom in locating the device within a workspace—a plus when you don’t have room on your desk for even your coffee cup.
The scanner’s wireless capabilities, driven by a dual-core CPU-mounted processor, also allow you to use the device without a PC. Using an iOS or Android device and the ScanSnap Connect app, you can scan directly from your smartphone and tablet. This feature has come in handy when I needed to scan a document and my laptop was still packed away in my bag. Using the controls and Open In feature within the app on my iPhone, I initiated a scan and quickly uploaded the document to my Dropbox account and my firm’s cloud-based document management system. With my AirPrint-enabled Hewlett-Packard 400 printer, I was able to use my iPhone and iX500 as a copier—a great trio for last-minute needs before rushing off to a meeting.
BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL
The scanner lives up to its name when it comes to workflow. The adjustable chute is easy to load and accommodates up to 50 sheets of 21-pound bond. The device can autodetect document size, so multiple page sizes can be included in a single scan. The only control on the face of the scanner is the brightly illuminated blue Scan button. With a push of the button, the scanner immediately engages and processes your job. In the Auto mode, the scanner purportedly can scan 25 pages (simplex or duplex) in one minute. In my test, the scanner outperformed this specification by completing the job in just less than 55 seconds. This was especially impressive given the fact that the scanner was connected to my laptop via my wireless connection. The Auto mode typically scans black-and-white documents at 400 dpi and color/grayscale at 200 dpi. I increased the mode to Best (600 dpi black-and-white and 300 dpi color), and there was no perceptible change in speed. I also changed the OCR option from First Page to All Pages, creating a fully searchable PDF document, and it only took eight additional seconds to process the job.
The ScanSnap Manager tool makes it easy to change settings, including Image Quality, Color Mode, File Format (PDF or JPEG are the two options), OCR, Paper Size and default File Name Format. As your document is scanning, you can monitor the progress in a popup window that displays the pages as they are scanned, the page count and the settings applied to the job. With my selected configuration, at the end of each batch, I was asked if I wanted to Continue Scanning or Finish Scanning. I found this option useful when scanning documents in excess of 50 pages and when scanning documents of varying paper thickness and page size.
I mentioned above that the scanner could accommodate multiple page sizes in a single scan. I found this to be true when scanning pages of varying sizes but of typical thickness. The scanner struggled a bit with feeding a stack of receipts printed on thinner paper. To avoid jams when scanning such documents, I loaded them one at a time. The device allowed me to continue the job from receipt to receipt by simply pressing the Scan button. After the last receipt, I finalized the job by clicking Finish Scanning on the popup window. Overall, the iX500’s ultrasonic multifeed detection technology performed very well. The scanner also features auto de-skew and straighten in the event a document is crooked or upside-down when fed, auto paper size detection (recognizing documents as small as 2 by 2 inches and as long as 34 inches in single-sheet mode) and auto color detection.
SO MANY CHOICES
The fun starts when your scan is completed. After clicking Finish Scanning, ScanSnap’s Quick Menu opens and presents a tiled list of destinations for your scan, including Scan to Folder, Scan to Email, Scan to Print and ScanSnap’s own ScanSnap Organizer. Additionally, you can select from many of today’s popular cloud services, including Dropbox, Google Docs, Evernote and SugarSync. This list is customizable and allows you to select Favorites and add your own PDF- or JPEG-compatible applications.
Another unique feature is the ScanSnap Folder. Using this folder, which is created under Windows Favorites during installation, you can scan to almost any application or cloud service that can open, insert or attach a PDF or JPEG file. I successfully tested this functionality by starting a Gmail message in my browser, clicking Attach, scanning a document and double-clicking the file name that appeared in the ScanSnap Folder, thereby attaching it to my email. This process was more efficient than it sounds and allowed me to avoid scanning the document to a location on my computer and then relocating it when composing the email.
CONQUER THE CLUTTER
If your New Year’s resolution was to actually sit in your chair versus perching on a stack of files, the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 is worth considering. Its ease of use, speed and strong feature set will help you to become more efficient and productive by conquering the clutter. At just over $400, it’s an investment; however, combined with a modicum of discipline, it’s certain to provide a relatively quick return.
And as an added note to Evernote users, check out the recently released ScanSnap Evernote Edition. It combines the iX500’s speed and precision with the rich organization and sync features of Evernote that you already love to use.