We may call them films, but making them takes more paper than celluloid, from receipts to crew lists, schedules to contracts. In the office, that’s no biggie, but on location, trying to survive on batteries and bad breakfasts, it takes ingenuity to fill and file all those forms.
When quality doesn’t matter, a cell phone can grab and send quickie images that are hardly pretty, but functional. Fortunately, there are better ways to turn paper into digital images. I looked at three: Visioneer’s Strobe XP 220, Neat Receipts from Scanalizer and PlanOn’s DocuPen RC800. These surprisingly effective scanners range from small to tiny to ohmygod.
STROBE XP 220 SCANNER
Visioneer’s Strobe XP 220 is sophisticated and small enough for the road. Unfortunately, its need for AC makes it a better desktop tool. If it weren’t so good, I’d stop here. But cramped offices need little scanners, too, and this one is worth considering. Insert paper and scanning begins automatically. Pages are fed face-up, too, for last-second reassurance. Scans convert to text (via PaperPort) and can be sent directly to spreadsheets or word processors. Scans are fast at six seconds a page. Even better, images are enhanced by integrated software (Kofax VRS Virtual ReScan) that turns yellowed, crinkled receipts into sharp, readable text in one quick step. Quality is exceptional; up to 600DPI at 48 bit color. The largest of these three scanners is 11 inches by 2.5 inches and 1.3 pounds. It turns out a great image, comes loaded with world-class software and delivers pro scanning in a little package.
Scanalizer’s Neat Receipts is so small, so smart, so essential that I really wanted to love it unequivocally. Alas, things didn’t turn out quite as planned. This goodie weighs 11.5 ounces and measures 11 inches by 1.6 inches. USB powered, it devours receipts, business cards, documents and photos. All running from a portable PC. On the road, in the car, nothing can even come close. Everything gets scanned into folders (matching CoA expenses, for example) and totaled, easily isolating credit card payments from cash, reimbursables from non. Out prints detailed cost reports, neatly categorized, even separated by tax categories for personal reports.
Unfortunately, flaws are lurking. Neat Receipts is PC-only, which limits its use on many film sets. Zeros are too frequently read as eights. Double zeros, like $10.05, often shrink to $1.05. And now and then, for reasons beyond my ken, a perfectly fine receipt scans blank. What a shame. Neat Receipts can be so good. It knew Panera Bread was a place to eat, isolated food costs from the $20 that paid the bill and found the sales tax. So why, I wonder, did one scan turn 2007 to 1999? The second scan was perfect, and fixes were easy to enter, but still… Hand-written receipts provide IRS-approved images, but never get translated into numbers. Neat Receipts misses hand-written tips, too. Not useless, but it don’t win no cigar here neither. Exports, on the other hand, are a thing of wonder; OCR turned receipts from graphics to text and listed totals, categories and even provided copies of receipts. No POC could complain. Choose to output graphics, PDFs or files for spreadsheets, Quicken, QuickBooks or Money.
Despite limits implied by its name, Neat Receipts handles documents, graphics and business cards with equal aplomb, then outputs to email, printers or files. In short, despite some flaws, it is a back-pocket wonder. Far from hands-off, this little joy still converts a pocketful of receipts into completed PC forms. That makes it a real time-saver. I want an upgrade and it has to work with Macs, but this beauty is a must in my toolkit.
And then there’s the Docupen RC800 from Planon. A simple WOW won’t suffice. Nine inches long and about half an inch thick, looking like a long, fat cigar, the scanner weighs a mere two ounces. Provided with 8MB of internal memory, the RC800 takes micro-SD cards for endless storage and attaches to a USB port. Any configuration in color or black and white, low-res or high, can be set as the default. Or reset on the fly as you’re scanning. Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity. It takes a steady hand and some serious practice to get it right. Still, that you can do.
With memory cards, there’s no computer needed until you’re back at the office (or motel room). My old favorite, PaperPort, is provided, making OCR simple and surprisingly accurate. Whether you turn in graphics or convert them to text or spreadsheet is up to you. Either way, from there to your email is a simple step. Now, of course, the question is which to choose. I want the Visioneer because it does such fine work and fits my cramped desk. There’s nothing like Neat Receipts to categorize everything and deliver PC forms a POC will love. And, of course, the DocuPen is essential to scan stationary things (like bound books) as well as stationery things and even pictures hanging on the wall. Now I’ve got to figure out how to convince my wife why I really, really need three separate scanners.
Visioneer Strobe XP 220
$300 (including great software
and a USB/AC connector)
5673 Gibraltar Drive, Suite 150
Pleasanton, CA 94588
Technical support: (925) 251
Customer service: (925) 251-6399
$200 (including a soft travel
pouch and USB cord)
3401 Market St., Suite 120
Philadelphia, PA 19104
$200 Planon System Solutions
5484 Tomken Road, Unit 19,
Mississauga, ON L4W 2Z6
Phone: (905) 507-3926
Fax (905) 624-6629
Written by Norman Berns