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Document scanners were an early novelty in the computing market, a technology that melded the old document imaging used by fax machine with the newer, faster ability to transmit data digitally. In fact, the scanner helped to make the fax machine obsolete by taking over its ability to digitize paper documents.
Even then, portable scanners were a novelty. While they were small and portable, these devices tended to be either scaled-down versions of the flatbed scanners or complicated devices that required a rock-steady hand and slow movement over a printed page. In some of the devices, it was necessary to take several scans and patch them together to get a full page.

But that was before the rise of mobile computing and document management. Today, portable scanners are in the midst of a renaissance, with new models entering the marketplace and prices dropping to reflect both higher demand and lower manufacturing costs.

It needs to be said that not all portable scanners are created equal. When considering which model to use, there are six factors that should be considered. While one of these is price, a good portable scanner is going to run somewhere between $100 and $150. A price lower than that should be a warning flag. The other five factors are:

Size. If the scanner isn't small, it is not truly portable. There is no hard and fast rule, but if it cannot be comfortably carried, it is not portable.
Power Source. If the scanner will only be used in client engagements where a power source is readily available, this may not be a major issue. Still, battery power is handier than lugging around yet another power cord.
• Color. If the only things to be scanned are black and white documents, don't pay for color scanning capability. On the other hand, nearly all documents will be accompanied by cover pages and illustrations best kept in their original color.
• TWAIN Compliance. TWAIN is the industry-standard Application Programming Interface for scanners. It just is not worth messing with proprietary interfaces, when most of the standard document management and illustration software uses TWAIN.
Resolution. This is less critical than it used to be, when scanners could produce images with as little as 120 dpi (dots per inch). Most now are above 1200 dpi, in a range where the human eye cannot tell the difference.

With these criteria as a simple guide, we looked at eight of the leading portable scanners for their suitability for accounting work and client engagements.


Brother DSmobile 600 (DS600)
Price: $135.99
Size: (H x W x D) 1.5 x 11 x 2
Power Source: USB Cable
Color: 24-bit
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution: 600 DPI
Max Paper Size: Legal
Platform(s): Windows

Brother DSmobile 600 (DS600)
The Brother DSmobile 600 Portable Scanner is a compact and lightweight 600-dpi color scanner that weighs only about 12 ounces and is smaller than a box of spaghetti. It includbrother scanneres software for the PC to enhance and simplify scanning.

The DSmobile 600 sheet-feed scanner features a USB power/data interface, which avoids the need for a battery or an external power adapter. It can handle documents ranging in size from business card size to legal size documents, and then transmit the documents via e-mail, fax or the Web. It will also scan directly to Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format, and scan and edit images or forms.

The scanner uses a Contact Image Sensor (CIS) instead of the traditional Charge Coupled Device (CCD). CIS presents several advantages for a portable scanner such as smaller dimensions, lighter weight, fewer chances for mechanical breakdown and less power consumption. It offers a 48-Bit true color scanner system that is also capable of 8-bit grayscale and B&W with a standard optical resolution of 600dpi - making it appropriate for high quality document and photo scanning applications.

Other key features include one touch scanning via a button on the front of the scanner, low power consumption when in standby mode, and a durable double shell design to reduce wear and tear.

Canon imageFormula P-150
Price: $239
Size: (H x W x D) 1.6 x 11 x 3.7
Power Source: USB or Power Cable
Color: 24-bit
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution 600 DPI
Max Paper Size: Legal
Platform(s): Windows and Mac

Canon imageFormula P-150
The imageFormula P-150 personal document scanner is Canon's first entry into the Personal scanner market, designedCanon for professionals who need a compact scanning solution for the office and on the road. Its small footprint and 2-pound weight makes it suitable for carrying with a laptop.

Also known as the Scan-tini, the P-150 offers one-touch scanning via the Canon CaptureOnTouch Lite software. Its "Plug-and-Scan" capability lets users easily and instantaneously start scanning, without installing drivers or imaging applications, thereby decreasing the time needed to initiate a scan. CaptureOnTouch for Windows and Mac also allows users to initiate preconfigured Scan Jobs, further simplifying the scanning process. And this feature can route scanned images directly to the Evernote service for easy capture, organization, and search of information.

The P-150 scanner is capable of one-pass duplex scanning of batches up to 20 sheets, at up to 15 ppm in color or black and white. It also includes Windows ISIS/TWAIN drivers and a Mac TWAIN driver-industry-standard interfaces for seamlessly linking applications and scanners-for easy hardware integration with third-party Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software.

Features such as Skip Blank Page, Advanced Text Enhancement II, and Rapid Recovery decrease preparation time, increase image quality, and widen the variety of document types that can be scanned, enabling more unattended batch scanning.


Couragent Flip-Pal
Price: $149.99
Size: (H x W x D) 1.25 x 10.25 x 6.5
Power: Source Battery
Color: Yes
Twain Compliant: N/A
Max Resolution: 600 DPI
Max Paper Size" 4" x 6"
Platform(s)" Windows and Mac

Couragent Flip-Pal
The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is a different kind of scanner, but one with features that make it noteworthy for accountants. Among these is the fact that it is battery-powered, and couragent that the scans are stored on an SD card rather than transferring directly to a computer.

This scanner capably scans photos, images in books and magazines and works of art so that they can be stored digitally. It is about the size of a typical netbook computer, and features a patented flip-and-scan technology in which the cover can be removed and the scanner placed face down on top of the document. It only scans 4 x 6 inches, but the included Flip-Pal EasyStitch software can reassemble multiple 4"x6" scans into a larger image. Scanned images are saved immediately in JPEG format to an SD memory card that can be read by any computer. Batteries, a 2GB SD card and a USB to SD adaptor are included with each unit sold.

The single complaint from users is that the unit gets only about 150 scans from the AA batteries that power it, and there is no auxiliary power cord. However, there are longer-life rechargeable batteries on the market that work slightly better.

Rumor has it that Couragent will release a slightly larger version of the Flip-Pal later this year for business professionals, but this has not been confirmed.


HP Scanjet 1000
Price: $200
Size (H x W x D): 2 x 11.4 x 3
Power Source: USB 2.0
Color: 48-bit
Twain Compliant: Twain 2.0
Max Resolution: 600 DPI
Max Paper Size: 8.5" x 34"
Platform(s): Windows and Mac

HP Scanjet 1000
The HP Scanjet Professional 1000 Mobile Scanner is the portable machine from an industry leader in scanners, and hp scannerfeatures a slightly more robust feature set than the smaller portables. That enhancement comes at a price, though, as the scanner weighs in at three pounds, about the same as a small notebook computer.

A one-touch button make it easy to start scanning on the fly, and the Scanjet 1000 can scan a variety of paper sizes, from business cards to long forms up to 8.5-Inch x 34-Inch. Scan at up to five pages per minute or two-sided in a single pass at up to eight images per minute using the manual feed slot. Scans can be converted into editable files with bundled Nuance OmniPage1, one of the better OCR packages on the market.

It is important to consider the feature set versus price with this scanner. HP's technology gives it an edge, and while the price is slightly higher than other portable scanners it does have a rugged paper feeder and is capable of scanning two-sided documents. In addition, it can export the scans in a variety of formats, including most graphic file formats, Microsoft Office formats, WordPerfects formats, text and PDF, saving both conversion time and space.

Included with the package are the scanner, carrying case, Hi-Speed USB 2.0 cable, paper path cleaning cloth, and CD-ROM(s) with software for Windows and Mac.


Neatreceipts Mobile Scanner

Price: $166
Size (H x W x D): 1.6 x 10.8 x 1.3
Power Source: USB
Color: NA
Twain Compliant: NA
Max Resolution: 600 DPI
Max Paper Size: 10" wide
Platform(s): Windows and Mac

Neatreceipts Mobile Scanner
The NeatReceipts system is not a document scanner per se, but a special purpose tool to digitize paper documents, such as receipts and business cards. As such is it of value to the accounting neatreceipts scannerroad warrior, but of limited value for client engagements and audits.

Still, it does extremely well at its intended purpose, which is to capture and organize the kind of data collected while traveling. The proprietary NeatWorks software identifies and extracts important information and automatically organizes it, transforming receipts into expense reports, business cards into address book contacts and documents into searchable PDF files. All scanned documents can be searched by keyword. Information can be exported into a number of formats, including PDF, Excel, Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax.

Included in the package are the NeatReceipts Scanner, USB cable, calibration paper, dry cleaning paper and alcohol cleaning paper, instruction manual, and installation CD.

There have been minor complaints that the unit is slow and does not have autofeed capabilities. Version 5.0 of the software is reported to be in development.

Plustek Opticard 820
Price: $86
Size: (H x W x D) 1.5 x 6.9 x 2.4
Power Source: USB
Color: 48-bit
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution: 600 DPI
Max Paper Size: 4" x 6"
Platform(s): Windows

Plustek Opticard 820
The Plustek Opticard 820 is another special purpose tool for digitizing business cards, receipts, business cards and plustek scannerphotographs. It has an advantage in that it weighs less than half a pound, the least of the units included in this roundup.

One-touch capabilities include the BCR button (for business-card reader), to scan to Iris CardIris 3.5, or the Scan button, to scan a photo to NewSoft Presto! ImageFolio 4.2, a photo-editing program. The package also includes NewSoft Presto! Mr. Photo 3.8, an album and greeting-card program.

CardIris offers its own database features; export options for HTML, TXT and Vcard; and options to synchronize with Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, GoldMine, Act, Lotus Notes, and Palm Desktop.

 

Fujitsu Scansnap S1300
Price: $234
Size (H x W x D): 4 x 11 x 3
Power Source: USB and AC Cable
Color: 48-bit
Twain Compliant: No
Max Resolution: 600 DPI
Max Paper Size: 6.5" x 14"
Platform(s): Windows and MacFujitsu Scansnap S1300
The Fujitsu S1300 is a powerful scanner that is well suited for document management on the road.

It scans two-sided documents at up to eight pages per minute directly to PDF, searchable PDF JPEG, or to office applications like Word or Excel. The ScanSnap S1300 automatically fujitsu scan snaprecognizes the size of each document, detects and corrects for skew, and shows images in their proper orientation.

With an automatic document feeder that can handle up to 10 pages at a time, the S1300 can handle a wide range of paper sizes, including A4, A5, A6, B5, B6, business card, postcard, letter, legal and custom sizes. It automatically recognizes the document type by paper length.

Like other robust scanners, the S1300 weighs a somewhat hefty three pounds. But its ability to handle a variety of formats and documents makes it substantially more useful for client engagements. If there is a negative to the Fujitsu line of scanners, it is that they have elected to use proprietary software solutions rather than a TWAIN compliant interface. But with the wide array of export formats and document folder management features, this should pose no issues for accounting firms.

 

Visioneer Road Warrior
Price: $123
Size: (H x W x D) .5 x 11 x 2
Power Source: USB
Color: 36-bit
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max Resolution 600 DPI
Max Paper Size: 8.5" x 14"
Platform(s): Windows

Visioneer Road Warrior
The Visioneer RoadWarrior is a lightweight, low-cost scanning solution for the mobile professional. Weighing just 10.6 ounces, it produces fast and easy 36-bit color scans to organize Visioneerreceipts, business cards, documents and photos up to 600 dpi in all major file formats including searchable PDF.

Bundled software includes Nuance PaperPort, a desktop and image management software system that organizes receipts, expense reports, documents, and photos. It also provides thumbnails for popular electronic files with built-in viewer for PDF, Word, Excel and WordPerfect documents.

Also included are Nuance OmniPage for precision OCR analysis, advanced layout detection, Logical Form Recognition (LFR) technology, and create Text Searchable PDF files to easily search any scanned documents by content; NewSoft BizCard to read business cards and import them to contact managers that include Outlook, ACT, Goldmine, or common PDAs and smart phones; and TWAIN and WIA drivers.

An excellent combination of size, weight and capabilities, the Visioneer RoadWarrior may not have the features of the better known - and more expensive - portable scanners. But it does provide a nice array of features in a package that weighs less than a pound.

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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