Estimated reading time: 12 minutes, 30 seconds

At the dawn of office automation some 20 years ago, scanners arose as an essential office business tool to help transition paper files into digital formats. Large, expensive and taking up an inordinate amount of desk space, the scanner was an investment for the office that sometimes exceeded what was spent on a computer and printer. Not so today.

Standardized file formats, portable document formats (as in PDF) and other advances in automation have relegated the scanner to second-class status - still necessary for an accounting office, but less critical to the mission and to workflow than at any time in the past. On the plus side, this has led to a reduction in costs. On the minus side, it has meant a contraction in the scanner market. Some companies have stopped making scanners, many of the popular models have become obsolete, and making choices is more difficult as both prices and feature sets begin to look remarkably alike.

Every accounting firm still needs a good scanner, and there are some differences. Lower price generally means a weaker roller assembly in the automatic document feeder, which in turn will mean more time clearing jams and misfeeds.

That aside, the six of the top-rated document scanners for accounting offices in 2012 all come from reputable companies, all are highly rated by users, and any will do a good job for the firm. If you still need help in making the choice, see our 10-point guide to selecting scanners at the end of this review.

Fujitsu ScanSnap 1500 Bundle
http://scanners.fcpa.fujitsu.com/scansnap11/s1500.html
http://www.buyfcpa.com/store/fujitsu/en_US/pd/productID.165716400/
Price $450

Specifications
Footprint: 6.3x11.5
Document feed: 50 sheets
Speed: 20 ppm
Twain compliant: No
Max resolution: 300 dpi
Max paper size: Legal
Platform(s): Windows and Mac

Fujitsu ScanSnap
Fujitsu is well positioned at the top of the scanner market for out-of-box solutions, and the ScanSnap 1500 is at the top of the line. It offers automatic detection of paper size, detection of color or black and white, and can accommodate a variety of paper sizes.

The "Bundle" is a set of four software packages that increase the base cost of the scanner by about $30, and can be by-passed if those software selections are not appropriate to the firm's tasks. The four include ScanSnap Organizer 4.0 for rudimentary document management; Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard; ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap 4.0 PC Edition; and CardMinder 4.0 to quickly scan business cards, extract the contact information, and place it into editable fields that can be exported to Excel, Outlook and other contact managers.

The scanner gets high marks for a number of features, not the least of which are its speed, double-sided scanning and automatic skew correction. The filing software is helpful for small offices, though they cannot match the power of the accounting-centric filing applications available in the marketplace. And that is where the Fujitsu may have a problem: it does not offer TWAIN-compliant drivers.

Fujitsu puts its faith in its own drivers, but in a vertical market this approach may make it more difficult to use the scanner for vertical applications, including tax and accounting. For those firms that use proprietary software and can provide their own drivers, this will not be a hindrance. For many smaller accounting first, lack of TWAIN may rule out use of Fujitsu products.

Canon DR-M160
http://usa.canon.com/cusa/office/products/hardware/scanners/high_speed_document_scanners/imageformula_dr_m160
Price: $930

Specifications
Footprint: 9 x 11
Document feed: 60 sheets
Speed: 60 ppm
Twain compliant: Yes
Max resolution: 600 DPI
Max paper size: 8.5 x 14
Platform(s): Windows

Canon DR-M160
High-end scanners have not done well In the current computer marketplace, but the Canon DR-M160 has offered up a decent balance of price and features. In particular, it features beefed-up rollers for the document feed and strong paper correction capabilities that make it a strong candidate for use in an accounting office.

The included software includes CaptureOn Touch, a one-touch solution that allows nine configurable scan profiles for more effective workflow; CapturePerfect, with more control options; and eCopy PDF Pro from Nuance, with a variety of DRM and PDF capabilities. CaptureOnTouch and CapturePerfect enable users to share information using cloud applications such as Microsoft SharePoint.

A Twain-compliant scanner, this unit has a relatively small footprint, and while the paper feeder holds only 60 sheets, it manages to auto-feed documents with a small number of problems or jams.The Canon performs dual-side scanning in a single pass, pushes the documents through at a rate of 60 pages per minute, and offers front-panel configurations that automate scanning of the most common types of documents.

Epson WorkForce Pro GT-S50
(800) 873-7766
www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/jsp/Product.do?sku=B11B194011
Price $335.00

Specifications
Footprint: 16 x 11.5
Document feed: 75 Sheets
Speed: 25 ppm
Twain compliant: Yes
Max resolution: 600 dpi
Max paper size: 8.5 x 36
Platform(s): Windows and Mac

Epson WorkForce Pro GT-S50
There is much to like in this flexible business scanner from Epson, beginning with its relatively modest price. Offering both Twain and ISIS-compatible drivers, the GTS-50 can handle documents ranging in lengths from business cards to 36 inches, and works easily with differing paper thicknesses with a speed of 25 pages per minute.

It offers 10 user-definable scan jobs for easy one-touch scanning, including Scan to PDF. Included software, The Epson Event Manager, simplifies the creation of customized scan jobs specifying resolution, file output type, image type and whether an image is saved to a file or launched into another application.Also notable is the WorkForce Pro GT-S50's 2 line x 16 character LCD display, which enables scanning jobs to be named (as opposed to simply being assigned a job number).

HP Scanjet 7000 Sheet-Fed Scanner
Small & Medium Business store: (866)625-0242
http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/sm/WF05a/15179-15179-64195-15202-3445110-3808623.html?dnr=1
Price $675.00

Specifications
Footprint: 19 x 16
Document feed: 50 sheets
Speed: 40 ppm
Twain compliant: Yes
Max resolution: 600 DPI
Max paper size: 8.5 x 34
Platform: Windows

HP Scanjet 7000 Sheet-Fed Scanner
The HP Scanjet 7000 Sheet-Fed Scanner offers fast, accurate scanning of mixed document types, including double-sided scanning. The feature set is somewhat standard, offering scan speeds of 40 pages per minutes in black and white/grayscale, 35 pages per minute for color, and scanning of up to 2,000 pages per day. HP's Precision Feed technologies allow scanning of business cards, ID cards and embossed cards. These can be scanned in and transformed by HP software into a digital contact database that can be imported to Microsoft Outlook and other contact managers.

Twain-compliant, the software integrates with a broad range of document management systems. Scans can be previewed before final capture, and paper documents can be converted easily with the included software.



Visioneer Strobe 500

Visioneer
Pleasanton, Calif.
(925) 251-6399
http://www.visioneer.com/products/S500/
Price $345.00

Specifications:
Footprint: 12 x 5
Document feed: 20 sheets
Speed: 15 ppm
Twain compliant: Yes
Max resolution: 600 DPI
Max paper size: 8.5 x 14
Platform(s): Windows and Mac

Visioneer Strobe 500
The Visioneer Strobe 500 doesn't have the strongest performance of the scanners we considered, but does have a unique trick - you can remove the scan head from the "docking station" and take it on the road, using its USB cable to connect to a laptop for power and document storage.

The included software includes Visioneer One Touch, which enables one-button scanning using up to six preset destinations; Kofax VRS image enhancement technology to improve OCR results and decrease file size; Nuance Paperport for searchable PDF creation; and Nuance OmniPage for layouts. The included Mac software is not as robust, but does handle most of the common scanning functions, including deskew.

User reviews of this model have been mixed. While most have been pleased by the small form factor and the ability to take it on the road, there have been numerous reports of paper jam problems, slow operation and excessive noise.

Kodak i2400
http://graphics.kodak.com/DocImaging/US/en/Products/Document_Scanners/Desktop/i2400_Scanner
Price $660.00

Specifications:
Footprint: 16.5 x 16
Document feed: 50 sheets
Speed: 30 ppm
Twain compliant: Yes
Max resolution: 600 dpi
Max paper size: 8.5 x 34
Platform(s): Windows and Linux

Kodak i2400
Though Kodak itself is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, its printing and imaging operations appear to be as strong as ever. And the i2400 scanner is a sign that the company may have a future by doing things just a tiny step or two better than the competition.

This is a mid-range scanner that enables scanning, processing, and managing differing types of files. It offers built-in Smart Touch functionality to automate common scanning profiles with little or no training or programming required. A dual-LED illumination system speeds up scanning by eliminating the need for a warm-up period prior to use, and provides better light for better clarity.

The company touts the reliability and durability of its scanner, particularly the document feeder, and backs it up with a three-year warranty. And this unit has some additional flexibility in that it offers an optional Flatbed Accessory to handle books and other non-standard scanning chores.

Xerox Documate 262i
Xerox
(800) 648-0410
www.xeroxscanners.com/en/us/products/item.asp?PN=dm262i
Price $715.00

Specifications
Footprint: 13 x 6.5
Document feed: 50 sheets
Speed: 38 ppm
Twain Compliant: Yes
Max resolution: 600 dpi
Max paper size: 8.5 x 38
Platform(s): Windows

Xerox Documate 262i
The Xerox Documate 262i, whil slightly more expensive that some of the other document scanners, is designed to be a workhorse when it comes to scanning in documents of many sizes for storage or OCR purposes.

It is fast and efficient, with dual-sided scanning and the ability to select from up to 9 pre-set scanning modes. provided software includes full versions of Nuance PaperPort 11 for document management and OmniPage Pro 15 for OCR; a copy of Kofax VirtualReScan 4.2; and a 30-use demo of EMC Captiva QuickScan.

The Documate has had some negative user comments, generally based on reliability after the first year of use. But the preponderance of reviews have been positive, and this scanner compares well with other units in its class, particularly for large-document feeds such as tax returns with associated notes.

10 Rules For Choosing An Office Scanner

The decision as to which scanner is best for an accounting office is not easy, because the marketplace offers devices that vary widely in price and purpose. Today there are desktop scanners, portable scanners, business card and receipt scanners, photograph scanners, check scanners and bar code scanners, to name just a few. Most of these are stand-alone devices that connect to the PC via a wireless, USB or (in the case of older technologies) serial port connection. In addition, there are scanners that are part of an all-in-once solution - printers that also double as fax machines and scanners, or fax machines that double as scanners.

The scanner is integral to the firm's workflow and document management systems, and the wrong choice can create delays and frustration to staff and clients alike. To reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic failure, we've winnowed down the field to focus on desktop scanners, and generated a list of "10 Rules" to follow when making a selection.

1) Decide what you want the scanner to accomplish. Trying to use a handheld or portable scanner to do heavy-duty scanning will only bring heartbreak. Likewise, the requirements for photo scans are far different than for document scanners. It may be necessary to invest in more than one type of scanner to achieve different missions.

2) Pay more to get more. Some scanners are virtually given away as a loss leader, or are wrapped into an "all-in-one" printer that costs almost nothing because they make up the revenue loss in overcharging for print cartridges. Either way, unless you are doing extremely light scanning, these are the wrong solution for an office. Pay a little more for a sturdier product.

3) Allow for the Footprint. This is the term that refers to how much space the scanner will take up on the desk or table. Smaller is generally, but not always better.

4) Choose Flatbed or Feeder. Scanners are either defined as flatbed (you hand place each document to scan it, which generally results in fewer off-angle scans) or feeder (in which multi-page documents are fed through, faster). For most high-end scanners, a document feeder is the way to go, though this may occasionally result in paper jams or off-angle scans.

5) Network or USB. This is a function of how many people will use the scanner, and where it will be located in the office. But if more than one person will use the scanner, it will generate less dissension if the scanner is networked so that each person can run their own scans. An alternative is to appoint a single person to do all of the scanning, using a USB connection to that person's desktop PC.

6) 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.

7) Resolution is fine, unless you are doing photos. Resolution of the output is less critical than it used to be, when scanners could produce images with as little as 75 dpi (dots per inch). Most now are above 1200 dpi, in a range where the human eye cannot tell the difference. Unless, of course, you are scanning in photos and images.

8) CCD Scanners are generally better. There are few companies still making the old drum-style scanners, so the choice is generally between a charged-couple device (CCD) or Contact Image Sensor (CIS). For high-speed document scanning, CCD is the better choice. CIS scanners are usually at the low end of the industry.

9) A document feeder is a strong choice. Today, documents that need to be scanned seldom come in single pages, so that a multi-page document feeder can easily pay for itself. The best combination may be a scanner that permits both single and multi-page scans.

10) Preview the software. Software does not rate highly on the list of things professionals examine before buying a scanner, but in truth it should be at the top of the list. The software should allow the scan to be saved in a number of formats, including editable PDF files. It should include a scan-to-text program, for those documents that need to be editing (and this should be the best quality program you can get, not a 30-day trial). And it absolutely must include the Kofax VirtualScan software, which is specifically designed to clean up old or damaged pages, so everything going through the scanner doesn't have to be pristine and lovely. Software is the real prize in scanning; the hardware is secondary.

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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