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Digital document management is often faster and easier than paper. The Fujitsu ScanSnap makes getting those paper documents into digital form a breeze.
This might appeal to only a small portion of my audience, but I've fallen in love with this device, and wanted to share it with those who'd find it as useful as I do.
I'm all about computers; I think you get that. But that also means that I'm all about using them - particularly when it comes to documents and document management. I find digital documents easier to store, backup and search than their paper counterparts. In general, I'd much prefer someone send me an email or give me an electronic copy of whatever document they're wanting to share - no need to waste paper for me.
On the other hand, between home ownership, running a couple of businesses and more, people are sending me paper every day. Paper that, in all honesty, I should keep - at least for a while. And yet, I'd really rather not.
You might guess that my ideal would be to scan all those documents into digital form, and then discard or shred the physical paper in favor of storing and backing up the documents on my computer. The problem is that traditional flatbed scanners are slow and cumbersome for any volume of scanning. And slow. Did I mention slow? And cumbersome?
The Fujitsu ScanSnap solves those issues.
The ScanSnap allows you to scan a multi-page document into a PDF with a single push of a button.
That nails the convenience factor.
And it does it at slightly over 3 seconds per page, both sides, in color.
And there's your speed.
The ScanSnap software is "OK". While it could be better in some regards, the basic operation of scanning and creating a PDF of a document is handled well. Scanning a document to PDF is simple: push a button on the scanner, let it do it's thing, and then choose a folder and filename on your PC. Instant PDF.
The PDFs that ScanSnap creates are PDFs that contain images, or pictures of your document. At your option, and at the cost of a little speed, you can instruct the ScanSnap software to automatically augment the document with the OCR'ed (Optical Character Recognition) text so that the document also becomes searchable, and you can use copy/paste on the document text. As with all OCR, it requires well formed and clear text, and can be slightly error prone, but I was impressed. I had it scan my electric bill with lots of fine print and it did remarkably well.
Now, as I said, my primary use for the ScanSnap is simply to create PDFs of paper document that I then store and manage myself, after which I discard the paper. The ScanSnap comes with additional software and options to scan directly to Microsoft Office applications and to email, to scan business cards, and includes a management package to help you keep your documents organized if you don't already have a plan of your own. It also includes a document handler into which you can place odd sized or flimsy paper for scanning.
So far I've run into two drawbacks to the ScanSnap: it's a document scanner, and as such it's not ideal for scanning photos - in fact, I haven't tried and probably won't. The paper path on the ScanSnap actually bends just a little, and photos are still best handled, in my opinion, on a flatbed scanner.
Also, it does not provide a standard TWAIN scanning interface. That techno-babble just means that the ScanSnap works only with the ScanSnap software; you can't use other applications to initiate scans as you can with many other scanners.
OK, and there's the price; over $400 feels a little steep. And yes, that did in fact hold me back for a long time after a good friend (Anne Mitchell of ISIPP) recommended it. But I have to say, that after having one for a little over a month now ... I waited too long. Much too long. I should have purchased it long ago.
Now, I do, obviously, recommend this approach, and recommend this particular device, but I have to throw in a couple of reminders:
One of the things that draws me to digital document management is that it's so easy to back up copies of your documents; much easier than paper. But that implies that you must back up. If the single digital copy is your only copy of a document, remember: while it's easier to backup a digital document, it's also easier to see it destroyed by a hard disk or other failure. Backup.
Make sure you understand which papers you still need to keep as paper. I'm not going to play lawyer here, but I recommend that you touch bases with your accountant, your lawyer, whoever can give you advice about your specific situation. Digital copies of documents are considered quite valid in many, many cases, but you still need to make sure you keep the paper originals for those situations where digital copies will not be sufficient.
As part of a way to make documents more accessible and easier to manage, as well as reduce the sheer quantities of paper that must be kept, often for years, the Fujitsu ScanSnap allows me to take a large step in a paperless direction. And I like it.
I also recommend it.
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