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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.

Article C3552 - November 2, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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31 Comments
Bo
November 3, 2008 10:42 AM

So, Leo, how big is the file generated by a double-sided color scan to PDF? Thanks.

Depends dramatically on the document being scanned (areas of solid colors or space compress better than images of text), and the quality of scan you choose. I'm seeing 32k or less per page to over 256k - again, depending on the complexity of the image. I also have slightly better quality selected than the default.
- Leo
04-Nov-2008

Bill Fuhrmann
November 4, 2008 9:46 AM

Can the scanner be set to default to Group 4 TIFF compression? That is pure Black and White (no grays) and is a really compact lossless compression format.

90%+ of things I would want to scan would be prefered in that format.

I don't see an option for TIFF, only PDF and JPG.
- Leo (Notenboom)
05-Nov-2008
Steve Lajzer
November 4, 2008 4:44 PM

Just to add my two cents. I work for a large medical practice. We have two scanners that are about $3000 each (also Fujitsu) and we have four of the scan snap scanners for various light duty. I am the resident geek and when I want to scan something I almost always go to the scansnaps. They are just too easy and too versatile to use anything else. Color,B&W,Scan to PDF, or scan to a custom program, It does it all. You can make them scan to as many as five applications.
It is very quick and easy. I have been so happy with them that I also bought one for my home use.
I also have had the large scanners repaired and have to replace consumables often. Not so with the Scansnaps.

Victor Kamikubo
November 6, 2008 11:57 AM

Fujitsu has a $50 rebate (check their website) until Dec. 31, 2008 on the ScanSnap s510.

Leon Le Leu
November 13, 2008 3:12 AM

I normally use a Canon 2580C but I thought I needed another scanner so chose the ScanSnap based on price.

It is a drawback that you cannot produce TIF files directly but it is a simple matter to create TIF from PDF using the Microsoft Document Imaging software as a virtual printer.

It is easy to use. But I have noticed an error on several occasions - a disc full error. Has anyone else had that. All of my discs have ample room. Which disc is it referring to?

Anyway the error means I have to stop the scan after, say, 25 pages, and then continue the scan using a new file. I have seen no reference to this error on the Internet with respect to scansnap but surely other people are getting it.

I try to run a paperless office and the ScanSnap along with my Canon DR2580C are helping with that.

Mark Jacobs
May 11, 2009 2:37 PM

For the rest of us poorer geeksand non geeks, I recommend any good flatbed scanner. It's much slower but does books, photos, my wrists (holding the books in place) and just anything. As a teacher, I find it indespensible. Of course being a geeky teache, I scanned in all of the textbooks I use and just carry my netbook around.

I'm also the advocate of paperless libraries, ie the internet hosting everything ever printed. I'm just waiting for Google to find a solution to get the authors paid.

ian minter
August 18, 2009 5:54 AM

We have three of these at work and they are absolutely fantastic, really fast for multiple page documents, good operating software. Awesome machines

Patricia
October 21, 2009 7:52 PM

I absolutely love my ScanSnap at work so much that I purchased one for at home. At the office it has eliminated a four-drawer file cabinet stuffed full of invoices. Of course, check with your accountants, attorneys, or whoever to make sure digital documents are ok. Makes finding an invoice for audit much easier than dragging out those heavy storage boxes. And if a paper invoice is misfiled, well, it could be anywhere! I also scan such things as contracts (I also keep the paper document) or other documents which my boss seems to ask for every couple of months; e-mailing him the PDF is a lot faster than making that photocopy every time he asks for something. It is amazing how many uses you'll discover for this scanner.

Frank D
December 15, 2009 11:17 AM

Unfortunately, scanning is made to sound deceptively easy and "almost" foolproof. However, what about scanning your bank account records, for example? One digit in error and you can be in deep, deep trouble. Let me know when scanning is 100% accurate, not 99.9% or so, and then I'll allow myself to be sold on it for things other than literature, pictures, and the like.

Scanning: at a high enough resolution, you won't miss a digit. I now regularly scan all my bank statements and shred the paper. (Though whenever I can I skip the paper and download digitally.)

OCR: or "optical character reconition" that turns a picture of your scanned page into text - yep, that can be error prone. But as long as you have the original scan for visual verification, IMO you're good.
Leo
17-Dec-2009

Milliaw Ozzaib
February 12, 2010 4:20 PM

Beware?

I've used the ScanSnap s510 for almost a year, and it was love at first sight. This wonderful scanner finally did what I wanted, and really helped reduce the paper in my office - until recently.

What used to be a joy has turned into a masochistic ordeal, as I now am getting frequent "disk full" errors after scanning sometimes as few as 3-5 sheets. I have a minimum 6 GB of free storage on the drive. The error appears most often in the "better" resolution (About 300 dpi?) and seems limited to the duplex (double-sided) mode. I've tried swapping the scanner between two machines to see if the problem is machine dependent, but have the same problem on both. One suggested fix, to change the file the scans are saved to (something about clearing the root files) hasnít helped either.

To their credit, Fujitsu has suggested several fixes (which haven't worked) and seems interested in supporting the product, but hasn't supplied a solution as yet. None of the software upgrades, tweaks, or re-installs has worked. As I've had this scanner for almost a year, it may be this flaw requires some time to develop, or that there is some conflict in the XP upgrades that upsets the delicate software ecological balance on my machines that has turned this champion into a boat anchor.

Any suggestion is welcome.

I would guess that the drive which houses your Windows Temporary Files is close to full. Check all your drives and see if any are close to full, even if you think they're not being used by the ScanSnap. If there is one (particularly if it's C:) clear off some room.
Leo
13-Feb-2010
Richard Berman
March 9, 2010 12:47 PM

I bought my ScanSnap the year it was introduced and thought it was love...until I had the problems of having to give a file name to every document that scanned and this was not, at least back then,the most user friendly operation...and the complexity of ;naming' finally made me give it up...it still sits here on my desk as a lonely memento to "what might have been."

I guess I don't understand this. I mean, it's not going to magically come up a name that's meaningful to you, so how can you not expect to deal with naming? I don't find it that much of a chore, myself.
Leo
10-Mar-2010

Bev
January 2, 2011 3:57 PM

I am trying to copy medical charts -- hundreds, maybe thousands.
each of the charts will have a name, e.g. John Smith, and certain sections:
1. progress notes
2. lab
3. xrays
4. consults
5. bills
each section will have entries from different dates.
Is there a way to scan the charts one at a time, Mr Smith, then Mrs Jones, then Mr x...
with possibly 50 pages in each chart, so that each piece of paper is named within the chart
e.g. Mr Smith
progress note date nov 1 2010
progress note date jan 2 2010
progress note june 6 2009
progress note feb 4 2009
then lab for dec 20 2010
lab for nov 6 2010
lab for jan 10 2010
lab for feb 6 2009
consult from dr P
consult from Dr K
consult from Dr E
bill for dec 7 2010
bill for march 12 2010
each of the items scanned will have the date in a diferent spot. does the date, section name need to be manually entered for each document?
or can the scanner pick up the name of the document and the date?
in other words, for a 50 page chart, does someone have to give a name to each of 50 pages? lab done on sept 12 2010 would not be helpful to look at if I am looking for a chest x-ray done on sept 12 2010.
If the scanner can't name documents fairly easily, is there another way to do this easily?
possibly program a drop down list with choices of progress notes, lab, x-ray, bills with many different dates (which already are in my microsoft word).
Thank you.
Bev

The scanner has no way of "understanding" the document you are scanning in order to give it a more useful name, or even help in creating one. It uses date and time. You then have to either accept that as a name (remember, if you enable OCR then the documents are searchable, and for many people that's enough), or you have to manually rename.
Leo
03-Jan-2011

Malik
January 4, 2011 10:19 AM

It is indeed a very useful tool however I have run into a slight problem. It is bending a corner on the top of every page.

have others experienced the same and is there a way to fix it?

Mark J
May 30, 2011 12:30 PM

For us less intense users, I recommend a normal flatbed scanner for under $100. The few times it gets frustrating are not enough to make up for the price difference. I'm writing this not to disagree with Leo, but to let all you home users know that a scanner is a useful addition to any home. I send out an average of only 2 faxes a month and use an online fax service. The time savings alone of not having to run out to a shop has easily paid for the machine.

Actually, the resolution of many digital camers allow you to also "take a picture" of a page with sufficient clarity to suffice as a scan. With proper lighting it can do in a pinch.
Leo
02-Jun-2011

Johnny
May 31, 2011 8:43 AM

I already have a scanner,, but would like to try another software for scanning. I understand that the ScanSnap has it's own software,, but what about us that has a great scanner but have not so great software?

Mark J
May 31, 2011 11:27 AM

@Johnny
Most scanners have their own software and won't function with other software. You might try going to the website of your scanner to see if they have updated software, but it is not very likely that the will have any.

Bob Onysko
June 3, 2011 5:08 PM

Leo, please share your folder organization protocol with your readers. Besides the scans from ScanSnap, how about the protocols for other documents you store such as photos, documents, etc.?

Ian C
June 14, 2011 8:42 AM

It is a great machine - its ability to copy A3 documents folded in half is better than I expected and its photo scanning is also better than expected. It just works.

One Ordinary Guy
June 14, 2011 10:29 AM

I know you don't want to sound commercial, but this scanner is now indispensable to me. Three seconds per page? This doesn't sound fast until you scan something with a lot of pages, and then you realize how great it is. It isn't just fast, it takes different sizes and types of documents and auto-rotates them on the fly. It also sizes the final product, which saves disk space. As to the PDF conversion, it doesn't take that much time. I only use it when it is needed, so I turned it off by default. I tried two HP scanners and besides their glacial speed, I had to manually perform many of the tasks that this does. My only complaint? It is not a flat bed scanner. Some things (you mention pictures) just need that. I am completely sold on this, despite the price tag.

Fred Nerd
June 14, 2011 8:06 PM

I have Cam Scanner on my Android. Excellent. $5 or so (I think) but the amount of times I have scanned in house plans that only the boss has, invoices, receipts, certificates, etc. and only needed my phone. (Nexus S) It takes a picture, recognises the corners, trims and straightens it, then enhances the image. In under a minute I can have a paper invoice emailed off in good quality.

Nathan
June 17, 2011 7:47 PM

The ScanSnap is awesome. My latest employer has one and it is hands down the best sheet scanner I have ever used. It is an excellent piece of technology. I consider it a must for any business environment, and a great improvement overthe office scanner printer copiers I have used in the past. Granted it can't do what a flatbed scanner does, but how often do you really scan a set of building plans? Buy the top of the line S1500 (or whatever its called), then if it doesn't live up to the hype you can always return it. But I bet you won't!

Glenn P.
November 1, 2011 12:08 PM

The sort of thing I scan most often is a page from a book. Let's see your much-vaunted Fujitsu ScanSnap scan that.

Our HP Photosmart 2575 All-In-One Printer/Scanner, which has a small flatbed scanner built in, can handle it easily.

Robert Pilling, C.A.
November 2, 2011 2:51 PM

It's true that a ScanSnap S1500 won't scan a page from a book. HOWEVER, if you actually do a lot of that, you are likely not using it for business, because it's a very slow process. We've used the ScanSnap S1500 for over 2 years now, and it has allowed us to turn our offices into "virtual" offices, because you don't need to have access to the actual papers. You can access them on the computer system from anywhere in the world.

As everyone has mentioned, the ScanSnap scanners are very fast. When clients bring their tax records in to have me work on them, we don't keep them anymore. I have an assistant scan them, and then send them back with the clients. No filing them, or losing copies any more. (And yes, for ledger sheets, too large for the scanner or even our flatbed scanners, we use the cellphone picture ap to copy them.)

philalethes
November 22, 2011 10:41 AM

I too have one, completely awesome. I used to scan whole books in on a flatbed and got pretty good at it and can go back to that when necessary.
I have scanned photos in with no problem Leo, 5x7 slide right through and look good at 300 dpi jpeg.
I used to use Adobe Acrobat for OCR but find that the ABBY software bundled is just as good, maybe better.
For batch renaming I like Better File Rename, very flexible and worth $20

Joyce
February 14, 2012 8:43 AM

I use Microsoft's Document Imaging to "print" online pages or articles; for general paper I simply scan from my printer into Document Imaging. The best thing is I can then highlight the parts of the document I want, I can add a text box onto the document, I can save it into whatever Folder I want. It's amazing, and its free - although it no longer comes with the new versions of Office - but I am amazed that no one has ever commented about this little program. Oh yeah....it has OCR too.

Nate
April 10, 2012 5:07 PM

Bought one of these a few months ago and scanned piles and piles of documents. One of the best things I ever did, its so much easier to keep everything in digital form and shred the paper.

GREG JACKSON
April 12, 2012 5:28 PM

HP Photosmart "anything", or any HP all-in-one are real dogs. Too much software bloat, and consequently, more software troubles. Their digital image monitor must remain on for scanning operations to work. So all the unneeded software remains active. I don't need HP to monitor my ink levels, thank you very much. Even with all the programs running, it still ends up with errors. It's not just me either --- everyone I've known [7 out of 7 people] will not purchase another HP unit again.
So, as far as speed and ease....it fails.
Sorry for the rant.

Paul F.
April 12, 2012 6:02 PM

For some time now, I've been seeing ads on TV for the Neat Desk scanner/organizer (tryneat.com). Supposedly, you put all your statements, receipts, business cards, etc. through it and the software automatically digitizes them -- and sorts them into categories for easy filing, budgeting, and so forth. Has anyone tried this product, and if so, is it any good? How does it compare to the Fujitsu ScanSnap? I'd really like to do something like this. It *sounds like* it would make keeping track of spending much easier, and help us to budget -- if it works. Of course, it's also $400... beyond the budget for now! LOL!

D. Emmett
July 25, 2012 10:04 AM

re: Paul F's comments on neat desk scanner...I have used the Neat Mobile scanner which is secured to the underside of my keyboard pullout (drawer) for 3-4 years now and I find that it works great for 97% of what I need to scan (mostly docs). I have an old flatbed scanner that I use when necessary. I only use the Neat drivers, not their filing program, simply because I like to file using my own system. For most filings I use Nitro PDF (used to use Adobe Pro 6.0) and haven't had any issues other than cleaning the scanner occasionally.

bob D.
September 21, 2012 9:38 AM

user note ::

windows vista, on my excellant Acer pc has built in SCANNER progr, thus once used and user gets swift is a dream come true...
--Acer is Taiwan and Leo ought get them to advert theirs on his blog(here), my Acer pc is better than any other on mkt, is swifter than the speed of light or sound and my Norton fixer-upper includes automatic de frag which i set for once a week and do again if speed is less than speed of light;
- is first pc i have seen where they incorporate 2 separate icons for two folks to have independent pc rather than share, i got the cheapest one for $750 @ Costco, has W-Vista, a few yrs ago, and next one will be up one grade for another $100 or so, plus $100 for each next upline bigger screen etc, but the cheaper is best since i use
mine mostly as a speedy typewriter and some simple-minded accountings..... cheers.....
- the machine itself is swift but the window progr slows it down and i bet apple prog would be more slow and anyway the hackers have abandoned windows and now into mostly apple progr which are bought by the rich guys thus more profitable to hack esp to empty bank accts into the hacker hands.... ho hum....
-- since all traffic is scanned by google and by a stand up usgovt snoop, they will capture this email and thus be influenced, esp that taiwan (Acer) has superior pc

Johnny
September 26, 2012 9:01 PM

My son has the gadget sold on late nite TV that you insert all of your business cards, receipts & paperwork, etc... And it's a pain in the butt.
I myself have a Dell 4 in 1 printer, copier, fax, scanner.
I use it to scan both sides of a document all in one shot, to make complete copies of paperwork, folders, etc...
It allows me to chose PDF, XPS, WORD Document...whatever. Quick, Easy, Thorough. Yes It may be a tad slower, I don't know how fast some people find it necessary to be able to get things done, but....
I'd much rather have a document(s) printed right the first time without a bunch of proofreading, Time,Money,Trust. Involved Before it's filed away until the day it's actually needed, only to find out somethings amiss
If it's not broke, don't fix it.
The latest & greatest 9 times out of ten means it's someone else's get rich quick scheme.
Good luck to those of you who have got the better way down!
Johnny.

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