FEW would associate digital scanners with innovative trends such as cloud computing and mobile devices. But some of the latest products from specialist scanner makers are challenging that perception.
1. Neat Company’s NeatMobile and NeatCloud
Neat Company, which makes the popular NeatDesk desktop scanner and the portable NeatReceipts version, highlights the trend for adding something extra to the humble scanner.
I have been testing NeatMobile, an app for Apple’s iPhones and iPads that turns the devices into scanners using their built-in cameras. The company has also just introduced an Android version of the product.
For owners of the NeatDesk desktop scanner, which costs $400, or its portable NeatReceipts scanner, which costs $200, who have also subscribed to the $15-a-month NeatCloud storage service, the NeatMobile apps are free to download and use.
NeatMobile means you can use your smartphone to add documents, receipts and business cards to your personal digital filing system — which is automatically set up when you start using a NeatDesk or NeatReceipts scanner — simply by snapping a digital image of them.
In addition, the app allows users to retrieve documents from this cloud-based storage service wherever they have a WiFi or cellular data connection. This is useful if, for example, you need to track down travel insurance details or file an expenses claim with receipts while on a trip.
On both iOS and Android handsets, NeatMobile automatically synchronises with information stored in NeatCloud, a web-based subscription storage service that enables Neat scanner owners to store and access their documents in the cloud.
Neat’s optical character-recognition software generally does a good job turning the images captured by smartphones or by the dedicated scanners into text documents that can be edited, searched and e-mailed as attachments.
However, I found that it struggles with some handwritten receipts and unusual business cards.
Fortunately, NeatMobile users can also sign up for NeatVerify, a monthly subscription service operated by real people, which Neat claims ensures that data taken from images, is "99% accurate".
2. Fujitsu ScanSnap 1300i
Fujitsu’s latest desktop scanner, which costs $295, also includes several notable new features. For example, you can use the free downloadable ScanSnap Connect app to send scanned documents to iOS or Android-based smartphones and tablets.
In addition, users can now scan documents directly to Dropbox, the digital storage service, or send them to Evernote, Google Docs or SugarSync.
3. Livescribe Echo 8Gb
Livescribe’s digital pens use smart technology to match your written notes, diagrams or drawings to an audio recording so users can just play a particular bit of an audio recording — of, say, a meeting or lecture — simply by tapping at the relevant point in their notes.
Now Livescribe has added Livescribe Connect, a service that enables a Livescribe user to send notes and audio to contacts and to cloud-based services including Google Docs, Facebook, Evernote, Microsoft OneNote and Google Sites.
The full Livescribe Connect "premium service" is free to buyers of the top-of-the-line Echo 8Gb, which costs $230.
Planet of the apps
Paul Taylor picks his favourite from the latest crop of apps:
What it is: Evernote
Why you should try it: Evernote was one of the original browser add-ons and is now also available as a free app for smartphone users. Evernote is more than a digital version of sticky slips of paper to append to documents, because it makes it super-simple to capture, store, organise and search through almost any type of information including web pages, text notes and photographs taken on a smartphone, tablet or digital camera. I use it primarily to gather research gleaned from the web on my desktop and MacBook Air, which is then available anywhere I have an internet connection, including my BlackBerry Bold smartphone.
© 2012 The Financial Times Limited