Seen @ Macworld/iWorld 2013: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 and ScanSnap Connect app

Sections: Conferences, Features, Hands On / First Looks, iDevice Apps, Macworld, Peripherals, Printers and Scanners

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Seen @ Macworld is Appletell’s column highlighting our experiences at the recent Macworld/iWorld Expo. Appletell stopped by several booths that featured interesting products; some were longtime pillars of Macworld with updates to established products, many were new companies showing innovative and exciting product for the first time, and a few featured accessories, apps, and products we didn’t even know we needed before we hit the Moscone West show floor. Here we feature buzz from the show floor and details of our conversations with the makers, inventors, and companies whose products were on display. Be sure to check out our coverage of other exhibitors from Macworld/iWorld 2013.

Scanning may not be a particularly sexy topic, but the Fujitsu Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 and companion ScanSnap Connect app were enough to inspire some digital desire. By making the scanner more intelligent, Fujitsu was able to cut out the most irritating  and time consuming parts of the scanning process: fidgety computer settings and error-prone OCR processing. The iX500 can handle up to 50 double-sided pages of varying sizes in just two minutes, and it’s intelligent enough to figure out what you’re scanning and how best to handle it.

Fujitsu Scansnap

Coupled with an iPhone app that lets you control the scanner and easily wrangle your scanned documents, Fujitsu has thrown down the gauntlet for the few remaining pieces of paper still floating around our mostly digital lives.

Paperless Life…only two decades late

As more and more transactions, events, and elements of daily life become app enabled, anybody who provides you vital information on paper is, quite frankly, irritating. Insurance companies, banks, investment firms, even doctors’ offices are offering you access to your data electronically, which permits a number of distinct advantages. The information is portable, easier to back up/archive, is often instantly searchable, and it’s vastly easier to wrangle a couple gigabytes of data (carrying the equivalent amount of paper would involve forklifts and a worker’s comp claim, which would no doubt be paper-based and in triplicate).

Although a paperless life is on the horizon, there’s still a lot of paper in our daily lives. Receipts, confirmations, bills, statements…many service providers offer email delivery or online access, but it’s not quite universal yet. And if you’re keeping archival records for any legally-mandated period of time, chances are most of those older documents were printed (you can finally get rid of those 2004 tax documents, though). Fujitsu has taken their expertise in color scanning and shrunk it down to a pint sized package smaller than a sheet of office paper, and they’ve also taken the complex process of scanning and archiving and reduced it to just a few button taps.

Fujitsu ScanSnap Technical Difficulty Ease

The iX500 has just one button, and that’s linked to an automatically-fed, intelligent, double-sided scanner and image processor that can instantly convert documents into searchable PDFs, detect paper size (feel free to intermingle small receipts with full 8.5 x 11 hotel bills), and automatically correct documents including adjusting rotation so everything faces up. During the Macworld demo, the Fujitsu ScanSnap easily scanned a variety of documents, including a receipt, a letter, and a certificate, all loaded into the tray simultaneously and all facing different directions. The scanner rotated and aligned each image so the resulting file was properly oriented, easily readable, and (most importantly) searchable.

Fujitsu Scansnap

While the Fujitsu ScanSnap Manager desktop app grants you very granular control over your scans, the real magic happens when you connect the iX500 to your WiFi network and fire up the free ScanSnap Connect app on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. The app connects to and controls the scanner, allowing you to initiate scans, change settings, and manage previously scanned files. Once documents have been scanned, you can open them in corresponding iOS apps like iBooks for viewing or editing, depending on what apps you’re using. Users of the desktop app get more options but also more settings to wrangle with, so it’s useful if you need to do more advanced tasks like scan straight to an Office document format or make complex changes like adjusting the scan resolution (600 dpi is the default).

Cheery Disposition

So you’ve converted your archive of tax documents or a bevy of medical benefit forms…now what? The ScanSnap Connect app is really the center of the scanning workflow, so once you’ve taken documents in, the app lets you push them out to a variety of places for more long term storage. The app connects with services like Dropbox, SugarSync, and Evernote for cloud storage of your documents, or you can send them to a computer via iTunes/AirDrop. You can even send documents to appropriate apps on your iDevice, so you could open PDFs in an app designed to read them, or send JPEGs to your iPhone’s camera roll. The app implements basic file management including bulk selection, deletion, and file renaming, so you can manage your scans before sending them to external storage.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 is available from a number of online retailers like Amazon and Newegg, with prices ranging from $430 to $450 (before shipping). The ScanSnap Connect app is free from the iTunes Store, and the ratings for the current version should be ignored as the users don’t seem to be using the app to directly control a scanner (the ratings and comments for all versions are a better reflection of the app).

Imagine processing an expense report by scanning your receipts and emailing them all straight from  your iPhone, or converting that old lockbox full of tax information and backing it up safely to the cloud. That’s a paperless revolution worth checking out.

Be sure to check out our coverage of other exhibitors from Macworld / iWorld 2013.

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