Do you have an optical scanner? Is it too big to travel with you, but you wish you had a small one? Wouldn’t it be nice to have one that could scan without being attached to a computer? I found the solution at Macworld 2011 to do this and much more.
The IRIScan Anywhere 2 is a stand-alone battery-powered single-sheet scanner that can help to archive and organize your documents, recognize and manage business cards, and save its output to a wide variety of storage options. With a default resolution of 300 or 600dpi, it will save JPEG files to its own 512MB of flash memory, or interfaces with SD, xD, MS, MS Pro, MMC, USB Slave (type-B Mini), and USB Host (Type-A) for USB Flash Drive. The battery is a 700 mAh lithium ion polymer rechargeable via USB cable that can scan up to 100 sheets on a single charge. When connected to a computer, the files can be transferred to any one of the included applications including:
- Readiris Pro 12 is a text recognition software that performs all your tedious retyping work in no time; simply scan any document with the scanner, recognize it and within seconds you have a fully editable copy of your paper document in your favorite word processor, spreadsheet application or many other applications automatically such as Pages, Word, Numbers, Excel, Acrobat and more.
- Drop2Read is “drag-and-drop” companion software that automatically performs most frequent OCR tasks.
- Cardiris 4 is a business card scanning program which automatically retypes what it sees, sends your contacts to the most popular contact managers for Mac including Address Book, Entourage, HTML, and vCard; consecutively scans the front and back sides of your business card; gathers all this information under the same contact name; and uses all the information retrieved from your business cards into Excel; and organizes e-mailings and mail merges.
- ACDSee Express 2 is a workflow platform for photo-organizing that allows you to rate, share, and view your scans. If your Mac has iPhoto or some other photo management software, there really isn’t a reason to install ACDsee.
The IRIScan unit is simple to operate: just press the power button and insert your business card, photo, receipt, typed page or other material up to 8.5” wide. The only lights include power and status indicators (green for on, orange for charging, and flashing for activity status), and there is a slidable paper guide to assist with alignment of smaller originals. There is a mini-USB socket on the end to connect to a computer (or power unit), a full-size USB socket on the back (for USB flash drive), and a SD/xD/MMC/MS card slot on the back for removable memory storage cards (must be formatted in FAT16 or FAT32). Scan resolution of either 300dpi or 600dpi JPEG format is selectable by the user just by pressing the power button once. It even automatically crops out dark edges when scanning.Scanning is the first step in capturing an image of an original.
For example, I had a bunch of business cards from Macworld that I wanted in my Address book, so I set my paper guide to 3.5” width, and insert each card, one after the other (it took less than 5 seconds per card). Then, I plug the scanner into the computer, and activate Cardiris . . . I switched my settings to IRIScan Anywhere 2 as my source, Business as my card type, and United States as my language (it will recognize any of 217 countries). It automatically recognized the SD card in the scanner and mounted it on the desktop, I selected all the files (I could have chosen only a few) then performed an Optical Character Recognition procedure on each file which was less than 10 seconds each (less than a 300KB file at 400dpi . . . the recognized text was posted in the built-in database which has fields for Company, First Name, Last Name, Title, Address and all the other information normally found on business cards, plus a Note field for extra stuff. It even would allow me to scan the backside of a card and post the additional information to the same record.
The accuracy of recognition and field placement was incredible, but not perfect, usually because of a bad print job on the card, or very unusual formatting (like vertical text). What’s nice is that the database displays an image of the card above the database fields for easy corrections, when necessary. For black, patterned or picture backgrounds, often where white text is used, the program immediately notified me that it was unreadable, and allowed me to enter the text manually. It was very easy to do, resizing the window enlarged everything, which made me very happy, and saving it posted it to the Address Book and kept a copy in the database.
Next, I scanned in a full-size 8.5” x 11” color brochure at 600dpi, which takes about 25 seconds, and another 30 seconds to process and save (the result was a 6.1MB file). I then did a drag-and-drop of the file onto Drop2Read software, which performed an OCR in about 10 seconds to produce an RTF file of the text on the brochure . . . very handy indeed. I then did the same thing with Readiris Pro 12 which showed me the entire brochure with each image and text element “zoned” for individual adjustment or recovery . . . great control. My last step was to use ACDSee Express 2 to do some changes to time stamps, tagging, rating, and converting to a different format (if I had a number of JPEG files, I could have made changes in “batch” mode).
After having used this scanner and software for several weeks, I am very pleased with it. I do wish that scanning could be done while the unit is plugged into the computer, but it has to dismount the scanner volume(s) to do this, which produces the “disk was not ejected properly” error statement when scanning is done. It would also be nice to have a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi feature for wireless file transfer to a computer, plus a cloth carrybag to protect it during transport.
At $199 (plus shipping of about $10), this is a great resource which can be acquired from http://www.irislink.com/. With the advantage of scanning as a standalone device, this unit will be a great asset when I need to visit offices to get copies of file documents . . . all without a copy machine, and ready to access on my computer or iPad2 upon my return to my workplace. The IRIScan Anywhere 2 will be a real asset to my work!