A good document scanner for business and tax docs?
April 10, 2013 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Dear collective intelligence that lives inside my web browser: I'm looking for a good document scanning and organization solution for my business. Tax docs are getting lost. Bills are getting overlooked. It's a mess. I'm a digital person and sheets of paper just get totally ignored/lost. I use Evernote a little bit, and they recommend the SnapScan line of scanners from Fujitsu. Which look pretty decent. Portable is nice. Anyway, does anyone have any such experiences/recommendations they'd like to share. Thanks!
posted by chasing to Technology (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The Canon DR-C130 is a nice, somewhat-compact, double-sided color scanner at a good price point for someone doing scanning every day. I don't know if your business generates enough paper to justify a $500 scanner, but as far as low-volume, fast-per-page, both-sides-at-once, and somewhat-bulletproof, we sell a lot of these to counties on tight budgets. Going towards the 'portable' - these fold up into a very small footprint, and we have experience with them getting carried from office to office; it's not perfectly portable, but it works well for the quality of scanner.

Disclosure: this is what I do for a living
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:19 PM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: I don't need to scan a ton of documents since I'm an paper-free as possible. It's honestly mostly tax-related crap. Stuff that stings when you forget about it. Sigh.

Cost isn't really a major factor. If it costs $500 and it solves the problem, it's a deal.

posted by chasing at 1:25 PM on April 10, 2013

The scanner is just a tool in the system; it sounds like you need some method of document management, whether it's in the physical world or in the digital world. A scanner isn't going to solve this; you need to have a system to manage, categorize, and recall whatever the scanner scans. If Evernote works for you, excellent; but a scanner rarely comes with any software more powerful than "I scan a page and save an image someplace", and the more expensive the scanner, the less likely it comes with useful software because they expect you already have a document management suite in mind.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:26 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners get GREAT reviews for high volume and high speed scanning. They seem similar to the Canon scanner mentioned above. If your needs are more modest, Doxie scanners just got the thumbs up from Lifehacker users. Be aware that the Doxie scanners are slower and not duplex scanners.
posted by cnc at 1:26 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: AzraenBrown,

I think I mostly just need to get things into my computer. I'm a developer by day, so I'm always in front of my computer and can find things if I can just dump them into a folder or Evernote.

That said! If you've got any better ideas about how to make this process smoother, I'd love to hear them.
posted by chasing at 1:34 PM on April 10, 2013

I'm the helpdesk manager at a private practice of about 200 users. For scanning into our custom EMR with a bunch of terrible interface software hanging onto each console, we have to use Panasonic KV-S1025Cs. They're expensive but reliable. The only downside is a lack of client scanning support. The upside is they use the TWAIN standard, which means any software package that speaks TWAIN can speak directly to the scanner.

OTOH, our managers and administators all use ScanSnap S1500s, or iX500s. These scanners do NOT have TWAIN compatibility, so they don't interact with third party programs. They do, however, come with standing copies of Adobe Acrobat ($300 retail) and can be made to interface with things like Evernote. They're slightly cheaper than Panasonic.
posted by endotoxin at 1:39 PM on April 10, 2013

Ultimately, that's what Evernote is: a document management platform, in the simplest sense. It keeps a variety of documents organized so you can find them later, so by all means, if you're comfortable with Evernote, go for it. The kind of stuff I work with is enterprise-level stuff that is far more complicated and expensive than you're probably interested in. About the most important thing is: think about the "finding" step -- name your documents whatever it is that you'll know when you're searching, not the thing you're looking for. A folder full of items named "Receipt $25.22" or "Receipt $92.11" is useless; name them by store and date, for example. It sounds simple, but a lot of people are so focused on the results they don't think about the searching process. Also, if you're naming things date-related, put the date first, and year-month-day, with padded zeroes, so they sort properly. Evernote's full-document searching will help a lot with all this, but you never know when you might have to look at a list of documents to choose the right one.

endotoxin's note on TWAIN support is a good one; the Canon scanners have both TWAIN and ISIS drivers for broad compatibility. I'm surprised that anything is without at least Twain drivers these days.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:48 PM on April 10, 2013

I have the ScanSnap 1300i and use it for your exact purposes, in conjunction with Evernote. I would recommend it. It can upload directly to Evernote. It's small enough to travel with but is also powerful enough to handle a (small) stack of papers thrown on the tray. It does color, duplex, etc. As others have noted, the most important factor for usability is developing a system for handling once you've got the scan into Evernote.
posted by hilaritas at 2:07 PM on April 10, 2013

Best answer: The Lifehacker crowd liked the Doxie Go, followed by the ScanSnap.
posted by troyer at 2:22 PM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: The Doxie Go does look pretty neat...
posted by chasing at 2:40 PM on April 10, 2013

ScanSnap + Evernote is AMAZING.
posted by dfriedman at 2:58 PM on April 10, 2013

Oh one piece of advice about the ScanSnap, if you decide to get it: keep a can of compressed air handy to blow out dust every so often. That seems to gum up the sensors and make scanning a frustrating experience. But once the dust is blown away: magic.
posted by dfriedman at 3:18 PM on April 10, 2013

I have a ScannerPro (iOS) app. Yes, I know, an iPhone app. Before you laugh:

1. It scans documents perfectly. As in, you scan in low light, with a big shadow from your hand holding the phone, and yet the end result is a perfectly sharp document with a perfect white background and no shadows.

2. There are in-app options for faxing (99c per fax), printing, emailing and 1-click upload to dropbox (my favorite). I cant' tell you how much headache this saved me.

3. It is always with you, you just need a flat surface to put the paper on. It takes 1 minute to scan a restaurant receipt right there at the table.

I cannot recommend it enough. If you aspire to be paperless, this will remove any and all logistical friction to actually do it. And all this goodness for $7.
posted by rada at 3:21 PM on April 10, 2013

I came in to say the same thing a bunch of other folks have said - ScanSnap. I have a S1300 which handles all my docs pretty easily each week.

I haven't had any problems with the lack of TWAIN; I scan to PDF and handle from there. It also scans directly to Evernote, which is nice.

AzraelBrown's note on naming is important too - I have rules set up in Hazel (I'm on a Mac) so that the doc gets scanned to PDF, searched for a highlighted date (via the ScanSnap software) which is converted to keywords, then renamed based on rules surrounding content - think "if it has this account number, it must be the gas bill so rename it thusly."
posted by neilbert at 5:00 PM on April 10, 2013

Note that the Canons tend to require Windows. If you don't use OS X or Linux and have no likelihood of needing to run under those operating systems, that's fine; but if you prefer more flexibility in your OS, the Canon might not work for you.

I have a similar Canon, and it's worked really well for me - but I have to keep a PC available for it, as it won't run under OS X no way no how - it won't even run under Windows in Parallels, and Canon tech support confirmed for me that that is not a supported option.
posted by kristi at 11:01 PM on April 10, 2013

I use the ScanSnap at home and at work, and I've been very pleased with it. The OCR is solid, it does duplex (a must have), it's pretty fast, and the software is pretty configurable. Well worth the purchase due to the peace of mind it will surely give you.
posted by adrianhon at 12:58 AM on April 11, 2013

I love my DevonThink Pro Office + ScanSnap set up more than anything. DevonThink does more than just PDFs, it does every file format you can think of, has a power AI search engine and web archives pages I want to bookmark (instead of mere bookmarks which are useless when the site disappears in a few years).
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:45 AM on April 13, 2013

Response by poster: Went with the Doxie -- so far, so good! We like that's small and stays out of the way.
posted by chasing at 8:16 AM on June 7, 2013

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