Review – Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

01May14

TL;DR

This is the best gadget I’ve bought in ages. It’s quick, fuss free, and comes with an excellent software bundle.

Background

I’ve had a bunch of flatbed scanners over the years. Earlier ones succumbed to a lack of driver support as I upgraded my desktop OS, but I’ve been using a CanoScan N670U for over a decade now using the excellent VueScan to get around the lack of drivers for Windows 7 and 8[1]. It’s been fine for doing receipts for end of month expense reports, but it’s not the tool I need to go paperless. The 2 drawer filing cabinet in my office has been steadily overflowing to a 4 drawer filing cabinet in my garage – and that’s started to fill up.

I also had a brief flirtation with using a Genius business card scanner. For a short while my wife and kids found it great fun to feed cards into the little machine, but eventually the novelty wore off, and the unscanned business cards piled up in my office.

Seth Rogers put me on to the iX500. He’s a bit of a gadget freak, and it’s rare to see him so enthused about something as simple as a scanner.

Buying

When I started looking to buy an iX500 the spread between US pricing and UK pricing was ridiculous, so I bought mine on a recent US trip, taking advantage of Walmart’s ship to store system (which combined with PayPal payments didn’t have any issues for non US residents). Since then the pricing at home has dropped substantially, with the base model  now £362.95 on Amazon (which is pretty much just the VAT premium over US price).

Deluxe?

I got the Deluxe bundle, which comes with an additional piece of software – Rack2-Filer Smart.

If you’re a Mac user then don’t bother, as Rack2-Filer is Windows only.

I’ve yet to be convinced of the value of Rack2-Filer. Even with OCR enabled on my scans I’m unable to search stuff, which means I’m probably doing something wrong, and that it’s not very good software, because it’s so easily letting me go wrong.

Worth the extra over the S1300i?

I considered buying the smaller S1300i. When I first looked on Walmart they didn’t have the iX500, and the smaller scanner would be easier to bring home. I held out for the iX500 because of its larger sheet feeder, which I think will be essential when it comes to working back through those filing cabinets.

In use

Put stuff in the sheet feeder, press the button, scanning is super fast, then choose the application to send the scan to.

I scanned 1500 business cards a few evenings ago, and the hardest part was feeding new ones in at sufficient speed (and keeping the output tray clear).

The software bundle

The iX500 hardware might be impressive, but it’s the software bundle that makes it useful.

ScanSnap manager

This is the app that gets activated when the scan button is pressed, and it’s there to enable routing of the scans to other applications. It’s smart enough to recommend CardMinder when the scan is business card sized.

Scan to folder

The default format appears to be PDF, which can be saved straight to a folder. The bundle also includes a full copy of Acrobat standard, and optical character recognition (OCR) can be enabled. OCR takes a couple of seconds after scanning is complete, but on a fast machine it’s fast enough to be a non issue.

Scan to picture folder

This converts the PDF to a JPEG and saves it to a different folder.

ABBYY OCR

The OCR engine comes from ABBYY, and once installed offers the option to convert directly into Microsoft Office documents.

Evernote

The desktop version of Evernote is supplied, but I found that I needed to update straight away to a more recent version. I’ve not used Evernote in the past, and it seems to need more permissions on Android than any app I’ve ever seen, so I’m not yet bought into that ecosystem.

Cloud storage

Scans can be sent straight to Google Drive, DropBox and Salesforce Chatter.

CardMinder

This shows a scan of both sides of a business card alongside OCRed fields for name, company, address etc. I’ve not yet explored merging the output into my Google contacts (and may not bother – it’s nice to know that I have the card scans there and searchable on my desktop/laptop)

Mobile devices

If the ScanSnap manager isn’t running on a USB attached computer then scans can be sent to other devices over WiFi. Software is available for iOS and Android, and seems to work well – though I can barely see the point of this feature.

Oversized documents

For a real challenge I tried scanning in a panoramic school photo. This caused me to discover the large document mode (press and hold the scan button rather than just press it).

The scanner also comes with a carrier sheet to handle transparencies and A3 sheets – I’ve not tried it yet.

Conclusion

I’m very happy with the iX500, and it’s already changed my home office workflow – stuff come in the mail, goes through the scanner and into recycling/shredder as appropriate. Recommended.

Note

[1] I consider it was worth every penny of the $79.95 license for professional edition to get off the wasteful treadmill of buying new scanners whenever driver support expired.



6 Responses to “Review – Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500”

  1. 1 Gavin Edward

    Hey Chris. We too brought one of these babies back from the US – they are so, so useful!

  2. 2 Iain McEwen

    Thanks Chris!
    Been wavering on exactly the same issue for a while but was looking at portable scanners .
    Think your enthusiasm for this has swayed me!
    Are you really going to shred the 6 draws of paperwork though ?
    Is there an online storage you would trust with this information ? ( I’m considering using Dropbox fronted by Boxcryptor …)

    • Once scanned, the 6 drawers of paperwork will get shredded – the kids love shredding :-)

      Whilst I use a variety of online storage services I’m not sure that I’d trust any of them with such a large quantity of PII. I have 3 way replication for my local file stores (including one that’s off site) so that’s probably sufficient. I’ve also used the ability of my NAS to back up folders to Amazon S3.

      Boxcryptor (or Storage Made Easy or anything else that puts you in charge of keys) looks like a sensible precaution.

  3. 4 Foster

    Hi, Have you used the Vuescan software with the ix500? Mine arrives later this week and I am debating if its worth getting Vuescan.
    Thanks

    • I bought Vuescan so that I could continue using an old Canon scanner where they weren’t releasing drivers for newer versions of Windows. Although it can be used with the Scansnap it doesn’t really add anything to the (already excellent) bundled software package. You also have to shut down Scansnap manager to use Vuescan.


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