Going Paperless… With Fujitsu and Adobe?

March 29, 2010 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

A week or two ago, I started researching products with the idea of being able to scan in all of my documents, bills, receipts, etc. and have them filed away in an easy to search manner.  I knew the hardware that I already had (an Epson flatbed scanner) wasn’t up to the challenge, but I thought I’d try to use it to test some of the products that were out there.  I tested Paperless and Yep.  Paperless bombed out completely with my scanner (though, their website says that’s possible with some scanners).  Yep worked fine with my scanner, but it doesn’t do any sort of OCR, which is what I was really looking for.  Other suggestions I saw were for NeatCo’s NeatDesk, which is a package of their NeatWorks software and a nice looking scanner with an auto-feeder.  Reviews were all over the place – some acting like it was an amazing and easy process, other reviews hated it, saying it’s OCR was horrible.  Among my research, I saw a lot of recommendations for the Fujitsu Scansnap series.  Some people used it with NeatWorks, others with Paperless.  One person stated that they simply scan everything in and let the bundled Adobe Acrobat Pro software handle the OCR for them (bundled with the S1500 and S1500M), then search for whatever they need via Spotlight.  This sounded very simple.  I kind of cringed at the idea of relying on Adobe Acrobat to handle this, but I’ve used InDesign and Photoshop and they both do an excellent job at what they are meant to do.  I think Adobe’s Acrobat Reader has a bit of a bad rep for being overly bulky, but I don’t think anyone every complained that it couldn’t do a good job, just that it was perhaps a bit portly.  Generally, I prefer Apple’s Preview.

Anyhow, I decided to go with the S1500M.  I figured I’d try out just letting Acrobat Pro do the OCR, and try that against the Paperless demo that I was also running, knowing that there are other options out there too (like EverNote).

Paperless didn’t do well.  At all.  I scanned it a test receipt with Paperless (which seems very geared toward receipt tracking) and it didn’t recognize anything on the receipt.  Very disappointing.   So much, in fact, I tried a couple of times, but with the receipts I tried, the Paperless OCR failed completely.    I can’t understand it, as it displayed on the screen that it was performing the OCR step, but it never seemed to get anything at all, even though the scan quality looked good.

On to the next.  I let Acrobat Pro do it’s thing and was pretty amazed with the results.  It seemed to be able to OCR the entire receipt.  OCR in Acrobat can take a while, especially on long scans, but the results are worth it.  The post that I read about simply using Acrobat (instead of the purpose built paperless tools) said that he scanned everything in without OCR, then ran Acrobat’s OCR on the documents afterward (because OCR is so time sensitive).  I couldn’t find a quick and easy way to do that and was eager to get to scanning, so I simply let it OCR everything after every scan.  This actually worked out okay, because I usually did scans of 10-20 pages at a time, so it took a while to OCR it while I was preparing the next batch or shredding the previous batch.

Doh!  I’ve skipped the most important part here, talking just about the software.  The hardware is simply amazing.  This scanner is really fast.  I read that it can scan 25 pages per minute and I believe it.  Doing a duplex scan is just as fast as only one side!  When you aren’t using it, it folds up to an extremely compact size, which serves a dual purpose – To cover up the main entry point that dust can settle onto the mechanism.

My scanner arrived Friday afternoon.  Since then, I’ve scanned over 2750 sheets through it.  After scanning, I shredded the originals.  I filled five 30+ gallon trash bags with the shredded paper.  That’s basically all of my important documents from the last 10 years.  (Credit card statements, bank statements, tax documents, etc.)

Trouble with it?  I’ve had a few paper jams, and there have been a few times when I left a staple in something I was trying to scan (accidentally, of course), but after clearing the jam, it picks right back up where you left off (unless you cancel and delete the already scanned pages from that batch).

How easily can I find something?  Well, I opened Finder and typed in “roof”.  Within seconds, I got 4 scanned PDFs with the keyword “roof” in them somewhere.  The first one was the paperwork from when I had my roof re-shingled in 2000.  The 2nd was something related to my car insurance.  The 3rd was when I had some roof repair work done in 2009, and the last one was my current home owners policy.  (I didn’t bother scanning in past home owners policies, since they don’t matter anymore.)

Test 2:  I tried “garage door”, but couldn’t find the document I was looking for (that Homeowner’s policy has a lot of key words in it!).  So, I simply typed in “door”.  That got me a document of when we remodeled a bathroom, and one for “Nordin’s Door Service”, which is the company that repaired my garage door back in 2001.  Once I found this file, I did a “Get Info” on it, then added “garage door” to the Spotlight comments.  It now comes up when I enter “garage door” in spotlight.

If you can enter a few terms in (thinking of sometimes simpler ways to express yourself), you can probably come up with what you are looking for. This would probably work best if you enter in these “keywords” as you scan the docs in.

Oh, and one more thing – Coverflow was absolutely MADE for this sort of work.  It’s awesome to be able to simply see the document on screen, then flip to the next one with a single key press.  Makes looking through files not really like work…  Much, much easier than skimming through file folders manually, looking for the info on a dead tree.

To sum up:  This scanner, combined with Adobe Acrobat Pro is awesome.

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Entry filed under: General, Mac.

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