It’s the middle of January and the items cluttering up every flat surface in my office are business cards. After attending no fewer than three trade shows and about two-dozen Tweet-ups this fall, I’ve created stacks of information that are a pain to manage but have too much value to recycle.
Enter the Neat Company’s line of personal and business scanners. Their products boast the ability to scan and file information from documents, receipts and best-of-all, business cards. Further, their devices do this with a software and OCR solution, not with proprietary hardware, so the software can often be used on another device.
Sounds great? That’s what I thought too. But hundreds of mini introductions still stood like castle turrets on my desk, so I had work to do.
Opening the NeatReceipts for Mac box, I saw the miniature scanner. It’s miniature in depth, but is about as long as a drumstick or a small loaf of bread.
Set-up took about 10 minutes from package to desktop. The software is easy to understand and the install disk loaded without a hitch. There’s tape over the scanner’s USB port warning you not to jump right in (a welcome touch for someone who likes to ignore instructions) and the quick-start guide is easy to understand.
But does it work?
Once I got rolling with the NeatReceipts scanner and software, I saw how easy it was to use. The software (called NeatWorks) categorizes your data into Documents, Receipts or Business Cards. Then it allows you to file the info wherever you choose. Since my main challenge is collecting and storing business card info, I was going to scan my cards and then move the data to my Address Book.
First scan. Flawless. The software found the name, title, phone info, address and company name and email without a hitch. The card I scanned was pretty traditional, so I shrugged and went forward.
Next card, similar result but I did have to correct part of the URL. The small type on some business cards can stymie the scanner. J’s look like i’s and sometimes i’s look like L’s. No problem, but more work than I had hoped. Now to the difficult cards.
For cards with backgrounds and busy images – or logos that are also names, NeatWorks doesn’t work so great. I put my card into the machine and came out with the following info…
“vvvvvvvssssssssssVVVVVVVsssssSSSSSSSSS” on the company line. And no other information.
After tweaking the settings and turning the scans to color and higher resolution, the machine still wouldn’t acknowledge that I existed. But it did handle a lot more of the other difficult cards.
The one thing that made me laugh was that when I put in the card of a Neat Company employee, it got everything right but left off the extension on his phone number. But that wasn’t consistent because some extensions were captured on other cards. Perhaps that will be fixed in future software updates.
What’s my overall take? I like the device. It’s portable. It’s powered by your computer’s USB. It comes with a carrying case and does a lot of work that you’d otherwise be stuck doing.
Is it worth the $200 price? So far it’s teetering right on the edge. One saving grace is the receipt function. This really puts different receipts in different categories so you don’t have to. And if you put the receipts into the scanner before they’ve become faded, light-blue tinted scraps of paper, you’ll get a very good result.
Another plus that will keep this device in my office is its ability to scan in (or accept) digital receipts. So when I buy stuff on Amazon or elsewhere, that info can be filed immediately without wasting any paper.
NeatReceipts for Mac with NeatWorks software. More affordable than a standalone card scanner. More accurate in a lot of instances. And definitely more versatile. But there are hiccups that I hope the company addresses in future software updates. Especially because my main task for this device is business card scanning and bringing me one step closer to a paperless office.