Fujitsu ScanSnap, a great document scanner for the Mac

The Fujitsu ScanSnap is a compact, easy-to-use scanner which will scan a stack of two-sided pages and turn them into a searchable PDF with the press of just one button. I use my ScanSnap several times throughout the week to scan documents as well as receipts of various sizes. I highly recommend the ScanSnap.

I bought my first ScanSnap, the S510M, in January 2007 and it’s still going strong after 8100 scans. To keep it working well, remember that the ScanSnap needs to be cleaned about every 1000 scans. Fujitsu has replaced this model with the S1500M and the S1300. [UPDATE June 2016 – Fujitsu’s current models the iX100 and iX500 now support scanning directly to Dropbox and other cloud-based file storage systems. Just install the ScanSnap Cloud app on your Mac or iPhone to set it up and then you can scan to Dropbox without the need of a computer or mobile device.]

I was fortunate enough to win an S1300 in a recent give-away by a Fujitsu representative. The S1300 can be powered by either a power cord or via a USB port on your computer. (It needs a second, separate USB port for transmitting the scanning data.) The software bundled with the S1300 includes some new features and is compatible with my three year-old S510M. If you own an older ScanSnap you can download the current ScanSnap software which is compatible with Mac OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard.

The bundled Macintosh software includes Fujitsu’s own ScanSnap Manager as well as two third-party applications — Abby FineReader 4.1 for ScanSnap and ReadIRIS’ CardIRIS 3.6 for ScanSnap (now renamed IRISCard). FineReader is an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) application that let’s you turn your PDFs into searchable PDFs, editable Word or Excel documents. CardIRIS also does OCR, but is intended for business cards. It lets you scan a business card and turn it into a record in Apple’s Address Book.

The S1300 is also the first fully cross-platform ScanSnap model. In the past, ScanSnap scanners have been bundled with either Mac-compatible software or Windows-compatible software though the scanner hardware itself works with either Macs or PCs. The S1300 comes with one DVD which contains both Mac and Windows software.

Fujitsu has added a host of other appealing features over the past few years. Here are a few highlights.

  • Right-clicking on the Dock icon let’s one select either Simplex (one-sided) or Duplex (two-sided) scans in case you don’t want to scan the back-side of a document such as a store receipt.
  • ScanSnap Manager’s Application section lets you scan a document directly to a number of destinations such as iPhoto, your printer or an attachment in a new email message.
  • Marking text with a highlighter pen will turn that text into a keyword in your searchable PDF.

The paperless office that has been prophesied has not appeared, but my ScanSnap lets me reduce the amount of paper records that I have in my filing cabinets. I scan most documents so they are always available on my laptop. Of course, a robust backup system is important if you’re going to entrust all of these documents to your computer.
Note: ScanSnaps do not conform to TWAIN, ISIS and WIA standards.

Update 03-2011: I recently learned that Fujitsu has created a number of ScanSnap Tips and Tricks including one on how to clean your ScanSnap and how to replace the consumables.

Update: 01-2013: MacWorld recently published a comparison between ScanSnap’s current high-end scanner, the ScanSnap iX500 and Neat’s NeatDesk.  Read the comparison yourself, but I’m glad that I have a ScanSnap. I might check out Neat’s software for Mac. If I like it, I can configure it to use my ScanSnap.

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