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Capture Documents While on the Road

Portable scanners have come a long way from their bulky, heavy, and power-hungry counterparts of the past.

Bill Winterberg, 10/13/2011

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Today's technology allows advisors to be more mobile than ever. Some advisors are able to perform nearly all of their business activities using only a laptop and cell phone with mobile broadband connectivity. One key technology that enables such mobility is the implementation of a paperless office, where important client documents can be accessed quickly and updated in real time.

But while on the road, advisors need a solution to manage paperwork they might collect and wish to add to their document management system. Examples include handouts from conferences, white papers and marketing materials obtained from vendors and wholesalers, and receipts to document travel expenses.

Portable scanners represent one solution for advisors looking to capture high-quality images for their paperless workflow. I looked into portable scanners from a variety of manufacturers before deciding to review the ScanSnap S1100 color scanner from Fujitsu (MSRP $199). I'm very pleased with my own Fujistu ScanSnap S1500 that I use in my consulting business, and I know that many advisors also successfully use desktop and network scanners from the company. Fujitsu kindly sent me an evaluation unit of the S1100 for this review.

Unboxing the S1100
The ScanSnap S1100 ships in a compact box with minimal pieces included. Inside are the ScanSnap itself, a six-foot Mini-USB data cable with a Velcro cable wrap, a getting started guide, a warranty guide, and software DVD-ROM. The S1100 measures 10.74 inches long, 1.33 inches high, and 1.87 inches deep and weighs about three-quarters of a pound (for reference, the Apple iPad 2 weighs 1.33 pounds).

The scanner is powered entirely by the included USB cable when connected to a computer and requires no other external power source. This is a desirable feature for advisors on the go who already carry too many AC power adaptors for their electronic devices. Also worth noting is that several other portable scanners require the use of two USB ports for power and data connections instead of only one USB port required by the S1100. An optional carrying case is available for under $30 that features flaps for the USB cable and paper feed, allowing the scanner to be used without removing it from its case.

Another attractive feature of the S1100 is its cross-platform support. The scanner is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems. The scanner ships with the following software for Windows:

  • ScanSnap Manager
  • ScanSnap Organizer
  • CardMinderTM, for capturing contact information from business cards
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnapTM, the program that performs optical character recognition (OCR)
  • Evernote for Windows, a web-based service to store and organize notes, PDFs, and photos
  • Scan to Microsoft® SharePoint®

Software for Mac includes:

  • ScanSnap Manager
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnapTM Mac Edition
  • CardirisTM 3.6 for ScanSnap, the business card reader for Mac
  • Evernote for Mac

Several updates to included programs, including CardirisTM and Evernote, are required for those users who have updated to Lion, the latest version of the Mac OS.

Installation and Use
I installed the required software on my MacBook Air, which is a straightforward process that took just a few minutes. With the software installed, I scanned a variety of documents to test the device's capabilities.

To scan, simply open the feed guide, insert a document printed side up (the ScanSnap grabs the top of the page), and press the Scan button. To capture both sides of a double-sided document, one must turn the document over and load it in the ScanSnap again with the back side facing up. The ScanSnap then automatically scans the document and adds it to the existing job.

Like all ScanSnap scanners, the S1100 automatically recognizes the size of each document scanned and de-skews captured images if pages are inserted at an angle. However, it doesn't have multi-feed detection (i.e. two pages scanned at once) as in higher-end models, though one would have to manually insert two pages at the same time to cause a multi-feed event.

It takes about seven to eight seconds to scan a standard 8.5in. x 11in. document (about 8 pages per minute if you can manually feed quickly), except when using "Excellent" mode, which scans at the highest supported resolution of 500 dpi. Scans in Excellent mode take roughly 35 seconds per page. Turning on the ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnapTM OCR software also adds additional processing time once the scan is complete, requiring anywhere from 3 to 6 seconds per page. The speed of the OCR conversion largely depends on the speed and available memory of the computer in use and the complexity of the page being converted.

To scan multiple pages of the same document, just keep loading subsequent pages into the ScanSnap, and it will scan them automatically. One mustn't forget to turn over and scan any double-sided pages. When finished, either click the Finish Scanning button in the ScanSnap Manager software or press the Scan/Stop button on the unit.

Once captured, the ScanSnap Manager Quick Menu opens with 10 preset options, called Profiles, to process the captured document. The 10  Profiles are:

  • Scan to folder (saves the captured image as an Adobe PDF file)
  • Scan to e-mail attachment
  • Scan to print
  • Scan to Evernote as a document
  • Scan to Evernote as a note
  • Scan to Google DocsTM
  • Scan to Word
  • Scan to Excel
  • Cardiris
  • iPhoto

Scan to folder is likely the Profile advisors will use the most, as the option allows a filename to be specified for the PDF and saves the file to a selected folder. The folder can be on the computer's hard drive, a network drive, or in the case of a Mac, a MobileMe folder (though Apple is in the process of replacing MobileMe with its new iCloud service).

The image quality of documents I scanned was excellent. Scans of form letters, business cards, and receipts printed on thermal paper all resulted in clear images with excellent resolution. The ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap software was able to perform OCR with high accuracy for all but the most complex of documents (fancy, non-standard business cards will always be the bane of any OCR software).

Advisors working remotely can add the scanned document to the company server accessed over a VPN, upload it to a secure document portal, or upload it to their document management software using its own web interface. I do not recommend advisors send documents containing client or confidential information to their office via unencrypted e-mail.

Minor Drawbacks
Despite the S1100's compact size and array of scanning options, I encountered a few minor drawbacks during my testing. Obviously, due to its small size and slow page feed, the S1100 is not an ideal device for a large quantity of documents. There's no document feeder, so each page needs to be inserted one at a time by hand. Large jobs necessitate the size and speed of a more capable scanner.

As is the case for all ScanSnap units, the S1100 does not support TWAIN drivers, meaning the scanner cannot be invoked by third-party software such as Adobe Acrobat or document management programs. All scanning must be completed using the ScanSnap Manager, but the included Profiles make this an easy process.

Finally, the S1100 cannot scan in duplex mode to capture both the front and back of a page in a single pass. Again, adding duplex capability would significantly increase the scanner's size, defeating the purpose of a portable, lightweight scanner. Advisors seeking a portable scanner that supports duplex might want to consider the ScanSnap S1300 from Fujitsu (MSRP $295), but note that the unit is much larger and weighs just over three pounds.

Capture for the Mobile Advisor
Portable scanners have come a long way from their bulky, heavy, and power-hungry counterparts of the past. Now advisors have the ability to capture high-quality images of all types of paper documents from a USB-powered device that weighs less than a pound. Fujitsu's ScanSnap S1100 is a very capable unit available for a reasonable price that I believe makes a good complement to the tools of today's mobile advisor.

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Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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