Scanners are useful things to have, but a problem with them is that most are completely clueless about what they are actually scanning. Sure, they'll scan an image or a document and turn it into a JPEG file or PDF, but most can't make any sense of the information on said image or document.
The NeatScan To Office portable scanner by The Neat Company, however, is not just an ordinary portable scanner. It is actually quite intelligent, because it is able to scan and capture information directly to Microsoft Office applications.
The NeatScan To Office portable scanner is, as its name suggests, highly portable. Weighing a mere 300 grams, it is about 11 inches long, and is small enough to slide into most laptop bags.
What's more, it is USB-powered, which means all you need to bring along is a USB cable - no bulky adapters. This makes it ideal for frequent travelers. However, its design also means that you won't be able to scan out of magazines and books, but that's mostly the case with portable scanners anyway.
What makes this portable scanner so different, however, is the way it works with Microsoft Office. The included custom software installs a convenient toolbar into Office applications and proprietary OCR technology in the scanner itself. This enables the scanner to capture data such as text and images from documents and turn it into editable text and images in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.
We tested this feature out for ourselves and found it to be highly accurate in capturing information. It goes without saying, of course, that this accuracy falls should you feed in badly printed or faded documents.
We also had a go at two features already implemented for the U.S. market. That is the ability to scan business cards directly into Microsoft Outlook (NeatDesk) and receipts into Microsoft Excel (NeatReceipts). We tested it with a variety of business cards and receipts and were amazed at the accuracy. There were a few minor errors here and there, but it mostly worked.
So, it's goodbye to your old rolodex and receipt clippings and hello to fully digital contacts and expenditure accounts! We quizzed The Neat Company regarding availability of this software in Asia and they say it is currently under study and will be launched in the region soon.
The NeatScan To Office portable scanner is a little gem. It is cleverly designed, comes in a pleasant form factor that is truly portable and works without a hitch. We especially liked how the scanner works seamlessly with Microsoft Office.
The limitation however, is that this nifty little scanner currently works only with Windows XP and Vista operating systems and in Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007. It would be nice to see these features extended to other popular office productivity suites and email clients. However, the Neat Company said that a Mac version is due soon, so there's hope yet for Mac OS X users.