capsule review

IRISPen II

At a Glance
  • IRIS Pen II

    Macworld Rating

Researchers, students, and others who use snippets of text in their writing will applaud the IRISPen II's ability to scan text--a line at a time--directly into almost any program, for later editing. PowerBook-toting business travelers and data-entry workers, too, may find IRIS's lightweight and accurate (but OS 9-only) OCR scanner very handy.

Smaller than the average TV remote control, the IRISPen, which attaches to your Mac's USB port, is a snap to set up--as is the accompanying software, which you can configure for right- or left-hand scanning. The pen has a button that can be programmed to act as two keyboard commands (for example, one click for a tab and two clicks for a return).

IRISPen's software comes in two editions, Standard and Executive, both of which let you scan text into either the program's clipboard window (where it isn't editable) or another program. The Executive edition adds impressive features such as bar-code scanning; recognition of handwritten numerals; and rudimentary speech synthesis, which lets you hear what you're scanning. The program supports 56 languages, and it recognized just about any typeface we put under the pen's tip.

It even read material from a dot-matrix printer and spreadsheet data, but it couldn't scan large type and pale-colored text. And although the IRISPen approached the company's promised scanning speeds of 100 characters per second in our tests, high-speed scans compromised accuracy. Slower scans yield much better results, and holding the pen firmly is a must.

Macworld's Buying Advice

With its intuitive, customizable software and data-reading abilities, the IRISPen II can be used in countless ways. If you need to do line-by-line text scanning or many types of data-entry work, it's the tool to have on hand.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Accurate
    • Easy to use
    • New data-entry and speech-synthesis features in Executive edition
    • Impressive data-reading abilities

    Cons

    • High-speed scanning compromises accuracy
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