Fujitsu ScanSnap

In this age of digital documents, many of us are still plagued by piles of paper clutter. Even if you want to live the true digital lifestyle, you likely can’t imagine wasting your time tediously scanning paper files using a standard flatbed scanner. But document scanners have been prohibitively expensive for individuals and small businesses. The Fujitsu ScanSnap , though, fills the home- and small-office scanning niche perfectly, creating a way to easily achieve a true paperless office. While the ScanSnap comes at a rather high price of $495, its excellent scans, intuitive Mac software, and tiny footprint will be money well spent.

Always ready

The ScanSnap has an odd shape; it looks more like an ink-jet printer than a flatbed scanner. Its footprint is about the size of an 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper, so it doesn’t take up much space on a desk. You load the paper you want to scan into the top of the scanner, and once it’s scanned, it comes out the front.

One of the great things about this scanner is that it can scan about 50 pages at a time, and the software then creates PDF files of your document in Adobe Acrobat 7.0 (   , June 2005 )--a full version comes with the scanner. It automatically detects the paper size, and whether the paper is two-sided or in color. In my tests, all the automatic options worked flawlessly.

If you want more control over your scans, you can use the software to pick color or black-and-white scanning, the level of compression, scanning one-sided or two-sided paper, paper sizes (from business card to legal), the destination application (Adobe Acrobat, Preview, iPhoto, or any other compatible application), or the file type (PDF or JPG). In fact, the ScanSnap’s easy-to-use software belies its flexibility: six tabs sit at the top of the main window, and each pane has just a couple of options. It’s the kind of software Mac users expect, and it’s impressive that this first version is so trouble-free.

Quality of scans

Scanning went at a comfortable clip, and the only trouble I had was with some slightly crumpled papers that jammed the scanner. Clearing the jams is a matter of opening the top door and pulling out the paper, and the manual clearly lays out this process.

The ScanSnap’s scans are lower resolution than a scanner meant for digitizing photos (600 dpi), but that helps the scanner’s speed. I’d recommend using it for photos only in a pinch or when sending a photo via e-mail: photo scans just don’t look as good as those from even an inexpensive flatbed scanner.

After the scan

After you scan papers to PDF, Mac OS X or Adobe Acrobat will index their content, which means you can use Spotlight to find your files. If Spotlight’s limitations pose a problem for you, consider devising your own electronic filing structure and naming conventions.

On some occasions, I had to take the digital files and turn them back into paper by printing them. They looked almost as good as the originals--more like a photocopy than a pixelated mess.

In the next version of the software, Fujitsu would do well to include an option that attaches a file to a Mail or Entourage e-mail message for quick e-mailing. Most flatbed scanners do this.

I was also a bit confused about Fujitsu’s decision to bundle a full version of Adobe Acrobat 7.0. For most home-office users, this won’t be necessary since OS X includes Preview. A lower-priced version of the ScanSnap without Acrobat would make this scanner's price much more accessible to average users.

As a home-office user, another major consideration is backup. While we should all have a backup strategy in place for our precious digital photos and music, the fact of scanning important documents and then shredding them makes backup crucial.

Macworld’s buying advice

There’s so much to like about the Fujitsu ScanSnap. Anyone who has mounds of paper and not enough space for it all should consider it. And Fujitsu’s first software iteration for the Mac is a success.

[ Jennifer Berger is Macworld ’s senior reviews editor. ]

Fujitsu ScanSnapThe Fujitsu ScanSnap software, ScanSnap Manager, is simple in design but also offers adequate options.

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