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IRIS Business Card Reader II

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Flipping through stacks of business cards to find a phone number can get boring fast. The obvious solution isn’t terribly attractive: tedious typing of information into your address book or contact manager. The IRIS Business Card Reader II spares you most of this drudgery by quickly scanning individual business cards, using OCR (optical character recognition) technology to extract their data, and transforming that data into contact files compatible with popular e-mail programs and contact managers.

The card reader’s diminutive, eyeglass-case size allows it to nestle unobtrusively among other items on your desk, with a single USB cable providing both power and a connection to your Mac. After you load the Cardiris 3.0 software and connect the scanner, Cardiris does a one-time calibration using an included calibration sheet.

Each card takes about 18 seconds to pass through the scanner; the software then takes another few seconds (depending on the speed of your Mac) to perform character recognition. Cardiris displays both full-size images and color thumbnails of the scan, along with the text it was able to interpret. Any mistakes can be corrected at this point. Business cards with traditional layouts and typography will cause fewer errors.

Cardiris is compatible with the latest versions of Microsoft Entourage, AppleWorks, Apple Address Book, and Now Contact (part of Now Up-to-Date & Contact). If you have one of these applications, you can set up Cardiris to launch it and automatically export the data. You can also export the card information to HTML, vCard, or plain text.

The current model far outpaces its predecessor in stability and performance (   ; December 2002 ) when used with OS X 10.3.5—not surprisingly, as it’s optimized for Panther. I did experience a crash on an OS X 10.2.8 test system after 20 cards were scanned in and awaiting export. Since Cardiris doesn’t maintain a cache of previous scans, I had to start over from scratch.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

If you’re drowning in a sea of business cards or simply want to keep your electronic Rolodex updated with new contacts, the IRIS Business Card Reader II will do the job. If you also want to scan the occasional photo or use an OCR app for full-size documents, you can spend the same amount of money on a decent desktop scanner—several models even include business-card OCR software.

IRIS Business Card Reader II
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