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Gadget ReviewNeatReceipts Professional Scanner and Software

By Kailas Narendran
CAMPUS LIFE COLUMNIST

Pros

•Digitize your paper -filled life

•Digitally collects, categorizes, and stores receipts using OCR

Cons

•Somewhat slow and newbie-oriented software

The Lowdown

The Neat Receipt Professional Scanalizer is a software and hardware package that enables you to unclutter a life mired in paper. Any fellow entrepreneur, student group leader, or anal individual that is compelled to save receipts can relate to my despisition (I know, that’s not a word, but it’s the feeling of despising something) of paper receipts. Every meal, every home improvement, every T token results in an inch by inch advance in the machines’ war on trees. Not that this system fixes that problem, but it does provide me a quick way to organize the paper trail into some manageable fashion, rather than a discombobulated Diaspora of disparate documents. In short: scan, the software processes & organizes, you stick receipt in folder and forget.

The Proven Process

The process of using the scanalizer system is like having your very own, 12”x2”x2” secretary that connects to your USB port, and scans receipts when you press a button (and you place the receipt in their conveniently located, 11” opening). After she scans the receipt, she hands the digital image of the receipt off to her cousin that you hired to live under your desk (nepotism is alive and well in your work force). Her cousin isn’t perfect, but for almost all standard receipts he can find the total, tax, vendor, etc. and add it to your database. You, being the boss, get to look over the output, and provide beatings when necessary.

I was quite impressed with the accuracy of the whole system, as it made digital storage of receipts effortless! We’re in the process of doing substantial house renovations (a large part ourselves), and my desk is swimming in receipts. Less than an hour with this device and software condensed a huge mess to a neatly indexed database, linked to digital images of all receipts. The company claims that the digital image is enough for the IRS, but I throw the originals back in an unorganized folder, just in case. Also, being an entrepreneur without a family of secretaries, this system gives me the ability to store receipts for easy reference later, allowing you to organize by project, etc. The totals for cost and tax are recognized by OCR and can be totaled by project quickly and conveniently.

The software comes with the added bonus that it can also scan in business cards, and pull all the interesting bits off of them (I did limited tests, with good success). This helped clear the fallout from a couple of networking event dust storms.

The Bad & Ugly

Of course, nothing is perfect, and this system does have its flaws. The software was a bit clunky at times, with a lot of interface necessary to access the functionality. Even simple searches took longer than you’d expect, and the scanning and processing step can take over one minute, if the receipt is large (8.5”x11”, for example). As is the case with all software, these issues are often related to specific computer configuration and state, so the individual performance probably depends on a lot of factors. The system is also full of tutorials and help boxes. Someone’s heart was definitely in the right place, but I found the messages to be a bit annoying at first (until I checked “don’t show this again” for all of them).

It’s clear that someone put a lot of good time and thought into the design of the software, and it does show. It’s available in various flavors and price points, for everything from personal use to enterprise deployment.

The Bottom Line

Using Froogle, the cheapest scanner I could find was around $170, but it wasn’t clear if the software was included (the real value-adder in this system). Most vendors hit around $200, including Amazon and other reputable distributors. There’s also the option of buying direct from the manufacturer, but it’s about $20 more than elsewhere on the net.

You can find out more at the manufacturer’s website at www.neatreceipts.com.