My Friend, the Anti-Paper Machine

Fujitsu ScanSnap S500MI used to have this huge pile of papers on the table beside my desk. It was a chaotic mix of bills, invoices, notices from Cole’s day care, pages ripped from magazines, and hand-written notes from meetings. It just sat there, ugly and prone to blowing away whenever I opened the window to let in fresh air. If I ever wanted to locate something I had to rifle through it like some mad scientist.

It’s no secret that I hate paper and am very weak at organizing it. I just don’t find the printed page a very efficient information storage medium. Unfortunately, too much of the world still revolves around it.

So I recently took the plunge and picked up a device that claims to offer a solution to the ball of confusion that is paper culture, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M desktop scanner. After just a week, I can confirm that all of Fujitsu’s claims are true, and this little machine is now my very best friend.

I managed to reduce that nasty pile of dead trees into a folder of PDFs on my computer in under an hour. It took any piece of paper, in any size, in any state, in any orientation, in any number and scanned it in full-duplex mode (both sides at once) without complaint.

To test the scanner’s paper-handling capabilities, I scanned in a pile of receipts and invoices from my son’s day care all at once. In general, there are three different sizes of paper for each month, and each is a different weight. Furthermore, many of the receipts have traveled well crumpled in my pocket for days (I told you I was no good with paper). I purposely put in some of the papers on an angle or just upside down. To be honest, I literally just dumped a pile of paper into the unit’s sheet feeder.

The ScanSnap quickly worked its way through the pile (under 20 seconds for about 20 sheets of paper). The included software straightened the crooked scans and put the upside down ones on their feet. Then it handed the bunch over to Adobe Acrobat (which is included with the scanner) for further processing.

I had Acrobat run its character-recognition on the scans so the information in the documents could be recognized as text, and added some metadata and keywords. Now if I want to find the Visa receipt for last March’s day care bill I just type a few words into the Mac OS’s desktop search and, hey, there it is. No more digging through paper, no more ugly pile haunting my preference for fresh air.

Now to try and convince people to not even send me paper in the first place!

I should note there’s a unit designed for the Windows platform, as well.