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Given that Evernote's mission is to help you organize all the digital content you accumulate, such as articles, e-mail attachments, and notes full of text, it's only natural that it would one day extend offline to organize all the pieces of paper cluttering your desk. The company teamed with Japanese scanner manufacturer Fujitsu to build the ScanSnap Evernote edition, a scanner that pulls all of your receipts, documents, photos, and any other physical content into Evernote, so you can store your entire life in one place.
This is not the first time that Evernote has partnered up with a scanner manufacturer to make it easier to save to Evernote, but this is the most tightly integrated partnership it's ever had. The two companies worked closely on the software that powers the scanner and the design itself. The result is a 600x600-dots-per-inch (dpi) color scanner that can scan documents, photos, receipts, and business cards, and instantly turns them into searchable files stored in Evernote. With any other scanner on the market, you'd have to scan and save documents to your computer's hard drive, then upload them to Evernote. While that's not a particularly difficult process, it can be tedious and time-consuming, especially when you're faced with huge stacks of documents.
Still, for all that speed and convenience, $500 is a steep price to pay. Unless you are the ultimate die-hard Evernote fan and battle massive piles of paper regularly, you're better off spending your money on an all-in-one printer that can do more than just scan.
Design and features
For those who don't know, Evernote is an online note-taking service that can store all kinds of content, such as photos, file attachments, e-mails, text notes, and snapshots of Web pages. You can think of it as a digital file cabinet. The company has desktop apps for Windows and Mac OS X, plus iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps.
The ScanSnap Evernote Edition has the same specs as the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500. The difference between the scanners is in the design, which features an all-gray soft-touch exterior with the Evernote logo on the front.
At a little more than 6.5 pounds, the scanner is heavy, but compact. It's 11.5 inches wide, 6.2 inches deep, and 6.6 inches tall, and roughly the size of a two-slice toaster.
The ScanSnap is an automatic document feeder (ADF) scanner, meaning there's a feed tray at the top where you put your documents, which then pass through the scanner, in the same way a piece of paper passes through an inkjet printer. Since it's not a flatbed scanner, you can't scan books, magazines, or other bound documents unless you tear out the page.
You can load up to 50 sheets at a time and the scanner can handle document sizes A4, A5, A6, B5, B6, letter, and legal, with a minimum size of 2x2 inches and a maximum size of 8.5x14.17 inches. It also comes with a carrier sheet, which holds A3 and B4 documents, as well as 11x17 documents if you fold them in half widthwise.
The top tray folds over the front of the scanner when it's not in use. When you lift it up and away from the body, the machine turns on, and you can then lift the bottom tray down and away to start scanning. The bottom tray has magnets to hold it in place, which is a nice touch.
There's a single back-lit power button and Wi-Fi indicator light inside. Instead of Fujitsu's blue back-lit power button, this scanner uses Evernote's signature green. You can unhinge the document feeder portion and fold it down to clear paper jams or clean the feeder.
With your $500 scanner, you also get one free year of Evernote Premium (worth $45), which includes extra storage and gives you the power to search for words in PDFs. That's important, since when you scan a document, it automatically saves it as a PDF into Evernote.
Before you can start scanning, you first need to install ScanSnap's software from Evernote's Web site, Evernote.com/scansnap.
The setup process is pretty painless, just make sure you already have Evernote running on your computer. Once you download and install the software, you can connect your scanner via USB to your computer and you're ready to scan.
The ScanSnap has a wireless scanning option, so that it can send files to your computer without a cable. To set it up, connect your computer to Wi-Fi if it isn't already and then flip the Wi-Fi switch on the back of the ScanSnap to On. Open the ScanSnap manager tool (included with the software you download to set up the scanner) and head to the Wi-Fi tab, select the correct network, connect to it, and you're done.
Place your document (or stack of items) face down on the top tray and adjust the guides to fit the largest sheet of paper. Press the big green button to begin the scan.
One of the big selling features of the ScanSnap is that it can automatically detect what kind of document you're feeding into it, adjust the settings to produce the best scan, and then file the finished image or PDF into a predetermined notebook (what Evernote calls folders). It even works if you add a stack of different kinds of documents to the feeder at once.
Aside from the automatic mode, the scanner also comes with four manual scanning modes; document (PDF and JPEG), photos, business cards, and receipts. You can select one of those speciality modes to match what you're scanning from the ScanSnap Manager application.
When you first set up the ScanSnap, Evernote automatically creates four new notebooks, including "Scanned Receipts" and "Scanned Photos," but you can have your scans go directly to any of your existing notebooks instead. You can edit this at any time in the Evernote desktop app settings.
When you scan a text document, it saves to Evernote as a PDF, while photos, receipts, and business cards save as a JPEG. Because Evernote uses optical character recognition technology, when you run a search in one of its apps, it will hunt for text in your scanned items and include them the search results if applicable.
Business cards also get something extra. You can connect your LinkedIn account to Evernote during the ScanSnap setup process and whenever you scan a business card, the service will pull in that person's LinkedIn profile information, which gets saved along with the scanned images of the card. This only works with Evernote on a Mac, but support for Windows is coming soon.
The ScanSnap is remarkably quiet and fast. Evernote says it can scan 25 pages per minute and, in my tests it hit that time frame. It only takes about 10 to 15 seconds for it to scan a document, process it, and have it show up in Evernote.
Evernote helped design the ScanSnap's software so that it automatically adjusts its settings to produce the best finished result based on what kind of content you're scanning. That means it uses the highest resolution available for each scan; 300dpi for color and up to 600dpi for black and white. That resolution is on par with competing ADF scanners.
The ScanSnap produced scans that were overall clear and readable, though in some instances, I noticed unwanted lines on photos and blurry-looking text in documents. In Evernote, you can open the scan in a new window and resize it to make the scan larger, which helps make small text easier to read.
While photos and receipts looked fine, text from scanned documents was harder to read on one of the Evernote mobile apps, though your mileage may vary.
It can scan double-sided pages and automatically rotate images. However, I occasionally ran into problems with one page in a PDF turning out upside down or pages out of order. There's no way to edit the pages after the fact in Evernote, but you can open the file in a PDF reader and edit it there if your program has that capability (most free readers like Adobe Reader do not).
If there's a paper jam and two documents get scanned overlapping each other, an alert will pop up on your computer and ask how you want to proceed. You can either save the image of the two overlapping documents and continue scanning, or discard what was scanned and return the jammed documents to the feeder to try again. Either way, it does a good job of not losing all the previously scanned work.
The biggest selling point of the ScanSnap Evernote Edition is that it automatically imports everything it scans into Evernote, making it dead simple to scan and save just about anything that's cluttering your desk. That's important, because with other scanners, you need to manually add any files you've scanned to Evernote by finding them on your hard drive and dragging and dropping them into the application.
That said, the ScanSnap is far too expensive for what it is -- a simple wireless document scanner with a pleasing design. Even as a fan of Evernote myself, it's hard to justify spending $500 on a machine that chops a few minutes off my workflow. If those extra minutes are more valuable to you, and the price tag doesn't scare you away, then I recommend buying yourself a ScanSnap.
However, if you just want a scanner that won't break the bank, choose an all-in-one printer that not only scans, but also prints, sends faxes, and makes copies. They are a much better value and our top picks cost a fraction of the price of the ScanSnap. A few of our favorites are the HP Photosmart 7520 and the Dell B1165nfw, both of which cost just $200.