Document Scanning Software.

Historically when I’ve bought a scanner it has come with scanning software – usually an outdated version of PaperPort.

Flat-bed Scanner.
Flat-bed Scanner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More recently, however, the software that comes with various scanners has been limited and sometimes almost useless. Windows built-in tool (Windows Fax and Scan) is okay if you are scanning images – but for documents, you really need something more robust. Here I’m going to provide a brief guide to some of the products currently available – including some free options.

Please feel free to reply in the comments if you

  • Know of other software that should be listed here.
  • Have feedback on any of the products listed here.
  • Are related to the company and want to provide additional insight on the product.

ScanWorks

This is interesting – it is a web-based scanning application, though it does require installing a client on one’s local machine. It is free and there is also a premium version available for $20/annually (not bad). I wasn’t a huge fan of the web interface, but it might be more attractive to others.

iCopy

Everyone likes free and open source – and that is exactly what iCopy is. I used it to scan in some documents recently and it worked fairly well, but its UI is not intuitive and it is buggy. It doesn’t create an output file until the end of a multi-page scan and if you scan too many pages it will crash due to consuming too much memory. Still, a free and fairly easy to use option.

VueScan

This software is extremely popular though I found it to be more focused on image scanning than multi-page document scanning. A free trial is available and purchase cost is $40-$80. It does support a vast number of scanners – including numerous older scanners for which other software is unavailable.

PaperPort

The “standard” in document scanning and management, pricing starts at $200, though it is sometimes bundled for free with scanners (usually an older version). It isn’t bad, but I prefer Lucion’s FileCenter.

FileCenter

Of all the applications I have encountered for document scanning and management, FileCenter is my favorite – even over PaperPort. That said, it does cost $50 for their standard edition and $200 for their professional edition. A free trial is available.

Presto! Page Manager

This software looks interesting mainly b/c it integrates with Google Docs and Evernote. Price starts at $100.

ABBYY FineReader Express

I used some of Abbyy’s software years ago and enjoyed it, I imagine it is still of the same quality as I know it is quite popular. Software pricing begins at $50.

Advanced Scan to PDF Free

Simple, free, and easy to use – if you are doing document scanning and the price FREE is right, this is probably the best option.

OfficeDrop

This is a freemium service, they used to offer desktop software (which was buggy) but appear to have dropped the desktop software in favor of mobile apps and document management. That is unfortunate.

Simple Doc Organizer

I’m not familiar with this software, but the site looks nice and they have a Home edition that is available for free.

Other Options

These are other options that aren’t incredibly expensive but I have no personal experience with…

Holy Snikes You Are Expensive

I didn’t feel like reviewing the really expensive options (e.g. above $500), but I’ve included links to some of them for those who are so inclined…

Why I Don’t Use Evernote.

If you where to look for the note-taking app with the most “buzz” surrounding it, it would far and away be Evernote. Evernote has millions of users, a well-known brand, and has permeated not only the lives of individuals but also businesses. It is extensible and flexible. OneNote – what is that? Ohhh, Microsoft’s product. That isn’t cool…Not to mention that its pricey.

Image representing Evernote
Image via CrunchBase

I used Evernote for a time (maybe a few months or a year) and then abandoned it. I wanted to like it and many things I did like about it – but there was one significant issue which remains an issue that forces me to keep my distance from Evernote – versioning.

What is versioning? Quite simply it is keeping a history of changes to a document and allowing the changes to be rolled back, compared, merged, and so on. Google Docs is a great example of this functionality.

Several times while using Evernote I took some fairly extensive notes only to have the noted get overwritten and I was unable to recover them. Even using Premium, which does include some limited versioning features, the number of revisions stored was so few that it was easy to make a few changes, realize you lost something important, and be unable to roll back.

Okay – that is me. But we aren’t really here to talk about me, we are here to talk about you and whether you should be using Evernote. My answer: probably not.

Why? Because I’ve worked for years in IT and have had innumerable individuals come to me asking for assistance in recovering their data – from floppy disks, flash drives, hard drives, and so on. I’ve seen the tears and the anger when the individual learns that their masters’ thesis that was 90% complete has been irretrievably lost.

“That hasn’t happened to me yet.” I know – but it only has to happen once…and IMHO, Evernote is not a reliable tool for writing significant documents or even for keeping one’s research notes about significant projects. There is too much possibility of “device failure” – in this case, the unavailability of previous versions when you need it most.

What do I use? Google Docs / Google Keep. Granted, I’m not particularly satisfied with Google Keep. I’d much rather be using Evernote. I think Evernote is a great company and a great program, I am just befuddled how such basic functionality could be unavailable at all in the free version and only marginally supported in the premium version. In a day where even our consumer backup and sync applications perform versioning – how can an app so widely used and loved lack robust versioning functionality?

SugarSync – What is Missing?

I love being a fan of great products – and supporting those products with my finances. I’ve been a long-time fan and premium subscriber to SugarSync, a cloud-based backup, syncing, and web drive product. I like raving about them, and getting into arguments with folks like Steve Weir about whether Dropbox is better (nope!).

That said, I’m also a fan of making a little noise when companies don’t always treat their customers with the utmost respect they deserve. Successful business involves a symbiotic relationship between the business and the consumer, neither side can demand too much nor give too little. SugarSync has a great product, but I’m concerned that they aren’t committing enough resources to shoring up some weak spots in their current offerings, instead focusing more on new client acquisitions and business partnerships (which, again, are all well and good, but there has to be a balance).

So, here are my *beefs* with SugarSync and what I’d *really* like to see implemented in the near-term future.

The Critical Missing Components.

Image representing SugarSync as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Currently SugarSync doesn’t utilize Microsoft‘s Volume Shadow Service (VSS) and I can’t for the life of me understand why – it is built directly into Windows and is utilized by most backup software providers. Why? Because it offers numerous huge advantages with easy implementation. Including the ability to backup files while they are in-use. This means you don’t have to close out of Outlook, an accounting application, or anything else that is actively using a file before it can be backed up.

The other big no-no SugarSync engages in (that I can think of no practical reason to exist, and which should be a very simple config file change to implement) is finite versioning of files. SugarSync currently keeps a limited number of previous versions of a file – which becomes an issue if it is a transactional file (e.g. a database – including Microsoft Outlook or any email client, rss reader, etc.). These files change all the time – in a single day they may change hundreds or thousands of times! SugarSync needs to keep these versions for as long as the user desires them to be kept – not arbitrarily deleting them!

This is Important…

  • Ability to Pause/Resume Backups/Syncs – While everything in an ideal world would place nice with one another, the fact of the matter is that software oftentimes interfere with each other. It’d be great to have a way to pause backups/syncs by SugarSync. Again, I don’t run into any problems with this regularly – but it would still be a nice feature.

It’d Be Cool If…

I’m not particularly concerned about these features, but it would be cool if…

  • SugarSync integrated with Google Docs, backing up all Google Docs into SugarSync and vice versa (or a subset as so desired). This would also allow mobile editing of documents (of many types) via Google Docs without needing to download the documents from SugarSync (as one must do now before editing).
  • Backing Up Gmail is another useful feature. I’m not as concerned about this as the integration with Google Docs, but still, a nice freebie.

Review: Evernote.

Image representing Evernote
Image via CrunchBase

Evernote is an application for “remembering everything.” It allows one to “capture anything” (e.g. text, websites, images, video, audio) anywhere (computer, phone, mobile devices). I use it to jot or record quick notes to myself when out and about, to keep sketches on various topics or notes on various books. I mainly use the windows application – and it just seems quicker to create a new note in Evernote than to launch Google Docs (or, Office).

Great Features:

  • Price is free.
  • Accessible via the web, Windows, Mac OS X, iPhone/iPod/iPad, Android, Blackberry, Palm Pre/Pixi, and Windows Mobile (basically everything). There is even a third party Linux client (Nevernote).
  • Syncs information between devices – see the same notes through the web interface, on a windows desktop or a mobile device, and so on.
  • Create notebooks in which you can place notes to organize them. Also offers tagging and advanced searching capabilities.

Cons:

  • You have to upgrade to Premium to get versioning. In other words – accidentally overwrite a note? Ohh well – its gone! I did this today (luckily I had a copy elsewhere). This is a real killer for me as I’ve become accustomed to my autosave versioning provided by Google Docs and also via SugarSync.
  • Syncs happen fairly infrequently (fastest one can set is every fifteen minutes!).
  • If you want the Premium features you’ll pay a hefty penny – $45/yr. or $5/mo.[1]

I’ve looked around at other options – most of those listed over at alternative.to but wasn’t really happy with any of them. Specifically, I’m looking for:

  • Support for Windows client software.
  • Support for the iPhone and Android.
  • Automatic syncing between devices.
  • Automatic versioning.
  • A reasonable price.

The ideal way for this to happen would be for SugarSync to throw a small lite version onto their current application…but we’ll see. 🙂

  1. [1]I know, I know…its not that much…but I feel like I get a lot more bang for my buck with $5/mo. for SugarSync’s 30 GB, Grooveshark’s $3/mo. for unlimited music, and even Toodledo‘s $24.95/yr. for a todo list!

Google Gadgets Pornographic – Beware!

Google Gadgets are “Gadgets powered by Google are miniature objects made by Google users like you that offer cool and dynamic content that can be placed on any page on the web.”[1] Common gadgets include todo lists, currency converters, calculators, and apps that pull in feeds from various sites.

See No Evil

These Gadgets can be used anywhere on the web, in Google Desktop, in Google Docs, and on one’s Google iTalk pages. There is a huge gallery of Google Gadgets here[2]. I browsed over tonight looking for some functionality to add to a spreadsheet (didn’t find it). Imagine my surprise as browsing through the directory I selected New and was greeted by a score of pornographic images.

Had I accidentally clicked on another directory? Nope, it was New. Was it possible that someone had just spammed the first page? Nope, the second and third pages revealed similarly disturbing images.

Some may think I’m simply overreacting. I’ve seen a Sports Illustrated cover and am screaming bloody murder. This is not the case. I’ve become accustomed to flipping past trashy apps in Google Android Market[3]…this is much worse. I’m talking overtly sexually explicit imagery.

I’m sorry to Google for posting this as a blog post – but I know that the fastest way to get a reaction on this topic is in this manner. Google, “Do No Evil” – a company which has set high standards in many arenas – needs to step up in this one. I don’t understand how an oversight like this has occurred – but it must be stopped immediately. I know Google can do it – I believe in them. 😉 Join me in calling upon Google to act in this manner by sharing this information (or a link to this post) with friends.

Whatever your position on pornography, I hope you can support the need for guarding our children against exposure to explicit images. Google SafeSearch does a fairly good job protecting our children against accidentally stumbling across pornographic materials – why is Google Gadgets not undergoing the same sort of filtering? Is it not as readily available to children? In fact, one does not have to search for the wrong words to turn up explicit materials – simply click “New” and you’ll be overwhelmed with the images.

Struggling with Pornography?

I’m concerned that some who read this post may be struggling with pornography or other sexual addictions and that this post could serve as a stumbling block for them (or you). If this is the case, I want to point you towards a couple resources that may help:

  • XXXChurch – “XXXchurch is designed to bring awareness, openness and accountability to those affected by pornography. We are an online community that tours the world speaking at colleges, churches and community centers. XXXchurch.com exists to help those who are in over their heads with pornography, both consumers and those in the industry.”
  • Porn Again Christian – A free eBook on pornography and masturbation by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church.

Continue to fight the good fight.

  1. [1]google.com/webmasters/gadgets/ (page no longer exists)
  2. [2]Working with teenagers I know that the compulsion to look at pornographic images is oftentimes irresistibly strong. Knowing that some teenagers might click through if a link was present, I have decided not to post the link. Anyone who knows how to perform a web search can easily get to the Google Gadgets page – I just don’t want to facilitate such action by those who are already struggling to resist temptation.
  3. [3]Not that the apps in Google Android Market are acceptable either – especially b/c of their accessibility to young children.