I guess that says it all. I have several scanners in my office, but the one that I always use is the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 (and, no, Fujitsu didn’t give me one, I bought it myself). Is it perfect? Well, no, but I love the way it works in my particular situation. Let’s take a look at why I like it.
- It is very reliable, I’ve never had it fail to work.
- It is fast, scanning 20 pages per minute in color mode, 40 pages per minute in B&W.
- It is absolutely easy to operate – most of the time I just stack up the documents and print one scan button. The document feeder can hold up to 50 sheets.
- It provides automatic duplex scanning, where it will scan both sides of the document in one pass, and if the back side is blank it will skip that.
- Images are cleaned up automatically. This includes auto rotation (to straighten out documents that might have fed at an angle, which can happen with narrow receipt documents), automatic detection of color documents, and more.
- You can mix different document sizes in one stack, although sometimes you may have to separate some kinds of documents. It works most of the time, but if I have a bunch of short documents mixed with really long receipt tapes, sometimes I find that I have to separate the documents.
- There is a great integration feature with SmartVault, my favorite document management program.
- The price is reasonable for a business/desktop scanner of this class (MSRP $495).
My desk is very cluttered (no, I won’t show you a picture of my desk). I don’t have a lot of space for peripheral equipment. The ScanSnap S1500 is very compact when not in use – it folds up to take a small amount of space. When I want to use it, I unfold it and that automatically turns it on. Add the documents to the feeder, press one button, and it scans all of the documents. Both sides of the pages in a single pass, which is very helpful.
You can set up different profiles so that it automatically scans to a folder, or to email, or to a number of different applications. You can easily switch between profiles by clicking on the ScanSnap icon in the Windows system tray. You can also easily manage profiles by right clicking on that same icon.
Once it is set up scanning is a breeze.
Scanning resolution is 300 dpi in color and gray scale, which is fine for almost all office use (I wouldn’t use this as a photo scanner for high resolution work). You can get 600 dpi in B&W.
Any scanner that you use regularly is going to require some work to maintain in top condition. The document feed rollers will start to get slick (particularly if you are scanning a lot of documents printed with a laser printer), the scanning element will get dusty, some of the “separation” pads may eventually get worn. The ScanSnap has a nice summary of the number of pages that have been scanned, so that you can see how old the “consumable” parts are.
I purchased a ScanAid Cleaning and Consumable Kit for about $90.00 – this includes all the items you need to keep this going for a long time. Pad Assemblies, Pick Rollers, cleaning sheets, cleaning solution and wipes, lots of stuff. I actually didn’t need to get the full kit at this point because I am a long way from having to replace the rollers and assemblies, so I would have saved some money by just buying the basic cleaning supplies. Once I ran into problems with documents mis-feeding (I was scanning tax documents from quite a few years) I just ran the cleaning sheets (with cleaning solution) through a couple of times and the problem went away. I do recommend getting the cleaning supplies. My only complaints with the cleaning/consumable kit was that there wasn’t a set of instructions in the box – just a note on the web page URL to find instructions.
Why Isn’t It Perfect?
At the beginning of this article I said that it isn’t perfect. There is one drawback to this scanner when compared to others, depending on your situation.
When you work with scanners you’ll see references to a “TWAIN driver”. This is a set of software that handles the the communication between an imaging device and the applications on your computer. TWAIN is a standard communication method – if you have software that is “TWAIN compliant”, then it should be able to work with any imaging device that has a TWAIN driver available. The driver is specific to the device. By the way, don’t try to figure out what “TWAIN” stands for – it isn’t an acronym. I’ve seen several explanations, the one supported by the nonprofit TWAIN working group is that it comes from Kipling’s The Ballad of East and West – “…and never the twain shall meet…”, reflecting the difficulty of connecting scanners and personal computers that people faced before this standard was developed.
So, what about the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500? There is no TWAIN driver. Fujitsu says that they could not make this an easy one-touch scanner while running on a TWAIN driver. What this means is that you have two choices when working with this scanner – use software that has specifically included Fujitsu ScanSnap compatibility, or scan your documents to a PDF file and include them in your application that way.
Do I suffer from “TWAIN pain”? Not really. I don’t have many applications that I use a scanner with that require a TWAIN driver.
I use my scanner for three things:
- Archiving documents in an attempt to achieve a “paperless office”. For many of my documents, such as personal documents and tax papers, I prefer to store the documents as PDF files for retention. I use the included ScanSnap Organizer to manage these documents into folders and to easily retrieve them. You can just as easily scan them to your My Documents folder and organize them there. This is what I do for my personal documents.
- Sending documents to other people, via email (rarely) or through a portal such as ShareFile. I scan to a PDF and use the portal to send the document.
- Saving business documents to SmartVault, which I’m starting to use for my business document management. SmartVault integrates with the scanner, as I’ll show below.
So, in my situation, the lack of a TWAIN driver is not important at all. It may be something that you need to consider when you are evaluating scanners for your office, however.
Working With QuickBooks
If you are using QuickBooks for document management, you can’t use this scanner to scan directly to the Doc Center. You have to scan to a PDF and then drag/drop the document into QuickBooks. Personally, I don’t like Doc Center in QuickBooks, so this isn’t a drawback for me. The Doc Center is a free feature in QuickBooks 2012, but it is a totally unsecure way to store documents. It also is very limited as far as how you can locate a particular document.
Intuit Check Solution for QuickBooks lets you use a ScanSnap scanner to scan checks easily, which works with QuickBooks desktop products. Oops! Correction – it looks like Intuit Check Solution for QuickBooks only supports the S1300, not the S1500 – I’m not sure why, because the S1300 ALSO does not have a TWAIN driver
Working With SmartVault
SmartVault is a great example of a Chunkification, where you have multiple software and hardware developers working to integrate products to provide you with a solution to a business task. SmartVault links QuickBooks with it’s documentation management system, and it also provides a great integration with Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners.
In the SmartVault Launchpad you will see an option to link Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners with SmartVault.
If you have a ScanSnap scanner installed, clicking on the Integration link will add two profiles to the ScanSnap Profile Manager – one for the SmartVault Toolbar and one for the SmartVault Inbox. If you are working with QuickBooks you will use the SmartVault Toolbar option. The SmartVault Inbox profile would be used to scan documents directly to your SmartVault Inbox, where you can either move it to a folder or attach it to a QuickBooks record.
If I select the SmartVault Toolbar profile I can open a record or transaction in QuickBooks, place a document in the Fujitsu scanner, and press the scan button on the scanner. The document is scanned, and a window opens to let me give the scanned file a name (note: I’ve blurred the image of the scanned document for security purposes).
That is all there is to it – SmartVault has taken the image from the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, attached it to the QuickBooks record of my choice, and has saved it in the SmartVault system so that it is available in QuickBooks as well as via the web interface from any computer. Very smooth and fast!
This is the low end of a “business class” scanner. Fujitsu sometimes classifies this as “personal use”, but that can be misleading. They aren’t saying that you can’t use this in a business, what they mean is that this is not designed to be a shared scanner in an office with multiple users. You’ll have this on your desk for your own use. If you have a large office and you want to share scanning capabilities, this might not be your scanner.
It is interesting – I see this scanner in a lot of offices (and the similar, but slower, S1300). Many “Accounting industry leaders” I’ve talked to have them on their desk, and love them.
I’ve used smaller scanners (such as the Canon P-150 that I reviewed last year), and I have scanning capabilities in my all-in-one desktop printer/scanner. Those generally are slower, and they often don’t offer all the image management features (the Canon has great image features, but it is slower). These other scanners have their uses, but they aren’t the ones that I use on my desktop daily.