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Review: Document Scanning Meets the Mac

There just aren't many scanners with auto document feeders that are compatible with Macs, but Fujitsu has just added the ScanSnap to the list.

The typical flatbed scanner is to document scanning what a Mini Cooper is to mass transit—worthless. That's why users with Macintosh computers have been pretty much out of luck when it comes to moving big piles of paperwork into information management systems. There just aren't many scanners with auto document feeders (ADFs) that are compatible with Macs. Fujitsu, the unit sales leader in the document scanner market, has just added one model—the affordable and easy-to-use ScanSnap—to the list of Mac compatibles.

The ScanSnap is a color duplex scanner that measures just 5.9" x 11.2" x 5.7", yet it can scan anything from a business card to a legal-sized document. Priced at $495, the Mac-only version is compatible with the new "Tiger" 10.4 version of the Mac operating system. Notably, the software bundle includes the standard version of Adobe Acrobat 7.0, which provides PDF image conversion and a built-in OCR engine.

ScanSnap is designed for personal use, but at 15 pages per minute (simplex) and 30 images per minute (duplex), it's up to workgroup needs. Fujitsu expects the scanner to be a hit with lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and particularly educational users who have had limited options for capturing high volumes of documents.

The ScanSnap turns itself on when you lift the dust cover, which turns into the input tray for the 50-sheet ADF. Scanning begins at the touch of a button, and you don't have to deal with a complicated interface. Auto-color detection decides whether the document needs to be scanned in color or black and white. Auto-size detection automatically crops the image to the size of the document. Auto rotation flips landscape documents to the proper orientation. Auto deskew keeps you from reading downhill or uphill. And auto-blank-page deletion zaps those unneeded page images that just take up file space.

HP offers some of the few ADF-enabled scanners that are also Mac compatible, but the ScanSnap has the distinction of being the only true duplex scanner we're aware of that works with a Mac out of the box. With cameras on both sides of the paper path, the ScanSnap easily beats the rated speeds of HP's $699.99 ScanJet 7650, which slows to a six-image-per-minute crawl in duplex because it has to flip pages over with the ADF to accommodate a second scanning pass.

Being a workgroup scanner, ScanSnap can be best likened to a minivan rather than a Mini Cooper when it comes to mass scanning. To step up to a bus or a train—the production scanning realm that starts at 50 ppm and heads well north of 100 ppm—Mac users should check out solution provider Mindwrap, which has provided aftermarket Mac drivers for higher end Fujistu scanners for years.

Macs accounted for only 3.7 percent of all PCs shipped in the United States in the first quarter of 2005, according to Gartner Dataquest, but that translates to 571,000 new potential customers in the United States and more than a million worldwide in just one quarter. Or course, Apple's impending move to same Intel chips used by Windows PCs (and necessary changes in the operating system) will no doubt make it easier for other scanner manufacturers to support future versions of the Mac OS.