Review: Go From Paperwork to PDF With the Greatest of Ease

The ScanSnap fi-511EOX2 combines many features that make scanning far less difficult than a back flip.
What sits on a desktop and performs with an Acrobat—Acrobat 7.0, that is? It's the ScanSnap fi-511EOX2, announced yesterday by Fujitsu (, and it combines many features that make scanning far less difficult than a back flip. What's more, this color, duplex scanner costs only $495, and it includes a super bundle with a business card scanning utility and Adobe's latest PDF software.

Designed for personal use, the whole premise of the ScanSnap is that cutting down on paperwork starts at the desktop. At 5.9" x 11.2" x 5.7", this device will hardly get in the way, but it's always ready to digitize anything from a business card to a legal-sized document. Just lift the dust cover, and it turns on the device and turns into an input tray for the 50-sheet auto document feeder. Press one button, and the scanning operation begins at 15 pages per minute (simplex)/30 images per minute (duplex). It ends moments later with PDF images that are ready to store or e-mail wherever you'd like. Using Acrobat 7.0, you can also OCR images to make them text readable or combine images with Word, Excel or PowerPoint files to create compound PDF documents.

If you've struggled with unintelligent scanners that force "you" to figure everything out, you'll find this scanner is a breeze—as I witnessed in a demo at a capture conference last week. 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.

For those who are scan savvy, ScanSnap's dummying down can have its drawbacks. For one thing, the device uses a proprietary driver rather than TWAIN or ISIS, so you can't use your favorite scanning application, unless of course that's Acrobat 7.0 (or you're using the Manager software described below). For another thing, the default setting of 150 dpi color/300 dpi bitonal and PDF output may not be the standards you would choose. However, you can export other image types and upgrade to "better," "best" or "excellent" modes, which take you all the way up to 600 dpi color/1,200 dpi bitonal.

New features included with the fi-5110EOX2 include ScanSnap Organizer software, which lets you attach passwords to PDF images so that only authorized users can open them or see the thumbnails. The Organizer also provides a desktop view and thumbnail browsing. Although you can't call up the ScanSnap from a TWAIN or ISIS application, Fujitsu's ScanSnap Manager software has been upgraded so you can create and store nine document profiles with specific scan settings, storage locations and application selections.

If you're like me and have stacks of business cards lying around, you'll particularly appreciate the CardMinder software, which automatically extracts all the name, title and contact information from business card images and exports the data into Outlook, Act!, Goldmine or CSV or text files.

Considering its ease of use and its just-right bundle, including Acrobat 7.0 Standard (which usually sells for $299 on its own), the ScanSnap is a bargain at $495. Its auto-everything operation appeals even to the most experienced user.