Follow up Review of the ScanSnap S510M

As you may remember I was pretty excited to order the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M after reading a review from one of my colleagues and talking with another colleague that used one. At the time I didn’t actually have mine yet and I promised a follow up review, so here it is:

 

The Good

The ScanSnap S510M is an amazing piece of hardware. I’ve never seen a scanner that scans so FAST! Not only does it scan fast, it scans both sides of a page as fast as it scans one side. It’s also more compact than I imagined and since I got mine they’ve even come out with a more compact model (ScanSnap 300M) that would be suitable for travel. I’ve been able to scan even small receipts without having to use the document carrier. It’s just awesome! OK, so that’s the good part!

 

The Bad

I must say that while the hardware rocks, I was a little disappointed in the software implementation. This scanner includes a FULL version of Acrobat 8 Professional. Wow! I was thinking that they would take advantage of this powerful app and sadly they don’t. There is no tie between the scanner driver and Acrobat at all. The scanner driver simply creates a PDF using the built-in Mac OS X Quartz driver. While I’m OK with that, what I was hoping for was an automated way to have Acrobat then OCR the scanned PDF which would make it searchable. What I want is to be able to walk up to the scanner, stick a document on it, scan it and then walk away. If I later need that document, I want to be able to search on some words that were in the document. Out of the box it won’t do that. Instead, it scans the document, gives it a basic name and either dumps it into a folder as a scanned PDF or opens it in Acrobat and then you’d have to do all the work manually. Sure I can probably setup an Acrobat Batch Sequence, Mac OS X Automator thingy and a watched folder, but I just expected this kind automated solution out of the box.

 

 

UPDATE: Thanks to blog reader “Vivek” for pointing out that the ScanSnap S510M does actually include a special version of Abbyy Fine Reader for Mac. This app does exactly the one thing I was missing in that it OCRs the PDFs immediately after they are scanned by the ScanSnap (if you set it to do so). It still begs the question of why do they include Acrobat 8 Professional and not tie into it though, especially since Acrobat 8 Professional can OCR directly? 

 

The Bottom Line

Although the ScanSnap doesn’t do what I want out of the box (see the update above), it is possible to setup with the supplied software. It’s incredibly fast and worth the money! It would be nice if they offered an option for this model to buy just the hardware for those users (like me) who already own Acrobat, but they don’t (yet). Once I have time to sit down and setup my automated workflow, I’ll be one step closer to my paperless office (hey, I can dream can’t I?).  So I’m happy with my purchase!

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M (The M is for the Mac version) goes for $430.23 ($510 list) and includes a full version of Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional. It scans in color or B&W and does two sided scanning of stacks of paper. It automatically converts the scans to PDFs and it’s blazing fast!

 


  • unclemac

    Have you seen the app Yep? Give it a look, and I suspect you may have your paperless office afterall…

    http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/30112

  • Terry White

    unclemac,

    Thanks for the tip on Yep! It’s cool, but doesn’t solve the problem of searching Scanned PDFs that haven’t been OCR’d yet. For example, if I use the scanner to scan a hotel receipt and then try to search for “Marriott”, Yep (or nothing else for that matter) won’t find it because it’s just an image until it’s OCR’d by Acrobat 8 Professional.

  • Dom

    TRy Evernote to archive the PDFs, as it reads the text inside the documents

  • Vivek

    Are you sure you are using it right? I have the same scanner and I use their control center (don’t remember the name of the app as it isn’t in front of me). I scan a document it puts it into a folder, where then the Abby fine reader program OCRs it for me and then writes out a new PDF that has a good quality image of the document and the OCR’ed text behind the image. So when I search for text in spotlight and then open the document the text is highlighted in the right spot in the image. I did not have to do any setup in Acrobat for this to work.

    Vivek

  • Terry White

    Dom,
    Acrobat does what I need, the problem is that there is no text inside the documents that are scanned until they are OCR’d.

  • Terry White

    Vivek,
    Abbyy Fine Reader appears to be Windows only. This is the Mac version of the ScanSnap and therefore doesn’t include it (as far as I can tell). Are you using this on the Mac or PC?

  • Vivek

    Terry,

    I am using the mac version, I have the same scanner the S510M and it came with Acrobat, Abby Fine Reader (there is a special mac version: ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnapâ„¢ 3.0 Mac Edition) and there control center application. With all of these Apps installed everything was smooth sailing.

    Vivek

  • Lance

    The solution you need is Devonthink Pro Office.

  • Terry White

    Vivek, Thanks! I shall look through my install disks. I thought I installed everything.

  • Barrie

    How well does it scan slippery paper (as in pages from a magazine)? Is it able to pick up one page at a time?

  • http://www.davidedwardsmd.com David Edwards

    We have several ScanSnap fi-5110E0XM scanners in my office. This scanner is the immediate predecessor to the one you reviewed. I have been unable to tell from the specs or the review what if anything was upgraded with the newer model, except the price.

    The one I have was commonly available for about $300 before it was discontinued. I even picked up some open box units for the low $200 range.

    Anyway, nice review.

  • Brandon

    Mr. White,

    I must say, I just stumbled upon your blog, and I really enjoy it. As a computer information systems major and technology enthusiast, I’m a bit envious of all the cool toys you get to experience on a daily basis. I wonder if I could get a job with adobe after I graduate!

    Thank you for your blogs.

  • Pol Pot Pie

    Also, I highly recommend (not as far as OCR, but for keeping track of receipts, etc.) ReceiptWallet http://www.receiptwallet.com/
    They have really embraced the ScanSnap and make it that much more useful than just Acrobat…

  • Terry White

    Vivek, You were absolutely right! The Abbyy Fine Reader disk was included and I just overlooked it. I’ve installed it and it’s working great!

  • Wyn Knapp

    Thank you for the comments on this site. I just bought fujitsu S510M for use with Intel imac. From what I can conclude, Acrobat 8 will not recognize scanner for purposes of scanning documents–either initially or for appending purposes.

    Do you think that I am correct?

  • http://www.ColemanUnlimited.com Sonia Coleman

    Terry,
    Thanks for the excellent review and detailed explanation of the Scansnap. I recently bought one after readng your blog, and I love it!

    I wanted to give an update regarding OCR: the ScanSnap Manager software has been updated with a button to OCR the document using Abbyy Fine Reader out of the box with no additional settings adjustments.

    Thanks again for your excellent work!

  • Brad

    I bought this scanner and set it aside a year ago with good intentions to use. Just hooked it up today and am ticked off that I waited this long. Works as advertised, is fast and the OCR of Fine Reader hasn’t failed me yet (even scanning deposit slips from my bank with dot matrix type). Last time I make that procrastination mistake! Highly recommended!

  • MT

    I bought this from Amazon just before Christmas after reading many reviews. I must say it was hard to spend $495 on a scanner when you can buy a cheapie for $79. But wow, am I glad I spent the cash. This scanner rocks, especially with the bundled OCR software. Yeah, Fine Reader is a little slow, even on my dual-core 2.4Ghz MacBook Pro, but by that I mean it takes about 10 seconds per page to produce a fully-searchable PDF. The scanner itself rips through a page in less two seconds (both sides!), so Fine Reader becomes the bottleneck if you you want to OCR a large number of documents. But it’s not like you have to stand there and supervise. Just dump a stack of papers in the feeder, press the button and walk away. If you value your time, buy it.

    Some people have asked how well it scans photos. Great! The ScanSnap software includes the option to scan directly into iPhoto. I’ve already scanned hundreds of old snapshots that have been sitting in boxes for ages because it was too much hassle to scan them one-at-a-time on my old flatbed scanner.

    Finally, I just want to mention something I haven’t seen in any review. The scanner is also bundled with CardIris business card scanning software (www.irislink.com). This software does an OK job of scanning and OCRing business cards which you can then import into Address Book or pretty much any other contact manager or database/spreadsheet app. Unfortunately it’s a PowerPC app, but it runs fine under Rosetta on Intel. Not a reason to buy this scanner, but a nice bonus.

  • abbyy_finereader_4mac_user

    Actually, S510M works perfect with ABBYY fine reader 3.0 for Mac.
    When you open the ScanSnap manager, –> Application –> select ABBYY Scan2Pdf

    ABBYY scan2pdf runs automatic ocr recognition and saves your file under the original filename but with the OCR result in the background. Now you have a searchable text file.
    You can also drag an “not yet OCRed” pdf into the application ABBYY Scan2Pdf.
    For those who have a ScanSnap S500M, the ABBY Scan2Pdf is not part of the bundle. But you can download ABBYY Finereader 3.0 OCR for Mac at ABBYY website as follows:
    http://www.abbyyeu.com/download/ArchivRetail/RetailProducts/FineReaderMAC/ScanSnap/ScanSnap_V21L10.pkg.zip

  • Gardar

    My ScanSnap S510M bought in September last year has proved to be a remarkable tool.
    I had 5 huge boxes of documents in my cellar, now they are gone and everything is filed up in “Documents” on my computer.
    I have a recent iMac and there are no problems. But on hindsight I should have given my scanned documents some more categorical names.
    Now when I try to use my SnapScan with my recent MacBook I will not recognize pdf´s but evertyhing else works ok
    Does anyone know the solution to this problem ?

  • fc

    To be honest, Abbyy Finereader seems to do a much better job than Adobe’s included OCR solution, in most cases…

  • Kees-Jan

    Hi, I was just reading the reviews. I bought the ScanSnap fo MAC and is absolutely worth its money. Amazing speed and impressive paper feeding control. I have tried all kinds of paper and it does very well. It is easy to create a custom paper scan size and uses less space to create the pdf. In terms of work flow I scan all my docs on the go, place it in an "OCR" folder, including books (1-125 pages at the time) and than at night run the Abbyy Finereader. It detects different languages . (in my case Spanish, Dutch and of course English) It does a great job. In the morning all is ready to be moved.
    I did wish I could automate this more. Maybe as you say in automator, but the scanner is faster than the OCR software. I also hoped that when it takes 2 pages I could stop and place it right and than click continue… It does a very good job detecting if it takes 2 sheets but just asks if you want to continue or abort.. I have found no other way that start over with the batch. Just another cool tip. A friend of mine set up the Apple text reader so it reads RTF (need to paste pdf OCR text into RTF file) in Automator and converts the text into "audio". Great way to listen to books that I scan.