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Vox Pop: Workflow for the Fujitsu ScanSnap?

In comments about yesterday's "Making friends with paper" post, I was reminded by 43f member Adam Hooks...

A couple months ago, on a MBW episode, Merlin, you recommended some scanner/pdf solutions and you said you would elaborate on that on 43f at some point. I thought this was related to reducing your reliance on paper. How did your scanning experiment go?

Adam remembers correctly that I purchased and preliminarily fiddled with the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M for OS X (Info, Amazon). It's a small-footprint, high-speed document scanner that a lot of people have been talking about lately. I'd read so many reviews and blog posts about how easy it is to use that I was intoxicated by the dream of a life -- if not without paper storage -- where I could at least try to minimize my unnecessary paper clutter and start making document archiving easier and more searchable.

Given the not inconsiderable cost of the unit, I'm embarrassed to say that I got busy with other stuff and haven't yet returned to using the ScanSnap in any automated way.

Doesn't mean I'm not interested or haven't gotten started...

cover of 'ScanSnap S500M' by Fujitsu

ScanSnap S500M
by Fujitsu

My initial experiences, while tentative in terms of time commitment and true workflow integration, have been very positive so far. It's easy and fast to set up the S500M and then start scanning one- or two-sided documents. The beauty part is that the included "ScanSnap Manager" app not only stores your document preferences, but directs the USB input from the ScanSnap right into the destination app of your choosing (which can, of course, be an OCR app -- that's where it gets powerful).

Initial experiments scanning directly to image-only PDFs were very positive, while scanning into "Yep" and "DevonThink Pro Office" (which has on-board OCR) seems to point even closer to the direction I eventually hope to go.

I know at least a few of you are ScanSnap studs who have come up with workflows that are really happening for you (hint: looking at you for a blog post here, Mr. Norbauer). In the absence of a more detailed report from me, I'm hoping a few of you can chime in here.

The Question to You

How are you integrating the ScanSnap (or another OS X-friendly document scanner) into your workflow? What are you using for OCR? Having particular success with ReadIris, Acrobat, DevonThink, or Yep? Any sexy Automator workflows to share?

jdott's picture

Paper be gone!

I'm a grad student in the humanities, so most of my scanning is out of books, so I use the OptiBook 3600 under VMWare Fusion (long live continuity view). It's reasonably quick (only marginally slower than a copy machine), scans all the way to the edge of even this thickest text, and output is exactly what I need. I save the images as TIFFS where I can get to them from my real OS (X). When I do have loose papers to scan, I have an HP 3015 laser multifunction with a sheet-fed scanner (it has served me well under Windows, then Linux, and now OS X). I've not found it convenient to scan in my note cards—I probably won't be able to read them later anyway, so I just do the capture by keyboard every day (or so, really).

I use Acrobat Pro to wrangle my scanned images. I've found the output the best and the file sizes (when the settings are right) quite acceptable. I have about 7GB of scanned documents, so this is a concern to me. With my university's site license, the cost is not really an issue, so your situation may vary. I then use Yep for tagging/visual discovery, although most of my launching comes via Quicksilver or Bookends. Consistent file naming is the key. Given my purposes, "Author_Short title" is my preferred method, making it easy to find what I need from whatever app I'm in. I've also found that a single directory for all of the research works the best. (Personal/administrative scanned items also have a single directory, as do student assignments, etc.)

I typically do my reading in Acrobat (unless it's just a quick glance, then I just use the loupe tool in Yep or Preview), using a mix of highlighting and the occasional sticky note, but for the most part I just take notes in a text document using the 'append to file command' in Quicksilver. I've found the best way to read is to stick my widescreen monitor in landscape, so that I'm basically staring at a large sheet of text in front of me. I then clean up the comments, do a save as, and add it to the appropriate Smultron project (tabbed text editor).

I'm about two-thirds of the way through an almost paper-free review of all the literature on my topic. I do print my notes while writing sometimes, but other than that, it's just drafts for other people. It's a different kind of workflow, but that's what works for my circumstances.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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