Saturday, September 11, 2010

My ScanSnap S1300 document scanner review

I bought this scanner because Joe Kissell loved it and Kissell is a good geek. By my standards it was a bit of a shot in the dark, but I'm happy. Even so, I only gave it 3 stars in my Amazon review -- the software is worse than Kissell described (he uses DevonThink Pro Office, $150, so he didn't get the full software experience).

Read the Kissell review, then my own Amazon review. I'll probably do some updating here later, but I wanted to get this out (emphases added) ...
Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Mobile Scanner (PA03603-B005)
I've been looking for this scanner for 15 years. It's good enough. It could be better, but it's good enough. If it lasts for two years I'll happily buy it again at the same price.
The hardware is essentially perfect. It's a bit annoying that you need two USB cables if you want to avoid the generic (mediocre) power brick, but blame that on USB. We should all be using either old style firewire or never coming USB 3, but we're stuck with USB 2. It scans both sides of paper at once. Yes, DUPLEX.
Although it's primarily a document scanner, I've used it scan color prints. The results were not professional quality, but they were darned good and fast.
The 300 page user guide documentation is excellent.
The software is mediocre. Some of the bundled OS X software is so old it's non-native on Intel machines, fortunately you can omit that install. Unlike the higher end machines you don't get Adobe's superb PDF/OCR combination (yes, once Adobe was competent), you get a much less efficient product called ABBY FineReader. Even so, it does produce PDF images with searchable OCRd text indices.
Most importantly, OS X Spotlight WILL index the text associated with these PDF image files.
The mediocrity extends to the ScanSnap Manager UI and workflow. Clearly this was a low bid contract. Don't expect much in the way of upgrades or future products. The scans, however, can be sent to products like DevonThink Pro ($150) for processing.
The scanner uses proprietary drives. This is the biggest concern. If they're not upgraded we can be sure that within 3 years they won't work on OS X. Fujitsu, notoriously, does not provide new versions of ScanSnap Manager without a hardware purchase.
There are other problems with the software, but so far it hasn't been unstable.
In summary, 2 star software, 5 star hardware, gives a 3 star review. Surprisingly, I still love the product. If Apple were ever to produce a scanner, it would be a lot like this, though with a better power adapter and infinitely better software.
If you prefer 200K OCRd B&W documents to 8MB grayscale/color you need to set and use Profiles. The software isn't smart enough to make that choice for you.

It occupies a corner of my desk where papers used to pile up. It uses less room than the papers, which now live in the recycling.

Update 9/14/10: various notes I really don't have time to assemble into a coherent whole, but will be of interest if you read this far....
  • There's a Carrying case offer
  • Scan Snap Manager includes an online update option from the Help menu
  • Uses a standard OS X Apple installer and documentation has clear uninstall directions
  • 1.2GB installation - watch carefully for the custom install option and disable Cardiris (143MB, needs Rosetta, not useful). ABBY is 526MB, ScanSnap Manager is 2576MB
  • Fujitsu sells consumables - cleaning kit, pad assembly (10,000 sheet or 1 year), Pick Roller 100,000 sheets or 1 year. Fujitsu is used to selling to the high end!
  • 1 year warrantte, no active exchange
  • Options like 1 page vs. multi-page are not obvious.
  • You can change options for a single scan without clicking Aplly (which is actually save) but the progress UI shows the saved settings, not the current modified settins
  • Profile Management has glitches with OS X Spaces and multiple monitors
Update 9/28/10: OS X black screened on me. First time in a very long time. SSM has to be #1 suspect.

Update 7/8/11: I can't recall what that 9/28/10 crash was, but it wasn't due to ScanSnap. Posting now because a comment on my Amazon review tells us Fujitsu has updated the S1300 drivers for Lion. Indeed, they seem to have updated all their current drivers. This was one of my concerns with the ScanSnap and I'm very pleased to see them do this. I'm not on Lion yet, so I'll hold off updating. I will download a copy however.

Update 4/14/2013: Today, after one mangled page too many, I decided this scanner was a bad idea. The sheet feeder simply isn't good enough.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I much prefer the larger S1500M with full Adobe Acrobat 8 for Mac ( this can be upgraded to most recent version 9 for $159). It's irritating they still sell with the 2 year old version of Acrobat for Mac. I batch OCR with Acrobat so everything is searchable in Spotlight. The included scanner software manager has a lot more features including detecting multiple paper pulls. I have both (every HW version actually of the ScanSnap from 500M to present) and only purchased the S300 for portability at work. For that, the cheap Pentax DS Mobile 600 "umbrella scanner" was cheaper and sufficient. I really dislike the dual USB without power brick.

John Gordon said...

Great comments! I considered the S1500M for those reasons but I've become a nut about space and I couldn't afford the footprint.

The S1300M with ABBYReader does batch OCR, it's just slow and file sizes aren't optimal, but it does work.

Does the Mobile 600 produce OCRd PDF?

The dual USB is annoying, but I'm sympathetic. 5V is not much. I have a Kensington USB hub that also handles 3 iOS devices so I can manage that problem.

Anonymous said...

The Pentax does not perform OCR; it is TWAIN and just uses whatever scanning software you utilize (Acrobat in my case). It also has no paper feed. I only bought it for portability and scanning a few documents on the road.

I scan with Acrobat because I can get smaller scanned file sizes. With Acrobat I can scan, batch OCR and Optimize and the resulting OCR/Optimized files is quite a bit smaller than the original scan. Google Rick Borstein Batch OCR and reducing the file size of Scanned PDFs.

These should be the links http://blogs.adobe.com/acrolaw/?p=7 and http://blogs.adobe.com/acrolaw/?p=105 The first article while dated (2005) outlines the key points to reducing scan sizes with Acrobat OCR and optimizing. The monochrome JBIG2 lossless is key.

For the most part, I scan b/w at 600 dpi. After OCR and Optimization the file size is smaller than the original image only scan. I use exact image, but Rick recommends Adobe's new clearscan mode. That may further reduce file size, but I prefer exact image for legal scanning.

Here is an explanation from an old email of mine:

I am OCRing with Acrobat. To manually do this on one PDF, simply go to documents...OCR
text recognition..recognize text using OCR. That will OCR the document. The size will
increase 2-10 times.

Then you can go back to document..optimize scanned PDF. This will compress to the default CCITT4 (an older and larger sized document). If you first go to Adobe Acrobat pref, Convert to PDF.. you can change mono to JBIG2 lossless.

Per Adobe's Rick Borstein this is a smaller and just as easy to read compressed doc. When I do that the
OCRed and optimized document is smaller than an image only doc. You can go to Rick's blog (Google using Adobe Acrobe for lawyers) to learn more. I tested various combinations; it is confusing.

Once you are satisfied with your settings, you can create a batch to OCR and optimize a folder. I scan to one folder, run the batch on it and have it
save it to another folder labeled OCR ready to be filed.

I know I am an Acrobat geek. I just need an Applescript to commence the batch OCR.

John Gordon said...

Sorry for the comment posting delay. I think your original comment was misclassified as spam and lost. I had to fish it out of my email where Blogger sends comments.

It's a great comment. I used to use a very similar workflow except I used CCITT Group 4 rather than JBIG2. I love JBIG but fear it might not be readable in 10 years. It's hard to beat CCITT for B&W scans.

At the moment speed and simplicity is more important to me than efficiency. Another factor is that Adobe is a TERRIBLE OS X software developer (excluding Lightrom) so I really try to avoid their products.

goggles said...

Well John, you posted the scansnap and devonthink pro office problem in sept 2010, its now Jan 2012 and may I tell you nothing has changed with fujitsu s1300 software for mac osx, the software manager for the mac is one of the worst I have ever seen, just how does a company like fujitsu allow this kind of crap, well judging by the time lines set here just shows me how out of touch fujitsu is, I had the s1300 scansnap for a day and returned it, the hardware itself was great, only to be ruined by software made by amateurs such are homer simpson, I returned the scansnap and picked up a canon image formula p-150, its actually much better faster, has twin isis drivers for both windows and mac osx, works great in lion, I can use all the things available in devonthink office along with other jobs with other software, and yes osx recognizes and integrates the canon p-150 drivers.

Thanks for you info John

RRK Toronto