Scanners are big chunky devices, normally found on top of inkjet printers, aren’t they? Flatbed scanners, of which that’s a fair description, are bigger than a sheet of A4 paper and contain slightly fragile sheets of glass, through which text, graphics and photos are scanned. There’s another type, though, which is a lot smaller, more robust and, in the case of Visioneer’s Strobe 400, capable of scanning both sides of the paper in a single pass.
This is a paper-feed scanner, designed to be portable enough to slip into a briefcase, and it can be powered from the supplied USB cable or from a low voltage power supply, also in the box. As the scanner type suggests, it’s only suitable for scanning pages you can feed through the slot at the front, though it’s robust enough to take photographs, business cards and even plastic ID cards, though it may have trouble with any card that’s embossed. It’s obviously not suitable for books, magazines and other bound references.
Once the software has been installed, any pages fed through automatically trigger a connection and import the scanned files, if necessary recognising them through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) en route. The scanning speed is good, well up to that from a typical Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) on a home all-in-one printer.
There are two buttons on the end of the scanner, too, and these can be programmed to scan to particular destinations, such as files in a given folder, or to upload into a selected application. Scanning can be automated like this, so it can be carried out by relatively non-techie people.
One of the best parts of the Strobe 400 package is its software bundle. As well as a Windows driver for the scanner, it includes Nuance’s PaperPort 11 document management software and a full copy of the OmniPage Pro OCR software, from the same company. There’s also Presto! BizCard, for capturing business cards. On a Mac you get ExactScan and Presto! PageManager.
The Windows version also includes Kofax VRS technology, which cleans up scanned images and improves the quality of recognition. In our tests, simple documents were reproduced as searchable PDF files or as Word documents, with very few errors. More complexly formatted pages, such as forms, did less well, but the text was still accurately converted.
The whole system is so well designed, virtually anybody should be able to get very passable page images from the Strobe 400.
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