Product Reviews

In Brief

A snap to install, the CardScan Executive is about the most useful gadget in my office. If you’re tired of typing the info from all the business cards you collect, this is a must have. The software converts the scans into actual text that can be sent to Outlook, ACT, or your PDA with a single mouse click.

Price

$249.99 with one software license, $329.95 with two licenses, $499.95 with five licenses
 

CardScan
Cambridge, Mass.

Competition

This has turned into a surprisingly crowded product category, with lots of vendors offering products. Though CardScan is arguably the best-known brand, business card scanners are from Alestron, BizCard Reader, FutureDial, IRIS, Microtek, NewSoft, and Targus.


Key Specs

4Weight: 8 ounces

4Size: 5.75" x 3.25" x 1.5"

4USB powered (USB 2.0 certified)

4Warranty: One Year

 

   Tech News From
   The New York Times
 

Office Tools

CardScan Executive
Business Card Scanner

Rating:

By Joel Shore

January 17, 2005

I have business cards coming out of my ears. Trade shows. Cocktail parties. Speaking engagements. Wherever I go, I come home with dozens of business cards. And if you think I relish the thought of typing all that info into Outlook, well, think again. It’s not that Im lazy; I’m too darn busy. (Ok, maybe a little lazy, too.)

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That’s why I have a CardScan Executive business-card scanner. All you do is feed the cards in the front, and the fist-size unit does the rest. It scans the card, uses optical character recognition technology to transform the scanned card into actual editable text, and it then tucks all that info into a nice, little database. And with one more mouse click, you can copy all of your new customer prospects into Microsoft Outlook, ACT, GoldMine, and a gaggle of other address books, or sync directly to you PDA.

6

The software knows the difference between a company name, person’s name, title, address, phone and fax numbers,
e-mail and Web addresses.

5

Goodbye power cord. This new model is smaller than the scanner it replaces, the legendary CardScan 600c. Best of all, there's no more a.c. power cord and transformer block to wrestle with. This was my single biggest complaint with the older model.

Powered directly through the USB cable, I can take the CardScan Executive on the road, plug it into the USB port on my laptop, and I'm in business, all without the hassle of searching for an electrical outlet. It's one less cord and several ounces less to travel with, too! Now, if I'm speaking on a panel at a trade show and people hand me their business cards, I can scan them on the spot. People really like that; they no longer fear I'll just shove the cards into my pocket, never to be looked again.

Easy set-up. The CardScan Executive is a snap to connect, just plug it into any available USB port on your PC. Installing the accompanying driver and application software takes about five minutes. A calibration card is included to make sure the unit is working without any problems.

CardScan (until recently known as Corex) has improved performance dramatically. Though I wouldn't characterize the old 600c as slow, the CardScan Executive handles a monochrome card in about two seconds, and a color card in about four.

Like the 600c, the CardScan Executive supports color. What difference does that make? To me, not much, but if you like, the CardScan software can store full-color images of scanned business cards, both front and back. I prefer to keep just the text. By the way, those images are stored in a proprietary file format that can’t be read by other programs. But would you really want to?

To scan business cards, you start up the software first. Older versions of the CardScan software looked like an old-style Rolodex card holder. But CardScan Executive comes with a completely retooled version that's a lot more up-to-date looking and uses screen real estate more efficiently. To scan a card, you just shove it into the front of the CardScan Executive. A tiny motor whirs and pulls the card through the device, and the image of the card shows up on your screen. Just keep feeding cards into the machine.

Alas, there's no way to load up the scanner with a stack of cards, they way you'd use and automatic document feeder on a full-size sheet-fed scanner. You've still got to sit there and feed the cards in one at a time. Big problem? No. Inconvenience? You bet.

After you’ve finished scanning cards, you click a button and then the CardScan software processes them, interpreting the scanned image and converting that image into actual text that you can edit and store in any address book.

Using the software. The software is smart: it knows the difference between a company name, person’s name, job title, address, phone, fax, cell-phone, e-mail address, and Web address.

I’d say the CardScan gets it right about 95 percent of the time. When it gets confused, it’s nearly always due to a problem with the design of the card, not with the CardScan software. That's because a weird logo, strange typeface, or use of images under type simply gets in the way. Cards that list all of a company's office location may cause trouble.

And there's one other potential obstacle: The type on business cards can be tiny. Most of the type on my my own business cards is very small, only 7.5 points, in Arial Narrow Light, and in gray. But I can sleep well knowing that CardScan handles it all perfectly.

Make sure that the design of your business cards is scanner friendly. You—and the people you give your card to—will be happy you did.

You should go through each scanned card and make any corrections necessary. When you know a card is accurate, you click a checkbox so you—and the CardScan software—know this card’s info is confirmed.

What to do with all the scanned data? You can leave the info in CardScan’s own address book, but I prefer to send all the addresses to Microsoft Outlook. How tough was that? All I had to do was click one button and within a few seconds it was all done.

CardScan even offers CardScan.net, a Web site where you can store all the business cards you’ve scanned. You can access these cards from a Web browser anytime, anywhere.

Strange business model. CardScan sells additional copies of its software, allowing two or more users to share scanned business-card information. Each additional user requires a license. With two software licenses the scanner is $329.95; with five licenses it's $499.95. You'd think the CardScan folks would want to sell more scanners, putting one on each desk, but the pricing model pushes purchases in the opposite direction.

Gotta have it. CardScan Executive is a well-designed essential tool for anyone who receives business cards and wants to keep track of them. And that's just about everbody.<

 
Yeas & Nays

Yea:

4Easy installation

4Works with Outlook, ACT, or any other address database

4Converts scans into editable text

4Stores scanned
card images

4No more a.c. power cord; draws power through USB cable

Nay:

4Gets confused by type over graphics designs

4Uses proprietary formats for storing card data and scanned card image

 
Scanbusters!

Make sure your own business card is scanner friendly. Background graphics, city lists of all your offices, long slogans, and overlapping design elements are almost certain to confuse the scanner's software.
 

Not So Fast

The CardScan software builds a database of the cards you’ve scanned. But you’ll still have to check the results to the actual card to make sure phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and Web URLs are accurate.
 

In The Box

Scanner
USB cable
Power adapter & cord
Setup Guide
Software/Driver CD
Calibration card
 

   

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