Review: NEAT Receipts for Mac Advance Release

Small portable scanner with database-like tracking software. (June 6th, 2008)

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: NeatReceipts

Price: $179.95 US

The Good

  • Bus-powered portable scanner. Easy to use software with optical character recognition. Excellent setup instructions. Scan small items up to 8.5 x 11 inch sheets.

The Bad

  • Software only works with bundled scanner. Mildly expensive.

If you want to store all your necessary paper trash, such as receipts, articles, and other tidbits for taxes and research, than NEAT Receipts has what you need. This portable scanner and software bundle solves the slips nightmare by creating computer files you organize instead of piles of paper. NEAT Receipts for Windows has been available since 2002 and the recently released Macintosh version is impressive, although not as feature rich as the Windows version.

Unlike many ported products, which are Windows products with a Mac logo slapped on them, NEAT Receipts has designed a beautiful Mac package. The bright orange box contains the slim scanner, a gray felt-like storage bag, USB cord, and a Welcome portfolio. Inside the orange portfolio are the Getting Started instructions, installation CD, calibration and cleaning papers, and product key. It doesn't get any simpler. This is one of the most impressive ports of a Windows to Mac product I've seen.

Installation is quick, but requires a reboot. Victor was able to force quit the Installer and the scanner worked just fine without the restart. After you activate the software, you plug in and calibrate the scanner and you're ready to work.

The Scanner

The 10.6 ounce bus-powered scanner has two buttons: PDF and Scan. It does one-sided scanning and has one USB port. The nice glossy white enclosure looks good next to any Macintosh. If you travel and want to track receipts on the road, this small scanner (10.8" Width x 1.6" Depth x 1.3" Height) takes up little space.

NEAT Receipts Software

The easy to use software opens with a Welcome screen that offers a QuickTime features tour, as well as a Calibrate button, and two radio buttons to notify you of updates and submit bug reports. The Calibrate button includes instructions, and you may use a white piece of paper if you lose or damage the calibration sheet. The software only works with the bundled scanner. Presently the Mac software is available free for Windows customers.

You scan documents at 600 dpi in color or black and white with a menu command or from a button on the scanner. A side bar on the left, similar to iTunes, lists your libraries and Collections. The first Collection contains all your scans with two default libraries that divide them into Documents or Receipts. You can create different Collections, Smart Collections, and libraries according to your sorting needs. This is a handy way to separate receipts for home from business or volunteer activities.

Neat Receipts Page view


Page View - Default Screen


Your saved scans go into one library file in your Documents folder. Each scan makes a PDF file that you can search and edit. This means you can search for an item among your receipts or documents, select a string of text and copy or paste it elsewhere. When you drag the scanned receipt to your desktop, it creates a separate PDF file. You can also export your receipts to a CSV file for use in Excel, FileMaker or other compatible applications. That feature worked quickly and well.

The View Menu lets you peruse your scans item by item, in an icon view, or an Image Flow view (Cover Flow), unique in the Mac software. A Spotlight type search bar in the upper right lets you search all your receipts with any criteria you type.

 Neat Receipts screen


Icon View of Scanned Receipts

Smart Collections

You can save your searches as Smart Collections, which appear under the Collections list in the left sidebar. You don't create a Smart Collection with rules as in iTunes; you just save the keyword search results. This is not quite as flexible a solution as the Smart Search feature in Leopard, but works fine.

Time to Scan

NEAT Receipts claims you can scan 3 to 4 receipts per minute, but in reality it is a bit slower, especially when you scan in color. Color scans are the default setting when you use the Scan button on the scanner, so make sure you change the setting in the Preferences if you're scanning receipts. Victor found the scan times reasonable when using it daily. Many receipts include advertising and other useless text on the bottom, so remove that before scanning. The optical character recognition works well, and a wide variety of receipts were read with no trouble.

Neat Receipts Page view


Using the Scanner

Advance Release - More Features Coming

This Mac release is an Advance Release, which means that the software does not have feature parity with the Windows version. According to the site, "There will be a NEAT Receipts for Mac version 2.0 software release in early 2009 which will more closely match the feature set in the PC version. All customers who purchase the Mac Advance Release will receive a FREE and automatic upgrade to version 2 when it becomes available. We are offering the Mac Advance Release at a special price compared to NEAT Receipts for Windows ($179.95 vs. $229.95)."

The Windows version has Tax Categories including a number of schedules and forms. This helps categorize purchases into the proper tax forms and makes tax time less painful. Neat Receipts for Windows allows you to scan and export data directly into Quicken and QuickBooks. Business card scanning is also in the Windows version. These are some of the features, we hope will be forthcoming in the next revision, but the company won't fess up yet.

The NEAT Receipts for Mac Advance Release (version 1.0) includes a 1-year warranty and is backed by a 30-day, no-questions-asked satisfaction guarantee. You can purchase it directly from their site. If receipt tracking is one of your nightmares, you won't find a more convenient solution.

June 7, 2008 edited a few stray bits.

by ilene hoffman, reviews editor and Victor Marks


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