Neat refines its software and scanners for Mac platforms (August 9th, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: The Neat Company
Price: $199 to $399
- Easy to edit data fields
- Cover Flow navigation
- Address Book sync
- Simple e-mail process
- Customizable fields and collections
- Automatic gratuity addition for meal receipts
- OCR struggles with fancy business cards
- Information sometimes populates into wrong fields
- NeatReceipts occasionally skews receipts that feed incorrectly
The Neat Company has continued to refine its scanners and software designed for the Mac platform. Both the NeatDesk desktop scanner and NeatReceipts portable scanner are can be purchased in a bundle with NeatWorks for Mac, while customers can still use the software with a variety of scanners from other companies.
The scanners and software are designed to simplify the process of gathering information from business cards, receipts or other documents. NeatReceipts features a slim form-factor geared for portable use, potentially on business trips. NeatDesk adds an automatic document feeder (ADF) for burning through larger stacks.
Both scanners appear to offer quality construction and a solid build. The company includes all necessary cords, software CDs, calibration sheets and even cleaning tools. The packaging is organized well, while the documentation is clear and easy to read. Neat even places warning stickers over the USB ports as a reminder to install NeatWorks before connecting the scanners. Configuration is simple and straightforward, allowing the instructions to be left in the box.
The scanners support resolutions up to 600dpi, while user can adjust a number of options for output quality. Although the scanner advertised primarily for monochrome documents, color and overall quality is still impressive when scanning photos.
The portable NeatReceipts scanner is claimed to be capable of scanning three to four receipts per minute. Similar speeds were achieved through testing, although the scanner did drag a few receipts through sideways. The problems were few and far between, primarily only encountered when attempting to feed receipts that had been crumpled in a pocket.
NeatReceipts is small enough to be thrown in a notebook bag for a flight back from a trip, while USB is used for power instead of a dedicated adapter. The scanner is perfect for business travelers amassing a gigantic stack of business cards and reimbursement receipts over a few days. Instead of relying on memory to make notes regarding details of conversations or expenses, NeatReceipts allows users to quickly scan business cards and receipts each night at a hotel room. Customers can also purchase an optional travel case that adds an extra layer of protection against rough handling of luggage.
Although the portable scanner essentially offers the same basic functions as the NeatDesk, the desktop variant achieves much higher scan speeds without manually sending each document through. An insert allows users to simultaneously queue 10 business cards, 10 receipts and 10 letter-size documents. Alternatively, the ADF is also capable of accepting up to 50 documents.
Neat also appears to correctly represent the potential ADF speeds for the NeatDesk. At 200dpi resolution, the scanner feeds 25 pages per minute in grayscale or 8.5 pages per minute in color. At 300dpi resolution, scan speeds slow to approximately 17 PPM in grayscale or 6 PPM in color. Although NeatReceipts skewed a few receipts, the NeatDesk insert kept all of the scans properly aligned.
NeatWorks utilizes optical character recognition (OCR) to automatically gather data from the scanned documents. Content type is also determined after each scan, helping to separate receipts from documents or business cards. If a user needs to separate personal receipts from business reimbursements, additional collections can be added. The default destination for each type of scan is also configurable. Automatic sorting works well, although extremely faded receipts were occasionally diverted to the documents folder.
In general, the NeatWorks OCR worked better than expected. The only consistent problems involved business cards with unique arrangements of information or logos representing business names. Data occasionally populated to the wrong field, although the software interface enables mistakes to be quickly noticed and easily fixed.
NeatWorks can be set to automatically sync with Address Book. The integration avoids the extra step of manually adding contacts. A dedicated e-mail button also allows scans to be quickly sent to contacts. All of the sync and e-mail functions worked correctly during testing. The Mac software also features Cover Flow navigation through the items.
The company provides a long list of potential fields for each content type. Receipts, for example, can include information such as client or project names and transaction IDs. For Canadian users, NeatWorks automatically separates GST and PST into separate fields. If a necessary field is missing, it can be added to the list. Unneeded fields can also be removed to avoid clutter on the interface.
Both scanners and the NeatWorks software were easy to configure and use. Despite the few issues with fancy business cards, the OCR was surprisingly effective at reading information from a wide range of documents and even a number of faded receipts. The software is also customizable to be used for both consumers and businesses.
Neat currently offers NeatDesk in a bundle with NeatWorks for $400. The portable NeatReceipts bundle brings the price down to $200. Purchasing the Mac software alone costs $80. Although the company does not offer a trial version of the software, unsatisfied customers can return it any time during the first 30 days.