Review: NewSoft BizCard Reader

Small, lightweight business card scanner. (September 28th, 2007)

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: NewSoft Technology Corp.

Price: $129.99 US

The Good

  • Lightweight. Convenient to carry. Cards with white backgrounds scan best. Recognizes up to seven languages including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch.

The Bad

  • Instructions are not clear. Installed driver software isn't evident on your hard drive, so you can't uninstall it easily. Scans are mediocre. Data is often incorrect or truncated.

The cute and totally portable BizCard Reader from NewSoft aims to help you organize those hundreds of business cards you collect at meetings and exhibitor-filled expositions and shows. The idea is to scan the cards, which breaks down the information into logical fields you can use to organize and store the cards digitally.

Small as a Deck of Cards

The BizCard Reader is so light that the plugged in USB cable can move the whole unit across your desk. Once you stabilize the device, you may need to adjust robust cord to stay out of your way when you want to scan a stack of cards. The tiny device is so easy to use, I was excited at its potential.

First, I followed the directions carefully, but the printed CD cover didn't match what I saw on screen. I went to the web site and found an updated driver, which I installed. The instructions still didn't match what I saw, so I checked the web site support documents, which did not cover the Macintosh installation very well at all.

Next, I ran the two pieces of software, BizCard Reader Series and Presto! BizCard 5 US. The BizCard Reader Series presents a scanning dialog with user-configurable preferences, but it was unclear where the scans landed. I found the .TIF files in a Dyna Scanning folder in my Pictures folder. I'm glad those files did not end up in my iPhoto folder! While I can choose from 150 to 600 dpi scans, there is no preference for choosing JPG over TIF. Other choices include gray scale or black and white scans, and Brightness, Contrast, Threshold slider adjustments. You can also rotate the scan. This application seems most useful just to calibrate the scanner.

BizCard 5 Application

The Presto! BizCard 5 US application includes a configurable database or address book-type program that scans the business card data into up to 32 predefined fields. It turns out this application launches the Reader Series application, which scans the cards, sometimes in the background, sometimes not. BizCard 5 also allows you to reconfigure scanner settings, field formats, transfer of data to another contact manager, find duplicates, and set the character recognition software filter to ignore fields. When scanned through the BizCard application, the data is saved along with the scan of the card. You can also type in new card information directly, which bypasses the scanning process completely.

You can export scanned cards into vCard format, comma, text or tab delimited files. In addition, you can select another scanner, scan the back of a card, and transfer the data into FileMaker, Now, Address Book, Entourage, or Palm, although the last two options were grayed out in my menu.

Scanning Test

Upon scanning a number of cards, I found that the white business cards scanned acceptably into the BizCard 5 database program. Even black and gray cards scanned ok. The company opted to omit color scans in exchange for price, speed and accuracy, and it is fast. The problem is, a lot of the information was truncated, put in the wrong field, or left out completely. To its credit, it read the email address correctly and put into the right field almost 100% of the time. When you consider the wide variety of fonts, characters, and pictures included on business cards, you have to give the optical character recognition (OCR) software credit for making sense out of this potpourri of data, but it is just not as good as your own eyes.

Inconsistent OCR

The problem is that an error-free scan is the exception, not the norm. So, while the product seems to function fairly well, it requires more work than I'd like. You have to check the fields carefully and edit the information. If time is a problem, you can save the card scan and check for corrections to make later. The scanner is not always to blame for bad scans though. For example, go to the Dr. Bott web site and look at the logo; that logo also appears on their business cards. You can't expect a scanner to recognize the character B that has a globe as part of the character. The company name appears as DK OttB. While it's a quick fix, the manual corrections are time consuming.

As a fast typist, I found that the time it took me to scan a card, make corrections and export the data to my FileMaker database was about the same amount of time it takes me to just type the information directly into FileMaker. While this solution is markedly cheaper than FileMaker, you have to consider whether typing card data into your own database program is more time effective than correcting scanned data.

by ilene hoffman, Reviews Editor


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