Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

What a card!
Compact new scanners reduce clutter in the home office
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

Enter your sprawling collection of business cards into your computer's address book in less than an hour.

If you have a drawer full of amassed business cards that just taunt you with your own incompetence because youíve never entered them into your address book, welcome to my world.

It got so bad that I had multiple clumps of business cards bundled with elastic bands and organized by colour in the top drawer of my desk. Yeah, Iím good at business. Cards.

But recently I tested a product that promised to save me hours of painstaking data entry. And did.

I performed a dramatic un-boxing (appearing soon on YouTube) of the CardScan Executive unit ($160 at Staples). It went better than expected given my lifelong refusal to read directions.

The CardScan is a small silver desktop scanner. Itís so much fun to use that Iíve been feeding it a constant diet of cards, reducing my bundled piles to zero.

Scan do

CardScan promises to accurately scan and read business cards and create a digital address book.

You probably already have contact management software (i.e. your PCís address book or the Contacts file in programs like Outlook or Entourage) but donít worry; CardScan will sync newly scanned cards with your existing contacts.

And since the unit takes a digital photo of each card it ingests, youíre covered if the character-recognition software doesnít quite get the letters and numbers correct; you can check the card image long after youíve discarded the actual card. You also have the option to ďverifyĒ each scanned card, using your own eyeballs to ensure that the character recognition was accurate, and editing the contact record where necessary. (I had to edit characters on about 12% of the cards.)

The unit does a pretty fine job of character recognition Ė better, in some cases, than a 53-year-old whoís not wearing reading glasses. The only mistakes it makes are when it encounters wacky fonts and graphics, but itís amazingly reliable with plainer fonts. And it scans up to 20 cards a minute. Can you type that fast?

CardScan Executive works with both Windows PCs and Macs. Other (cheaper) models of CardScan are Windows-compatible-only, so shop carefully.

Aesopís labels

And if you happen to use a DYMO LabelWriter printer, you can also use CardScanís print wizard to create fast mailing labels directly from contact records. That saves you the trouble of booting dedicated label software.

A final cool feature is an option that lets you highlight digital signatures and then drag-and-drop the highlighted text over the CardScan application. Bingo Ė youíve just captured all that information into a complete contact record in one step. Oh. Baby.

Installation is easy; I had CardScan up and running within five minutes (click here for system requirements).

The top benefit is that I now look forward to scanning new cards every time I get back from a meeting or trip. And my desk drawer has moved on to holding more important things, like my collection of Post-it notepads in several million sizes.

Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life on CTS. Visit her online at

Renovation archive

What do you think is a reasonable price for a kitchen renovation?
$10, 000
$25, 000
$50, 000
$100, 000