We’ve long been promised a paperless office, but most of us are still buried under piles of printed contracts, proposals, receipts, and business cards. To stay sane, we want to file and organize these docs, but who’s got time to scan and organize all that pulp?
For years now, The Neat Company has promised time-saving simplicity courtesy of its NeatReceipts and NeatDesk scanners — but they essentially traded one set of hassles for another. You had to fire up your PC, run the software, and process each scan, all using hardware tethered to a USB port.
The NeatConnect solves those problems with mind-blowing efficiency. It connects to the cloud via Wi-Fi, so the only cable you need is the one that plugs into an AC outlet. You don’t even need a PC. Your scans get delivered quickly and automatically to your NeatCloud account, where you can review and organize them at your convenience. And thanks to cloud-based optical character recognition, some of the filing is done by the time you get there. This is truly a digital filing system for the 21st century.
The sleek, white NeatConnect has the glossy shine of an Apple device, and at 11 inches (27.9 cm) wide by 8.7 inches (22.1 cm) deep by 7.5 inches (19.1 cm) high, it won’t hog much space on your desk. Three slots along the top take in as many as 15 documents, receipts, and/or business cards at a time, zipping through each sheet in a few seconds. The control panel resembles a smartphone touchscreen, and the interface offers the same app-style simplicity. Just choose a destination for your scans, then tap the orange Scan button.
Wireless connectivity gives the NeatConnect a huge edge over other scanners and the traditional two-step process of scanning to your PC, then uploading to a cloud service. You can send your scans to NeatCloud, an email address, an FTP server, or your cloud service of choice: Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, or SkyDrive.
In practice, however, the tiny onscreen keyboard makes for slow going when you need to enter your credentials for one of these services, and there was a problem syncing with Evernote when I tested the device. I asked the company about this Evernote problem, and it tells me new firmware will arrive in early 2014 that should fix the issue.
Sending a document to Google Drive results in a PDF that’s ready for viewing, sharing, or printing. The scanner can also generate just about any kind of image file, from BMP to JPEG to TIFF, in color, grayscale, or monochrome. It even supports duplex scanning in that single pass. The NeatConnect specializes in document scanning — not photos — so if you need to digitize snapshots, look elsewhere.
Neat’s mobile apps let you view, share, and edit your scanned documents on the go, or even add new scans by snapping photos. However, the apps are only available to subscribers to Neat’s Home & Office and Business plans ($15 and $25 a month, respectively). The $6 monthly Personal plan offers no app love.
Be prepared to kick down for NeatCloud every month as long as you own the scanner (Correction, Jan 13 2014: You can continue to scan to other cloud services even without a NeatCloud sub). If you can afford both, however, you’ve got what is perhaps the coolest, most practical scanner I’ve tested, and an unbeatable weapon in the war against paper.