Doxie Scanner – My First step towards Paperless

We are starting to have a fair bit of paperwork in the house accumulated over the years that it has become quite a chore to file them, maintain them, keep them happy and singing so that when we need to find a piece of paper, the filing system will be willing to spew out whatever we are looking for. Most of the time, I am doing “REsearch” and this is taking a lot of my time and I think I have better things to do than searching old file archives…..such as watching TV πŸ™‚

So the no-brainer conclusion is that we should go paperless. I know this is a very ambitions project and I have no idea whatsoever when we can achieve this, but getting a start right now helps me to get one step closer. Again, the no-brainer first baby step would be to buy a scanner.

Fujitsu Scansnap would be the ideal best choice for this purpose but I am a cheapskate. So I hunt around for a more affordable alternative and I ended up with Doxie made by the company call Apparent. The scanner cost me USD149 and shipping from USA to Australia cost me another USD30. With the strength of the Oz dollar right now, this cost me just a little shy of Aud180. Not too bad I thought. A student would be able to get the exact same scanner for USD119 so this is a really good deal. Apparent also sell another scanner call Doxie Go but I did not get that. I may elaborate more on this on another post.Β A Fujitsu Scansnap 1300 would have cost me around Aud400 I think but for those who can (or willing to) afford this, I would say go for the Scansnap by any means.

Shipping from USA is via USPS and tracking is almost nil after the package left USA. It took me around 15 days for the package to arrive at my door and the process of waiting for an important parcel without any tracking information is no fun at all. So here it is, my doxie scanner. The package is well packed. No signs of damage whatsoever. Cool.

Unboxing the box, this is what I found: The scanner itself, a LONG USB cable (perhaps too long for me), a quick start guide, and some funny looking papers in a plastic sheet. I later learnt that these funny looking papers are actually used for the calibration of the scanner.

The scanner comes with a nice pouch. A nice touch I guess, especially for someone who might want to use this scanner on the move.

The scanner might appeal more to ladies than men (hint: look at all the heart shape symbols). I am cool with this, however, and I actually quite like the design.

The first complain I have is that the scanner’s USB cable is too long for me. It might work well if the scanner is fixed on a table but if the scanner is designed for people on the move, I am sure mucking around with a long cable in a tight space (such as in a library, a plane, etc) is not fun. But this is just a petty remark from me. I just replace this with another shorter USB cable I have around the house.

The second complain is that the scanner has a relatively “insecure” USB port and any slight twist of the USB cable will render the scanner “off line” as the USB port is then undetectable. I am not sure if other users experience the same thing as I do, but this is not a biggie.

Doxie comes with a companion software that you can download from their website. Doxie is cross-platform and you can download a Mac version or a Windows version. My observation is that the Mac version appears to be more polished than the Windows version. Oh well, you can’t beat the Mac. I am a Windows user by the way. The download is less than 10MB in size. Cool. I don’t like bloated software.

Installing the software is easy. I am running the latest version 2.0.1 as we speak. The software acts like a management console for all your scans and after the scans are made, you can then send the scans to the cloud, to a local app or to save it to a folder. Doxie can save the scan directly to a PDF file which is a good thing. Doxie even offer a free Doxie Cloud for its users though I don’t personally use it. I am sure it may be useful to other people.

After experimenting with a couple of different settings, this is what I have configured my Doxie to:

I just assign a simple default filename to each scan. In this case, my scans will be called Doxie_2011_12_06_12_20_23 for instance. The actual filename is not really important to me at this stage (because I will rename the files to a more meaningful description) but assigning a date and time to each scan allows me to keep track of things somewhat. I unclick the sound effects because it is starting to annoy me.

The next setup has a lot to do with the filesize desirable from each scan. Hard disk space is cheap.Β I set mine to the highest setting available. I also set the “Automatic document contrast boost” to “high” because I feel this makes the scan much more sharper and the text crispier.

There is nothing we can do at the “OCR” setting because this is only available for Doxie Go users.

The next setting is for the Local Apps that will work with Doxie. I have setup this up for Evernote, and Faststone Viewer. You might observe that there is a third item call “Inbox.cmd” and this is a trick that I have developed. I will talk more about that later.

The next setting is for the cloud apps that will work with Doxie. Google Docs is well supported and so is Flickr and Scribd but Dropbox is not supported! I am not too happy with this. But, I have a workaround that work well for me. I will talk more about that in another post.

The last setting is for Doxie Cloud which I do not use, so I will not discuss that here.

So how does the scanner actually work? The scanner is a pass through scanner and has an internal feeder that pulls the paper into the scanning mechanism but sometimes it fails to grip the paper at the right place and sometimes when it does, it tends to pull at an odd angle causing the paper to skew. It takes me some trials and errors before I managed to get more success scanning stuff this way. But most of the time, the scans are still not 100% straight. I guess this is where paying the extra $200 to get the Fujitsu Scansnap is worth the money. The Fujitsu comes with its own sheet feeder mechanism and from what I see, scanning on the Fujitsu is a much better experience.

I am not too fuss with this shortcomings. It could have been better but the most important is the clarity of the scans, which are acceptable to me.

This is what happens if the paper gets skew. See the top part of the scan here.

This is a more successful run.

This is what it looks like on my screen when i zoom in to the PDF.

I think the quality is acceptable. I tend to scan using grayscale 300dpi for most documents but where it is a colour document, I will scan in colour 300dpi. This is what a colour document looks like in doxie.

The skew does not make the document look too good but ignoring this shortcoming, I would say the scan in colour is just fine.

The greyscale scan of this particular document is about 5.8MB in size. The colour one is about 7.9MB in size. So you can play around with the quality setting if this kind of file size bothers you.

So what is my personal conclusion with the Doxie scanner?

I would say the scanner is ideal for low volume scans but for high volume scanning, the Fujitsu scansnap is a better choice. If the feeding mechanism of the Doxie bothers you (and I suspect all other feed through scanners will be the same), then get the Scansnap. It should not disappoint but at a higher price tag, it will be a big let down if it does.

Posted on December 6, 2011, in Going Paperless. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I’m currently looking to go paperless too and I’ve been looking at getting a Doxie U or Scansnap S1300. I must say yours was the most useful and honest review I’ve read so far, made my decision easy. Thanks Joseph!

    Now to see which is the cheapest way to buy the Scansnap. I saw one on eBay Australia for AUD440!!

  2. I am glad you find the article helpful. Good luck on scansnap shopping πŸ™‚

  3. Thank you very much for this very helpful review! I’m working on going paperless too and am trying to understand whether I’ll be able to search documents scanned by Doxie. If I scan with Doxie and then store the scanned documents in Evernote, can I search the text of the documents? I found this comment on Amazon which made me think I wouldn’t be able to search the text:

    They are not searchable. What Doxie does, essentially, is scan your document into an image, then creates a new PDF file, then puts that image in the PDF file “as is”. I’m not sure why putting the image in a PDF file is useful, since you can save the image as a .jpg and other standard image formats. A lot of other scanners do this too – they say they support scanning into PDF, but if you read -carefully- you’ll find that not very many of them make the images searchable (using OCR technology), so I think it’s just a sales gimmick to get you to buy the scanner.

    Doxie does have a new scanner (the Doxie “Go”) for $200 that does do OCR, but those of us who already have Doxie scanners, we’re SOL (the newly OCR software only works or is permitted to work with the new, more expensive scanner).

    Thanks!

  4. Hi Suse. You are correct. The PDF document created by Doxie by itself is not text searchable as there is no built in OCR capability into the software. The PDF will be displayed as a big bitmap file if u like.

    If you wish to convert this into a text searchable document, there are many ways of doing so. The most straightforward way is to use Adobe Acrobat (not the reader). It has a built-in OCR engine and will convert the page to a searchable PDF file without changing the font/text of the actual bitmap.

    If you use evernote, you will be pleased to know that the premium paid version allows automatic OCR of any images you sent. The OCR feature is not available for free users unfortunately. I have 2 premium evernote accounts and the OCR feature of evernote works well for me.

    Hope this helps πŸ™‚

  5. Thanks Joseph! I really appreciate your response.

    It sounds to me that if I want PDFs to be searchable, I need to either:

    a) get Premium Evernote OR
    b) buy a scanner that has OCR functionality (e.g. Doxie Go).

    Could you use the standard Doxie and free Evernote and get searching within the image by selecting a JPG or PNG file type (rather than PDF) when scanning the document?

    The article that gave me this idea is here: http://www.asianefficiency.com/organization/going-paperless-with-your-iphone-and-evernote/

    I’m a serious cheapskate so I’m thinking I’ll ease into this project by using my phone (I’m about to upgrade to the iPhone 4S), JotNot and free Evernote.

    If I decide I need better quality scans, I’ll get the Doxie. If I decide I need better quality scans AND searching within PDFs, I’ll get the Doxie and upgrade to Premium Evernote or I’ll get the Doxie Go.

    Thanks again for your help and your excellent review (I got my husband to read it and, after reading, he also really liked the sound of the Doxie!).

  6. Hi Joseph! I think I have come up with another option…

    c) Buy Doxie (not Doxie Go) and use Google Docs for PDF searching.

    This article gave me this idea…

    http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/251449/google_improves_docs_pdf_search.html

    What do you think?

  7. Hi Suse,

    I can see you are very enthusiastic to go paperless πŸ™‚

    The way I look at it, there are pros and cons of all the methods you highlighted, so here are my thoughts:

    1. Getting Evernote premium and rely on it for OCR.
    This will work if you only ever wanted to use evernote to read/index your document. There are times when you need to download the original PDF files from evernote (either to email, to store as an offline standalone copy, etc) and you will find that the original PDF will no longer be searchable outside evernote. If there is a way to do this, I have not found that out. You also have to note that evernote allows max 50MB of upload to the cloud and so you may want to check if this is a limiting factor for you.

    2. Getting Doxie Go for its OCR functionality.
    I would think this by the time you actually pay for this particular scanner, you would be much better off buying a lower end ScanSnap scanner such as the S1300 range or even the S1100 range. Prices are slightly more costly but you get better hardware in my opinion. Duplex is the key here. Bear in mind that the Doxie scanner is only really useful if you have low volume scans. If you have considerable things to scan, I would say Doxie is a less attractive option.

    3. Using iphone with jotNot.
    I would say this method is good for occassional scan if you are away from office. Personally I use GeniusScan+ on my iphone for the same thing. It is useful but it is not suitable for the major bulk of the scanning works I need to do. While uploading jpg files to evernote free account will get those jpg files OCR and all, I find one major limitation – I am not sure of any simple way to capture multiple jpg files, bind them into 1 document and upload to evernote. The beauty of PDF files is that you can have multiple pages in one document, even a combination of different page sizes. Each PDF is standalone and you only have to email that one document to anyone for sharing purposes – this versus sending someone 10 jpg files.

    4. Using Doxie and upload to Googledoc.
    Interestingly, I also have a googledoc paid account with 20GB storage. It works to a certain extent but beware that if you intend to password protect any of your PDF files, uploading to googledoc will not allow you to open the file. Uploading the same file to evernote will make evernote unable to index/OCR it. I like googledoc but it has its limitations at time.

    I would say for the long term paperless plan, don’t skim on buying a cheaper hardware as this will not serve you well in the long run. Go for a solution that offers you the easiest workflow and least amount of fiddling.

    Hope this helps πŸ™‚

  8. Thanks again Joseph! I really appreciate you taking the time to give your advice. You’re right – I am very enthusiastic about going paperless πŸ™‚

    I know there is a risk my enthusiasm will dissipate so, as much as I’d like to just buy a Doxie or Doxie Go (I agree with your comment on the Doxie Go by the way… if I’m going to spend that much, I may as well buy a ScanSnap or similar), I’m thinking I should start slowly by using my iPhone and Evernote. This should help me to see what I actually need.

    Maybe I’m overemphasising the need to search PDFs by text. If I tag my docs in Evernote, I know that will help me find them.

    I won’t have a huge volume of scanning (e.g. receipts for large purchases, info sheets on parenting, personal docs like insurance etc) so I think the Doxie will do the job. Also, we have VERY limited space (hence the need to declutter our paper) so the Doxie appeals to me in that sense too.

    So, I’ll give it a go with the phone and free Evernote and I’ll see if I ever actually need to search my PDFs for text.

    The Doxie website is very clever – and I’m sure that I’m exactly their target market – because I really want to buy one even though I’m saying I’ll be sensible and wait and see. And I even want to buy the Doxie Go even though I know I don’t need to do wireless scanning! (the Doxie Go just looks a bit nicer and the idea of wireless scanning appeals to me… oh dear).

    I’ll let you know what happens, and thanks again πŸ™‚

  9. No worries Suse. Good luck πŸ˜‰

  10. Hey Joseph – I’m not stalking you, I just wanted to say thank you for pointing me in the direction of the ScanSnap S1100. I didn’t know about this member of the ScanSnap family and, you’re right, it would be definitely wise to investigate this as a better option to the Doxie Go.

    If you were choosing between the Doxie versus Doxie Go versus S1100, would you choose the S1100?

    Also, thanks for suggestion Acrobat as a solution to my PDF search problem… I did check it out (http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobatstandard.html) – but it does seem quite pricey.

    Thanks again!

  11. Hi Suse, no problems “Stalking” me πŸ™‚ I am glad to help.

    If I were to choose between Doxie, Doxie Go and S1100, I will choose Doxie if I am “extremely” low on funds (like I really really cannot afford anything extra over the cost of the Doxie – I will have to be contended with whatever limitation Doxie comes with). If I have more funds, I will go straight to the S1100 and skip the Doxie Go altogether. The S1100 with its duplex scanning is just more useable in the long run. Duplex scanning is really useful. I updated my blog that talks about the S1500 (the S1100’s bigger brother) and duplex scanning is a time saver.

    Yes. The acrobat is a more pricey option but if u buy a ScanSnap selected model, u will get Acrobat totally free.

    Hope this help πŸ™‚

  12. Hey Joseph – re my question above… I realise it might seem a bit silly given that I know you bought a Doxie. I guess I’m wondering if, with hindsight, you would have gone with it or the S1100. I know you’ve bought a 1500 now so I’m curious if you’d go a lower-end ScanSnap over the Doxie now you’ve seen both.

    Thanks! You are my paperless guru,

    P.S. Sorry to be bombarding you with questions.

  13. Hi Suse, Now that I have used both the Doxie and the S1500, I would say if I were to do it all over again, I would not hesitate to buy the S1100 over the Doxie. The Doxie is perfectly fine as a scanner but just not as good as the ScanSnap S1100 with its duplex features.

  14. Hey Joseph – me, again! Thanks again for pointing me to the S1100. I totally overlooked this little ScanSnap (it seems like its not too readily available in Australia but is only $189 on Amazon).

    I’ve done some more research on it and it looks like this little scanner doesn’t do duplex or come with any Adobe software but it does look great. And the Amazon reviews are SO positive.

    I’ve never bought anything from Amazon before, but if I understand their shipping info correctly, it looks like it would be $189 + $6 for the postage (can this be right? it seems very cheap for shipping to Australia).

    The S1100 does look like a stronger product than the Doxie and like it might last me longer into the future.

    Doxie would be about $180 (with shipping to Australia) and the S1100 would be $195 USD. For an extra $15, I get OCR out of the box (whoo hoo!) and also faster scanning (7.5 seconds per page for the S1100 versus 12 seconds per page for Doxie… those seconds will add up!).

    Wow, I feel like I’ve learnt so much about scanners in the last few days.

    Doxie nearly had me with their clever marking but I think I’d go with the S1100 now. It may be time to make my first Amazon purchase!!

    Thanks again Joseph.

  15. “clever marking” = “clever marketing”

  16. Found another interesting point about duplex…

    While it doesn’t do the duplexing and auto-feed that its bigger brothers do, scanning multiple pages is a (pardon the pun) “snap”! When you hit the blue “scan” button on the device it will scan the waiting page. Once that page is scanned, the system will wait patiently for you to either insert another page (or the flip side of the page you just scanned) which will be automatically scanned OR hit the blue button again to indicate that you’re done. It’s really not a drag, just the way this unit works. You get the functionality you’ve chosen when buying this unit rather than one of its bigger brothers.

    Okay, I think I need to let this go now and just buy it… I may be overdoing the research πŸ™‚

  17. Great review. I’m getting my Doxie soon!

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