I have a seriously large amount of old documents taking up space. To take back some space, I need to do a seriously large amount of scanning. So I decided to get a serious document scanner to do the job (in my lifetime.)

Since I had a very good experience buying a Xerox Phaser printer, I thought I would risk the extra money for a Xerox document scanner. And since I am passionate about software development, it didn’t take long for me to start writing about my impressions.  I have had the scanner for several weeks (long past the return period) so here is what I’ve found.

The Hardware:

Pluses:

  • good job feeding every page – many sizes, many kinds of paper, all kinds of condition. Only 1 page has misted and been crunched out of hundreds.
  • You can feed the feeder one page at a time if you like without having to do tight timing.  I liked this when pages had been torn from perforated paper or when some of the pages were a little bigger than the rest and would not fit between the feeder rails correctly (and one was just slightly sticky and I was worried it would drag another page in with it.)  I still got my scans in the correct order without having to renumber a lot of files.
  • Scans from the feeder begin less than 1/16 inch from the top of the paper.  (I only have a ruler marked in inches. The conversion scale tells me this is roughly 1.5 millimeters.)

Minuses:

  • Large number of feeds go in at an angle. Even feeding with great care produces some skewing.  But the larger the number of pages being fed at one time, the more likely you are to get significant angles from the top-most pages.  Lower numbers of pages give the rails better odds of guiding papers well.
  • Paper with bad tops (torn or cut at an angle) don’t feed well
  • The feeder has two triggers, so paper has to be 3 inches wide or more. Some grocery store receipts are not wide enough for both triggers. You’ll have to use the flatbed.

The Software:

The Macintosh software provided with this scanner (ExactScan) comes from a company called ExactCode in Berlin Germany. From a quick look at their website, they make multi-scanner driver software.

Overall opinion: I wish VueScan worked with this scanner. ExactScan is frustrating to work with, and I am disappointed that a once-mighty company that was reliable in its support for Apple systems has outsourced its destiny.

Note:  The term “ADF” apparently means “Feeder” where “Normal” means the flatbed.  I do not recall seeing that in the software’s documentation. I just had to reason it out.

Pluses:

  • It works most of the time, once you spend hours figuring out how to use it.
  • It did correctly resize a letter sheets from the feeder when the setting was for legal sheets (longer) or for “All”.

Minuses:

  • After using this software and scanner in bursts over several weeks, I am now annoyed at having the “One file per page” option on a separate screen from the feeder’s Front/Back/Duplex option.  Most of the time when I change from “ADF Front” to “ADF Duplex”, I also want to turn off the “One File Per Page” option so front and back are stored together in one file. I find myself re-scanning pages when I change one and forget to change the other.
    • I would like this option to be tied to the ADF Front/Back/Duplex setting.
    • It would be better to have  a “One File per Sheet” option rather than “per page” so you could associate front and back in one file, but still one file per sheet of paper.
  • The “Auto crop and de-skew” option does not work as well as I hoped.
    • Some documents I put through the feeder have been cutoff on the side, losing the information that was there.
    • On the flatbed, items can be cutoff on the sides.  If I put several receipts on the flatbed with the tops at different heights, then only the highest receipt may appear in the result.
    • In other cases, the de-skew only seems to work at the top of the document, leaving black triangles a the bottom.  I can only wonder if the effect was to remove the corresponding black triangle from the top.
    • In the example that triggered me to write this entry, I scanned a page in the feeder with the duplex option to get both sides.  While the de-skewing part of the option does not seem to apply the work to front and back equally (thus giving incorrect results on one of the sides) the crop was applied equally incorrectly to both sides.  Information was lost the same on both sides.
    • With the option turned off, scans were no longer cutoff on the sides, and the skewing seemed only a little worse than with the option turned on.  Its hard to tell if this option is actually doing much to improve the quality of the scans.
    • The software presents users with size boxes as though we could edit them for a custom setting, but they are never enabled.  If you turn off the “auto-crop” setting and then feed 8.3 x 10.8 inch paper, you will have black bars at the sides. If the size could be set a little below the size of the paper, then auto-crop could be turned off and there would still be no black bars.
    • Oddly, scans of pages that were shorter than the setting were still automatically cropped for height, but the width was not.  For example, scanning a letter page with the software set to “Legal” did not result in a legal-length image. But a 6-inch by 11-inch phone bill did give an 8.5-inch wide image.
    • It did NOT resize any pages to longer sizes than the setting.
    • It looks like the “Auto crop and de-skew” option does not always work the same when applied to two sides of the same sheet when scanning in duplex from the feeder.  Sometimes I find the front side more or less straight, but the back side still tilted.
  • “ExactCode” is listed as the “Content Provider” as well as “PDF Producer” in the resulting PDF files.  No option is given for you to put your name for content creator, nor author, nor copyright holder for your own files.
  • No information is included in the PDF file about what scanner was used to make the file or the settings of the scanner during use.
  • VERY Frustrating:  When I was changing between scanning from the flatbed and scanning from the feeder, the software will bizarrely change the scan size to ‘Business Card’ for the flatbed and ‘Photo 6″ x 4″‘ for the feeder.  I actually managed to scan many documents far too small because of this.  I am very glad I rechecked the scans before throwing out any documents.  Eventually I thought these settings might be jumping back to the preferences settings for these profiles.  That was the case when I looked at the preferences, but then the preferences became frustrating because they would not stick to the “All” setting.  (I was no longer trusting them at this point, so I verified.)  The only thing I could get to stick was “U.S. Letter” for both preferences. If I tried to set the feeder preference to “U.S. Legal”, then we go right back to having business cards and photos as defaults and there is more possibility of the user losing data in their scans.
  • Poor documentation.
  • “Scan this profile on document placement”
    • this option might be useful, but you really have to have your papers ready the moment they touch down on the feeder.
    • this has been useful when the goal is to scan both sides into a single file.  You have to put them into the feeder one at a time, giving enough time between so they form only one file.
    • Frustrating: the ExactScan application does not always work when it is not in the foreground.  Someimes you put paper in the feeder and nothing happens, then you have to bring it back to the foreground.
  • There is no concept of saving or undoing changes to settings in a profile.  They are apparently saved immediately. (Except for the preference-vs-scan note.)
  • There is no obvious mapping of settings to the buttons on the scanner.  It picks one of the recent profiles almost as though it is trying to frustrate you.  You cannot trust that you will get the correct profile by pressing the scanner’s “Simplex” or “Duplex” buttons.  You might expect a greyscale scan at 300 dpi and wind up with color at 400 dpi.
  • If you want to be sure scans are done the way you expect, you must press the “Scan” button in the software, not on the scanner.
  • The only “help” window throws you to a website in your browser. It pretty much just repeats the information on the quick start card that came with the device. It also shows much poorer English grammar than I would expect of a leading U.S. company. I suspect that no one at the headquarters bothered to proof-read anything.
  • The software that comes with the device for Mac is a trial from an outside company. You can get the registration code online, but it is not in the packaging.  You also must read the paper carefully to figure out what web page will get you the code.
  • The same screen is displayed for both “New Scan” and “Preferences”.  Only the “Scan” button reveals which you are looking at.
  • If something goes wrong, like a paper jam, the software often locks up and you must use “force quit” and restart to begin scanning again.  The scanner may need to be power-cycled as well.
  • Changing the destination directory in the “Scan” window will not save to preferences.  You must reopen the “Preferences” version to change the destination on a long-term basis.  But since both look almost exactly alike, I tend to forget. A LOT.
  • When an error happens, the software tends to want to physically print something.  I have not allowed it to print yet, so I’m not sure what was being printed.  The software does not present any options windows for this, it just does it.  My printer was offline, so I was able to abort the job in the printer window.
  • Hard to abort a scan job once it is started.  You can pull the pile of paper out of the feeder so you only have to wait for the current page, but that’s about it.
  • Nothing can be changed in the “Advanced Settings” tab. Perhaps this is available in the higher versions.  This does say “Lite” but the software should tell users why things are always disabled. In particular, the “Black Point” and “White Point” options are disabled.  As a long-time scanner user I find these two frustrating.  But since there is no concept of a preview scan on this device, it isn’t as bad as it would have been.
  • The only way to adjust the quality of scans is to set Brightness, Contrast and Gamma in the “Basic Settings” tab.  This can make it very hard to get good scans from paper which has yellowed over time (and the point is scan documents).
  • Paper sizes over “Legal” cannot be set.
  • The “Rotate” option is always disabled. This is extra irritating when I have pages that were printed sideways, or pages that need to go in upside-down due to damage, and odd-shaped or tape. These pages must be edited after scanning if you want them oriented correctly.
  • The only available file format is PDF.  You can NOT save to JPEG, TIFF, GIF, Photoshop or any other popular format.