CardScan easily consolidates contact info....
Perhaps it was the traditional unreliability
of optical character recognition software.
Or a series of frustrating episodes with
flatbed scanners, which, until very recently, tended to ship with
gawky software and require installation acrobatics. (Only the most
masochistic of PC hobbyists enjoy mucking around with the likes of
SCSI cards and cables, which in addition to being expensive always
tended to be inanely short.)
For years, I shied away from a product that's
about as natural for business today as, well, the typing pool of
yore. Now I wonder how I ever did without a business card scanner.
That pile of old cards I never got around to filing after my card
folio filled up a year ago? Yes, now it's scanned. The CardScan 600c
by Corex Technologies, which connects to the computer with a USB
cable, promises 97% accuracy. It scored about 90% in my unscientific
test of 10 cards.
What makes the answering machine-sized
product so indispensable is the intelligence of the accompanying
software, built around a Rolodex motif, and its rich features. Hence
I wasn't much bothered when 'Utah' became 'UT84o67' in the scanning
of one business card. The other seven lines came out clean and a few
keyboard strokes restored 'Utah.' The CardScan software has gone to
finishing school, it seems, learning not just how to recognize
characters but also common naming and addressing conventions. On top
of that, it just learned to read French and German. Version 6 of
the software supports those languages in addition to English. Corex's technology works by parsing cards' contact information into
the appropriate fields with uncanny accuracy — even if the words are
scattered unconventionally on a card.
After scanning, an image of each card is also
saved. If both sides of the card have data, images of both sides are
recorded. The scanning can be done in batches; the individual cards
drop into a detachable card catcher. A batch can then be processed,
and one option allows the card data to be assigned to a single
category in the CardScan software's built-in personal information
manager. The CardScan software synchronizes with 17 of the most
popular packages including Microsoft Outlook. ACT!, GoldMine, Lotus
Organizer and Lotus Notes and the Palm Desktop.
The program also synchronizes with handheld
computers running the Palm operating system, Windows CE and its
successor, Pocket PC, as well as Psion palmtops and the IBM Workpad.
A nifty button on the desktop also lets you transfer single card by
single card to an open PIM, a nice touch exemplifying the healthy
evolution of a product whose first version appeared six years ago.
There's only one big drawback in this product that is sure to please
efficiency experts everywhere: It is bound to encourage conformity.