Is the NeatDesk a Better Scanner for Luddites?

The Neat scanner and the ScanSnap remain the document scanners people most often come to Lawyerist to learn about. My Neat Desk review wasn’t all that positive, but since people really seem to like the Neat scanner (or at least the idea of it), I’ve been wondering if it actually might be a better scanner for some people.

I’ve decided the Neat Desk might actually be a better scanner for people whose tech savviness (and desire to become tech savvy or go paperless) is low to nonexistent.

For such users, a copy of Adobe Acrobat isn’t all that valuable, nor is the ScanSnap’s easy integration with Google Docs or Evernote. On the other hand, the NeatDesk‘s easy-loading paper tray, always-on OCR, and lack of configuration options are a relief, not a negative. While the ScanSnap is pretty dead simple to use, the NeatDesk is also simple, and it gives a helping hand, too.

For example, I didn’t like the low-volume document feeder because it meant I couldn’t load as many pages. But if you are just scanning a few things at a time, that’s not a problem, and the document feeder means you don’t have to keep adjusting the paper stays for common paper sizes.

Forcing text recognition (OCR) isn’t a bad thing, either. It’s something nearly everyone wants to do, anyway, and necessary if you want to convert scanned documents to Word files.

TWAIN isn’t very important for a paperless office, because you will probably do 100% of your scanning from the scanner, right to PDF. But if you do have TWAIN—as the NeatDesk does—you can actually scan from more familiar applications like Windows Live Photo Gallery or even Microsoft Word.

I didn’t like Neat’s document management software, either, because I felt like it was “trapping” my client files in a proprietary system. That probably doesn’t matter if you aren’t storing all your files on your computer. And besides, many people still don’t know what I’m talking about when I mention the “file manager” or “file system.” The NeatDesk is for those people.

Every lawyer needs to be able to scan documents now and then, even if they aren’t fully paperless. For lawyers working on a full paperless office, the NeatDesk isn’t ideal. But for lawyers who just want an easy way to digitize documents now and then—or for people who just want an easy-to-use scanner for home use, it’s great.

Legal Technology

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

    I think even “luddite” may be over-selling your point.

    There are lots of people—my guess is the vast majority of lawyers and other business people—who like technology and want to adopt it, but who don’t have any interest in becoming “techies”.

    The NeatDesk scanner is not for people who hate or are afraid of technology, but I think it’s a great option for people who like and want to use technology, but have no interest in DIY hands-on tech learning.

    Since a large part of your pro-paperless-office argument has to do with seamlessly adopting scanning into your daily workflow, I think it’s great that there is a scanner option (with a little more hand-holding than the ScanSnap) for less-tech-savvy folks to start going paperless.

  • http://phillylawblog.wordpress.com/ Jordan

    My office is mostly paperless. I couldn’t live without my ScanSnap.

    That, and my DymoTwin Turbo 450 label and stamp printer. I think those are my two most important tools outside the computer.

    • Julie

      Third after the ScanSnap and Dymo would be the digital scale attached to the Dymo.

  • http://legaltechandfitness.blogspot.com/ Mario Sandoval

    Yes not ideal software but the hardware is good. i use it in trial its small and it fits under my seat! I use adobe Pro not the neat software.

  • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

    SAM! Wake up! You wrote a blog post while you were having a nightmare in which you tried to rescue incompetent lawyers who don’t know how to double-click a mouse.
    I’ve never used a Neatdesk scanner but if the main argument for buying one is that it is less “complicated” than the ScanSnap or that it is good for lawyers who don’t want to become “techies,” then those lawyers should just close up shop right now and go find work as greeters at a shopping mall. The ScanSnap only has one button to press. It’s “settings” screens really only have about a dozen relevant options. If a lawyer cannot muster up the confidence to master those simple tools, then he or she really has no business analyzing cases and statutes, drafting important legal documents, or litigating cases.

    There is a minimum level of technological competence lawyers must master. They don’t have to know how to write code, mess with their Windows registry, or reconfigure their IP settings. But they have to be able to figure out how to use simple software. The ScanSnap is well within the minimum competence requirements to practice law. If someone likes the Neatdesk scanner better than the ScanSnap because of its price, or how fast it scans, or what its bundled software does, fine, but let’s not give lawyers another excuse to pretend that scanners are too complicated for them to learn.

    Go splash some water on your face, you’ll feel better.

  • http://capstonelawmn.com/ Rob Shainess

    I’m perhaps as puzzled as Eric. I can’t really fathom a scanner that is easier to use than my ScanSnap, and I’m no technie. If it were dumbed down any further, it wouldn’t be useful.

    • http://www.PAinjurycase.com Dave S

      Rob, I totally agree. The Scansnap is really easy to use as has been said on here and in past reviews. I’ve made it a part of my workday routine- as open mail and read incoming faxes, we’ll scan it in- not sure

  • http://www.bc-personalinjury-lawyer.com Jon d.

    I’ve been considering the NeatScanner for personal use. I don’t think it’s the solution for an answer largely due to the small feeder (as you point out). However, for personal use at home and if you like the document management software it’s probably good.

    To be honest, what attracted my attention on the commercial was how it scanned receipts easily and filed them digitally.

    I’m glad you revisited this product and qualified your opinion about it.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Ironically, the receipt scanning isn’t particularly effective, despite it being the feature Neat pushes the most.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Look, I totally get what you’re all saying. The ScanSnap is definitely the better scanner, and it’s dead simple to use. But the Neatdesk is less threatening, and because it takes choice away from the user, it’s a little easier for a Luddite to get their head around.

    It’s not a better scanner, but it may be a better scanner for some.

  • http://www.TaiwanVets.com Lloyd

    Tech service never picks up the ‘phone…and they have “business hours,” which means that they are gone when you need them – no weekends. I suggest you buy from a big box store, at a premuium ($399., plus tax, plus s/h [or no charge s/h, better]), use it to see if you like it. If not return it and buy it elsewhere (eBay?) for far less – but only new and with a return policy. I will say that i own the Neat Desk and find it as fast as it is shown on TV advertising. I blow all I scan into .pdfs as I had used their Neat Receipts very sloooooooow scanner years before and had trouble archiving media, losing some. It’s a paperweight now.

  • Joe

    I don’t feal comfortable storing all my important docs in neat’s software.

    What happens if neat goes out of business?
    If my computer crashes and I restore my docs from my back up source I cannot open their encrypted files outside of neat. So that means I have to reload their software, if it’s still available many years from now.

    I would rather scan and store my info as PDF files in my documents folders on my desktop. I know they will be there when I need them.

  • Michael Campellone

    Good evening all -

    I wished to point out a number of quick comments. I am a computer professional by trade, and I think that one thing to consider is the end-user and their intended use for the scanner. I am certainly no luddite – I am a 25-year seasoned IT professional. I own a Fujitsu fi-6130 document scanner, and I also own the Neat Desk scanner and software.

    The Fujitsu is fantastic for amazingly fast conversion to PDF and for later making those files searchable with ease. However, there the Neat does excel under the hood.

    Behind the Neat system is a “learning” system of recognition; very similar to speech recognition software. The more you use it, the better it performs. But more importantly is the fact that it loads the express version of SQL, and it builds robust databases. The proofing process for scanned receipts and files is rather a quick process once you get into it, and then I can pull a myriad of reports based on the OCR results and the database structure of SQL. Also, there are custom fields which can be used for a variety of tracking purposes.

    The work I would have to go through, to create the SQL databases, link tables and query strings, create the report jobs, etc. – is too much of my own time. And, nothing is more valuable to me than my time – once spent, you never get it back.

    Basically – when I want very efficient filing of PDF’s that are quickly searchable, but I don’t need data from them formatted into formal reports (like expense reports, etc.), then the Fujitsu fi-6130 is amazing. Pricey yes, but a real performer.

    However, when I need receipts and documents tracked, specifically where the contents will need to be extracted in rather complex reporting, then the Neat Desk comes into play. And, when you remove the receipt guides from the feeder, it will easily handle a little over 50 pages which is a decent amount, so it’s not THAT bad…

    It all boils down to the use. Many of us “techies” use this device. But we know what is behind it, we tweak it, and use it within it’s parameters. Far from a luddite, indeed! LOL….

    A very interesting thread, thank you for posting. By the way – as long as the databases are being backed up, data can always be retrieved. I highly recommend that anyone keep BOTH local backups as well as a reliable cloud backup from a reputable cloud provider.

    Regards,

    Mike

  • JeffQ

    FYI,

    You can use Adobe Acrobat with the Neatdesk scanner to avoid the proprietary database. I have a Neatdesk scanner at home and at work using Adobe and M-Files. Works great.