A document scanner is no longer optional equipment for lawyers. Even if you have not gone paperless, courts, clients, and other lawyers expect you to be able to scan things and distribute PDF files. You need a scanner in your office, at least, and probably on your own desk.
And not just any scanner. All-in-one systems are clumsy and inefficient, and flatbed scanners are too cumbersome for scanning multi-page documents. In a law office, you need a dedicated document scanner. Depending on the needs of your practice area, you may also want a portable scanner or one that can scan 3-D objects like books or small physical exhibits.
Here are the ones you should consider.
Best Document Scanner Overall: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
If you are only going to own one scanner, it should be this one. The ScanSnap iX500 is compact, fast, ridiculously easy to use, and good-looking. Plus, it works over Wi-Fi and scans to your smartphone or tablet. It comes with a copy of Adobe Acrobat (for Windows), and … well, I just can’t say enough good things about it. I’ve owned three ScanSnaps, the S500, S1500, and iX500, and I have been thrilled with all of them.
You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Every presenter at every presentation I have attended on going paperless gives the same advice: just get the ScanSnap. This is the one they mean.
But because lawyers always think they know better than the weight of evidence, Ernie Svenson keeps quotations from and links to lawyers who didn’t get a ScanSnap and regretted it. Yes, it’s worth the price (which is quite reasonable). Yes, it’s better than an all-in-one. Yes, it’s better than the NeatDesk. Just get the ScanSnap.
You can’t go wrong with a ScanSnap iX500, with just one narrow exception …
Best TWAIN Scanner: Epson WorkForce DS–520
TWAIN is a protocol that allows the software on your computer to communicate with your scanner. With TWAIN, in other words, you can scan directly from any application that supports TWAIN, such as PaperPort or Acrobat or Photoshop, and even some practice management software.
Here’s the thing, though. If you don’t know whether or not you need TWAIN support, you almost certainly don’t. If you needed it, you would know. So get the ScanSnap iX500. It is the better scanner. But if you do need TWAIN support, the Epson WorkForce DS-520 is probably the best option.
Epson’s WorkForce scanners are fast, durable workhorses. The ScanSnap is easier to use, but the Epson DS-520 is also a solid option. Epson has learned from Fujitsu, and the DS-520 even looks and costs a lot like the ScanSnap. It isn’t a ScanSnap, though, so get it only if you need TWAIN.
Best Cloud Scanner/Best Scanner for QuickBooks Users: NeatConnect
Unlike every other scanner on this list, the NeatConnect uploads documents directly to the cloud without requiring a connection to your computer. Just plug in the power cord and connect it to your cloud storage. If all your documents end up in the cloud anyway, the NeatConnect will save you time over a regular scanner like the ScanSnap iX500—or any other scanner on this list.
And if you really want to, you can plug in a USB cord and scan straight to your computer like you would with a regular scanner. Though if that will be the main way you use your scanner, get the ScanSnap iX500.
The NeatConnect also has one feature unique to Neat scanners: it can scan receipts and export them straight to QuickBooks. There are other ways to get receipts into QuickBooks (you could just set up QuickBooks to download them straight from your bank, for example), but if you really want to scan receipts and feed them straight to QuickBooks, you’ll want a NeatConnect to do it.
Best Portable Scanner: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100
The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 packs a full-featured wireless scanner into a package about the size of a toilet-paper tube. It is slick and easy to use, and it beats our previous pick for top portable scanner, the Xerox Mobile Scanner, in almost every category.
You can scan documents without connecting the iX100 to a computer, send documents to your smartphone or tablet over wi-fi with the easy-to-use ScanSnap app, and assemble multi-page PDFs.
Plus, it has all those features at a seriously competitive price point.
However, for most mobile scanning, you will do just as well with a smartphone app like Scanbot. Here is a video showing a head-to-head comparison between the iX100 another scanner app, Scanner Pro. (Scanbot is even faster than Scanner Pro, which is why it’s the one I recommend now.)
Best Scanner for Stuff That Doesn’t Fit in Document Scanners: Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600
Sometimes you need to scan things that won’t fit through a document scanner. The ScanSnap SV600 is an overhead scanner that will let you scan books and other objects up to 3 centimeters tall. You can even scan up to 10 documents at once—like that pile of business cards from your last networking lunch. And as you might expect, it is just as easy to use as other ScanSnaps.
If you have special scanning needs, you might want to have a ScanSnap SV600 in your office.