Document Scanner Buyers Guide

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.

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 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 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 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.


  1. I have rolled with the scan snap since January 2010 when I started my practice. I have original scanners in practice. Incredible quality and performance. Didn’t know they a wifi model…..

  2. Avatar static says:

    Great post. I was beginning to suffer from scan snap withdrawal as you hadn’t posted about scanners for, it seems like, days.

  3. Avatar Art says:

    Check the negative reviews at Amazon before buying this scanner. No Twain support should be a deal breaker for most users. It is not a minor flaw.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      I assume you are referring to the ScanSnap, but it’s not a flaw, and it’s not a dealbreaker for “most users.”

      It is almost certainly a dealbreaker for some users, but as I said, if you know you need TWAIN, don’t get it.

      • It’s a dealbreaker for those of us who use PaperPort for document management. And, the Neat Desktop scanner is a great scanner. I have 3 of them, and 2 of them have been going strong for over 3 years. The Neat software is useless and unnecessary; but, PaperPort, in its recent iterations, is a best in the business poor man’s doc management.

  4. Avatar Pam says:

    Agree completely about the ScanSnap. I’ve had the S510 model on my desk (I’m a paralegal) for several years. I cannot say enough about how well it performs, and I use numerous times every day.

  5. Avatar Mark says:

    I bought the ScanSnap ix500 based on your recommendation when I opened my practice and it’s been virtually flawless the past seven months. On the extremely rare occasion when pages overlap (it’s happened twice, and only with mixed document types) it actually catches it automatically and warns you before continuing. Fast, reliable, and compact…thanks for steering me in the right direction on this one and on the HP 400 Laser Jet. Both are rock-solid.

  6. Avatar Jonathan Kleiman says:

    Scansnap. No contest.

  7. Avatar Chris Hill says:

    As one who is going as “paperless” as possible in my law practice, I’ve used the Scansnap s1500 (the prior version of the ix500) for almost 4 years and loved it. It is a key part of my document flow. I don’t have any issues with no Twain support given the ScanSnap’s Clio integration and my other doc management protocols.

    In short, I agree with Sam on this one.

  8. Avatar dtremit says:

    Any chance you’ll be doing a review of the Epson DS-510 / DS-560 at some point? They appear to both have ultrasonic double feed detection, and the DS-560’s wireless features look quite appealing.

  9. Avatar jameskatt says:

    The reason paper sticks together when you scan is moisture.

    If you live near the northern coast, then the air may be so moist that even with ultrasonic feed detection, you will forever be frustrated with scanning when using these vertically feeding scanners. Papers always stick together when moist, however mild that you can’t feel it.

    For old documents, I recommend storing them with dessicants to remove water from them before scanning them. I even store blank paper with dessicants so that they don’t stick together when scanned after a print job. And I take out paper from the printer that has stood all night, and store it in the cabinet with dessicant, replacing it with drier paper that had already been stored with dessicant.

    If you cannot reduce moisture in the paper, then there is nothing more satisfying than a scanner with a more horizontal paper feed that does the job quickly – such as the Canon imageFORMULA DR-6030C. A horizontal paper feed minimizes paper sticking at the feeder. At Simplex 80 ppm or Duplex 160 ipm, with a 100 page feeder capacity, The DR-6030C is superior and far more amazingly faster to the ones in this review. At 15.6 x 12.3 inches of deskspace taken, it essentially takes the desk space of a laptop when folded. Of course, at $2000 USED, these are quite expensive but worth it for years of blissful scanning.

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