Product Review: Page (1) of 2 - 03/16/06 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Is That A Scanner In Your Pocket?

Why, yes. That's a DocuPen RC800. By Esther Schindler
I love the idea of a truly portable scanner. Not every item you want to scan is portable, or can be hoisted onto the bed of a flatbed screen. (Ever need to photocopy something from an encylopedia? Point made.) On the other hand, most of the "hand" scanners I've looked at, over the years, were truly limited, in both resolution and in page size.

That's not a problem with the Planon System Solutions' Docupen RC-800, a full-page scanner that's about the size and weight of a cigar. It's certainly small enough to slip into your laptop bag, so that you can scan articles from the newspaper, capture report print-outs or travel receipts while you're on the road, and acquire-and-send copies of signed contracts from your "office" at Starbucks.

The two-ounce DocuPen comes in designer colors (who'da'thunk we'd ever say that about office equipment?), and can scan in multiple modes: 12-bit or 24-bit color, greyscale, or monochrome. You can control resolution from 100dpi to 400dpi -- not the finest compared to desktop equipment, but probably good enough for mobile professionals. It comes with 8MB of onboard Flash memory, but if you scan more than a few pages at a time, you'll probaby take advantage of its expandability; I added another 128MB with a SanDisk TransFlash memory card.

docupen photo
The scanner works with both Windows and Macintosh (I tested on Windows Media Center edition and Mac OS X), and includes custom TWAIN drivers. It has bundled OCR software (PaperPort on Windows, ABBYY on the Mac), though you can use another OCR application if you prefer. Documentation, alas, is almost all online; I had to print out the 15-page manual myself. And, as you'll see, I needed to.

The DocuPen connects to your computer with a USB cable, which is how its battery gets recharged. But you use the scanner standalone; no computer is required until you're ready to transfer the images. (This wasn't initially obvious from the Quick Start card, so you'll be glad I told you.) Then you plug in the cable and tell the standalone DocuPen software, or the OCR program of your choice, to read the files from the scanner. That's your first opportunity to know what you actually scanned, so you'd better hope you did it right.

The scanning process itself is the weird part -- or, if not weird exactly, not what I expected. You turn on the scanner; it has only two push-able buttons, which are used for controlling color and resolution. But instead of pressing something that says "start scanning" and something else that say, "Stop, already!" the scanner works by recognizing when you roll it over a document. When you quit rolling, the scanner saves it all to memory, and then shuts itself off. This teaches you not to pause for a breath while scanning.

The user interface is a little confusing, at least at first. It flashes a few of its status lights when you finish the scan, in a manner that made me think something is wrong and for long enough to worry me; nope, that just means it's saving. Oh. Okay. Then, when you transfer the files, the software reminds you each time to turn the scanner on -- whether or not it's on already. Maybe it can't discern the device's power status, on its own, much less flip the  switch internally, but I kept feeling as though it ought to.

There's nothing precisely wrong with the way it works, but I felt as though the equipment had to train me. The word "intuitive" didn't spring to mind.

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Related Keywords:scan, scanner, ocr, mobile, portable, docupen, planon

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