I am a clutter bug. I’ve got bits of paper everywhere and it drives my uncluttered husband insane. Now that I’m also a business owner, the paper has multiplied. I’ve got press releases, press kits, business cards, and a ton of notes to myself. Plus, I’m a mom, so there are doctor’s reports, report cards, permission slips, and on and on and on. When I stumbled across Neat and their scanners at CES, I jokingly told them that their products could save my marriage. Only I wasn’t really joking. They sent me home with a NeatReceipts to try out and I’ve been scanning in business cards ever since.
NeatReceipts is a portable scanner that is light and small and easy to take along on business trips. Plus, it doesn’t add to the clutter on my end table. It quickly and easily scans in anything from a small business card or receipt to an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. As you know, a scanner is only as good as the software you use it with, so Neat products are all bundled with the Neat Scanning Software and Digital Filing System. It’s OCR (optical character recognition) software paired with a powerful database program that allows you to scan in all of your documents and file them appropriately. It’s designed to read business cards and receipts and extract the information to make it usable. Genius, right?
I started out by scanning some business cards from CES. The OCR worked like a dream on the basic cards, struggled slightly with two-sided and mildly-artsy cards and, not unexpectedly, was totally lost in cards with unusual formatting/layouts. It caught some, but not all of the information. My biggest struggle, ironically, came from my Neat contact. Her card is traditionally formatted, but with the company name/logo written sideways on the end of the card. No matter what I did, I couldn’t convince the software to read the card in a “normal” layout. It read the logo, and nothing else. I wasn’t expecting miracles (it’s a computer, not a person), so I’m not disappointed, but the more “creative types” you come across, the more likely you are to run across this challenge. The good news is that the software will store an image of the card (you can scan double-sided cards and merge their info together), so you can always go back to enter info in the database, or double check contact info. You can also see your own notes. Honestly, even without the OCR, that’s better than the growing stack of business cards I have on my desk, especially since my kids think they’re fun to play with.
Document and PDF scanning is straight-forward. I wish I had my NeatReceipts early on at CES because I would have been scanning in all of my press materials rather than schlepping them home with me. Documents are easy, but I also wanted to see how it worked with receipts. I scanned in a somewhat mangled CVS receipt because they’re long with a lot of extraneous info. I wanted to see how Neat did with all of that information. The receipt scanned in perfectly, finding the date, vendor name, total, sales tax, and the fact that I paid with a Visa. I can then assign it to a category (Healthy & Beauty, for example), add a tax category if applicable, and check off if it’s a reimbursable expense. There’s also plenty of room for comments and a copy of the receipt is attached as well. The software won’t do as well with ultra-complex receipts (such as my hotel breakdown), but for your daily receipt tracking, it’s great. You can then create reports with taxable info, trip expenses, or other groupings based on the information you provided.
The Neat software is easy to use. I find navigating between folders to be a bit slow, but that’s my only complaint. It’s complex enough to do the job, but simple enough that it doesn’t take weeks to learn. You can group contacts, receipts, and documents in folders together, while still being able to create general reports across folders. For example, you can put everything from a particular business trip together, and still create a report of your travel expenses throughout the year. I have even scanned in some medical info for my kids that I want to keep handy without adding yet another physical file folder. You can also export information to other software you may already use, such as Outlook, Excel, Quicken or QuickBooks.
NeatReceipts is great for home, small business, hobbyists, etc., but the price tag isn’t a tiny one. At $199.99, you’ll have to be committed to organization, but if you’re tired of shoeboxes full of receipts and business cards this is a wonderful solution. The NeatDesk scanner retails at $399.99, but can scan both sides of a document at once and allows you to feed up to 10 documents at one time. I haven’t personally used it, but that seems pretty amazing for people who will be scanning a lot of paperwork.
NeatReceipts gets a thumbs-up for ease of use, portability, and flexible software, but a slightly lower price tag would make it truly ideal. Then again, you can’t put a price on a saved marriage!
Disclosure: We received a unit for review purposes. There was no promise of a positive review and the opinions contained in this post are my own. Image courtesy of Neat.