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The Raven Pro: A high-volume document scanner that flies like the wind

If you have a huge number of pages to scan (and you know who you are), you need to take a look at this impressive new entrant into the scanning market.

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Image: Raven.com

I never really identified with Tim Allen's "more power" mantra from Home Improvement until I became a homeowner. When you live in an apartment, you don't need to have an extra-powerful chainsaw to cut through tough-as-steel tree limbs, or need an excavator to clear out dump truck after dump truck of dirt to make sure water drains away from your house. But when you own a home, many homeowner projects call out for "more power."

Likewise, if you're not dealing with a tremendous number of paper documents, you might not understand why you'd need a scanner with More Power. In fact, you might not even identify with needing a scanner. But if you're dealing with boxes of documents from an estate you're suddenly managing, or if you are a realtor with enormous paper contracts, or if you're digitizing a storeroom of older documents, you know that the time it takes to scan a stack of documents adds up.

Also: Best scanners: Fujitsu, Canon, Kodak, Epson, and more

Back in 2013, my wife and I woke up one morning to a moving truck delivering all my parents' documents in cartons to our garage. It was floor to ceiling boxes. My parents were elderly, ill, and needed our support. We had to take over... everything.

My parents did not practice dostadning, the Swedish practice of "death cleaning." The idea of death cleaning is you clean up and declutter your stuff before you die, so your kids don't have to deal with it. To my beloved parents, declutter was as foreign a word as dostadning

And so, we suddenly had a garage filled with documents -- many of which my wife and I would need in order to manage their care. For example, somewhere in all those boxes was the insurance policy for their long term care. Somewhere, in hundreds of cartons, with no organizational system whatsoever.

Somewhere...

Our only chance of coming up to speed was to scan everything in and try to sort through it.

To do so, I repurposed one of my Mac minis and bought a Scansnap scanner . We also paid a young friend to spend all day sitting in front of the computer, scanning stacks of documents and labeling the PDFs. Each day after she left, we moved all those documents from the computer to our server. It took months. As fast as that Scansnap was, it was the bottleneck. It had a 50 sheet capacity and could scan 20 pages per minute.

Our helper could scan about 10,000 pages a day. That might seem like a lot, but a ream of paper is 500 sheets. She could scan 20 reams a day. That's about a five cartons, and we had an entire garage full of cartons.

Here's a life tip: elder care is incredibly time consuming, emotionally draining, and expensive. Prepare for it as much as you can before you need it. Talk to your parents and kids. You'll all be better prepared if you're prepared.

Introducing Raven Pro

It was painful and expensive, but we did it. But, oh, if we'd had the Raven Pro, the job would have gone three times faster. Of course, back then the Raven Pro document scanner didn't exist. But when Raven sent me one to review, I thought back on those days and realized just how big a help it would have been.

First, let's just talk feeds and speeds. The Raven Pro has a 100 sheet capacity and can scan at a whopping 60 pages per minute. When you run pages through this thing, it's hard to believe it's even possible for the pages to move that fast. But not only is it scanning all 60 sheets (one per second), it's OCRing them as well.

In 2013, I had to upload the documents we scanned to Evernote and then wait a week or so for Evernote to OCR them in the cloud, just so we could search them. With the Raven Pro, I could have stored the documents anywhere, and would have been able to do a search.

We could have scanned and OCR'd 30,000 documents a day -- nearly 15 cartons a day. Not only would the job have gone faster, but since we were paying for every hour of scanning time, the $699 Raven Pro would have saved us thousands of dollars.

There's another big benefit of the Raven over the other excellent scanners I've used. It has a big (and by big, I mean the size of an iPad mini) display. You don't have to dedicate a computer to scanning. You can label documents, examine them, and upload them, all from the scanner.

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You can preview right on the scanner's screen.

Image: Raven.com

In addition to scanning to Raven's own cloud, you can scan directly to Google Drive, SharePoint, OneDrive, Dropbox, Evernote, and Box. You can scan and email, scan and fax, scan to a shared folder on your network, and scan to an FTP address -- all from the screen on the Raven Pro.

Some issues

All is not ideal, even if we strongly recommend this device. The scanner mostly scans to the internet and does not buffer between scans. So once you do a scan, you have to wait for it to upload. I have an insanely fast fiber internet connection, so I didn't notice any delay, but some users have found themselves tapping their fingers waiting for the upload to complete before going onto the next scan. That defeats the benefits of the ridiculously fast physical scanning time.

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You might be able to overcome this by scanning to a local share. Most of my testing was to a shared drive on my NAS and there was no apparent delay.

Also: Tax time cometh: Get your records in order with this document scanner

Second, it looks like Raven intercepts documents before they go to Dropbox and the other services. It seems like the documents first go to Raven's own cloud service, and then it sends them on to the destination. There are obviously two issues with this. First, that means your documents pass through two cloud locations, with all the attendant security issues. Second, Raven is a small company and if it goes belly up, you might not be able to use your scanner.

To be fair, Fujitsu, the company that makes my beloved Scansnap scanners, is anything but small. But older Scansnaps haven't been updated to more recent operating systems (particularly on the Mac), effectively rendering them obsolete. 

It's a fact of modern life that your devices can be orphaned. It doesn't really matter whether the device maker is large or small, older devices can and will probably stop working at some point.

Finally, it feels like you're constantly pressing Next in the Raven interface. You can make all this go away by turning off scan preview. Then it's just scan and save, which is a much more efficient way to use the device.

Bottom line it for me, David

I haven't hidden my love for the Scansnap line of scanners. Except for the ix1600, which Fujitsu sent me for review, I've purchased all my Scansnaps out of my own pocket, and haven't regretted spending a penny. They are great scanners, and are considerably less expensive than the Raven Pro.

Also: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1600: Wireless game-changer

But the Raven Pro is in a whole different league. If you need it, you need it, you know it, and you should get it. I'm not kidding when I say it could have saved me thousands of dollars. If you're paying for three months of work (which is what we did, that summer), and you can speed up the process so it only takes one month, that's a lot of money you can save. I also had to dedicate a computer to the job, and both the Scansnap ix1600 and the Raven eliminate that requirement.

So, let me bottom line it. This is not a scanner for the scanner-curious. This is a scanner for someone (probably a company or department, but possibly also an individual like me with an insurmountable family crisis to surmount) who needs speed, convenience, and capacity.

Yes, you're investing in a device from an unknown, smaller company. But the build quality is excellent and there are hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon. The Raven folks are clearly doing something right.

I'll tell you this: if I was in the situation now that I was back in 2013, I would have bought the Raven Pro in a heartbeat.

What about you? Are you a power scanner user? What sort of giant scanning projects have you had to deal with? Let us know in the comments below.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.