- ✓Fast and accurate scanning
- ✓Easy to use
- ✓Software is capable enough to act as the only contact manager for some users
- ✕User manual is on CD-ROM rather than printed out
- ✕Scanner unit is relatively large
- ✕Range of fields for contact information is limited
Going to business conferences or networking events is a useful activity for many of us, but one less-than-welcome outcome of making a lot of new contacts can be the need to capture their contact details. Tapping out details from business cards is a tedious process indeed, and one which the CardScan Executive aims to automate.
Design and features
The CardScan Executive is a hardware and software combination. On the hardware side of things, a scanning unit is connected to your computer by USB.
With curved edges and silver colouring, it is not unpleasant to look at. It is a little large at around 160mm wide and 95mm deep, and sits a maximum of 45mm tall. For those whose desks are already filled with clutter (all of it useful and necessary of course), the idea of leaving the scanning unit permanently on the desk might not appeal. In this case it could be lodged in a drawer and connected to a computer as required.
The scanning unit is rather too bulky to carry around, but even the most mobile of workers should be able to collect business cards and scan them in batches back at the office. If you decide you like this device and must carry it around, then the smaller CardScan Personal (£139, including VAT) may be worth considering.
The CardScan Executive software is compliant with Windows Vista, XP and 2000. It is not compliant with Macintosh operating systems.
The software is installed from a CD and comprises both drivers for the scanner and a contact-management application.
The contact-manager software can be used on its own, or can be made to synchronise with other applications such as Outlook, Act!, Lotus Notes and GoldMine. Synchronisation with Windows Mobile and Palm-based handhelds and smartphones is also possible — you need to install the required modules during set-up. In no case is the synchronisation absolutely seamless and, if you are interested in using this service, you would be advised to read the "known issues" documentation that can be opened when the installation is completed.
As well as storing data from scanned business cards on your computer, the suite includes an online backup service which is updated every time you make a change on the desktop (such as adding, editing or deleting a contact).
This is useful in its own right as a fail-safe, but an added benefit is the ability to access the backup from any computer — as long as you remember your password. Edits made on the web-based backup are reflected back within the CardScan desktop software, provided your internet access is live. You can also configure, again for free, quarterly requests sent to contacts asking them to update their information. Outlook users have the added advantage of being able to attach a scan of their own business card to all outgoing emails.
The CardScan software includes features like an auto phone dialler, the ability to open URLs in a web browser, email creation into a large number of applications and the ability to open a map of an address in one of a number of web-based services, such as Multimap. Unfortunately, here the software lets itself down. For each of our test contacts it offered a dialogue box saying the address is not in the US. Get past this box by asking the software to use a "world map", and Multimap managed to display the UK-based locations we tested it with.
The software is probably good enough for many users to make it their only contact manager. However, while it has a reasonable number of fields, those with complex requirements may find the range limiting. For such people, the CardScan software can act as a holding pen, and data from scanned business cards can be transferred to other applications as noted above.
Using the CardScan Executive is simplicity itself. The first time you run the CardScan Executive software a wizard walks you through the process of setting up and using the scanner for the first time. You can also set up the online backup system at this point. Thereafter, when you want to scan a card, you simply run it through the scanner.
We tested a range of business cards and the software coped surprisingly well. Portrait and landscape-format cards failed to confuse it. It picked out a long list of academic qualifications from one card and deposited them in a field labeled "other". In general it did a good job of identifying email addresses, mobile and landline phone numbers, fax numbers, web pages, names and job titles and dropping them into the appropriate fields.
Business cards with a lot of design elements on them were no problem and it even managed well with the cards we tried which had text on a patterned background. We had anticipated having to edit a fair amount of contact information by hand in order to correct errors but, in the end, our batch of test cards returned no errors.
The marketing information claims that the system reads English, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Unfortunately, all our test cards were in English, so we were unable to assess this feature. It should also be pointed out that, while our test batch contained many different styles of business card, not all bases were covered. Dark text on a dark background, which we could not offer, may have caused problems, for example.
The software can cope with retaining scans of both the front and back of business cards, and there is space for you to make text-based notes into which the date and time can be automatically added if you click on icons in the notes area. You can assign individuals to categories, a large number of which are pre-defined, although you can add more.
The documentation suggests that business cards are scanned within three seconds. In our experience, scans were almost immediate. We never felt we were waiting for the software to process information before displaying it. Scans can be made in colour or black and white.
Not everyone is going to need an automated business-card scanner, but there are many environments in which it could be useful. Certainly it does its job efficiently and well, and the developers seem to have thought carefully about the kind of outputs end users require.
However the CardScan Executive is not cheap and, with that in mind, it is unfortunate that the full user manual is not delivered in printed form. Printing its 30 pages is not an onerous task, but putting the cost of obtaining a printed manual onto the user is less than ideal in any circumstances and, in this case, where the device is such that it will be a novelty to most users, it is unacceptable.
|Supported Document Type||Business card|
|Document Feeder Type||Manual|
|Software / System Requirements|
|Peripheral / Interface Devices||CD-ROM, USB port|
|System Requirements Details||Windows 98/2000/ME/XP - Pentium RAM 64 MB - HD 50 MB|
|Software Included||CardScan 7|
|Scan Speed||4 sec/page (color)|
|Supported Document Type||business card|
|Document Feeder Type||manual|
|OS Required||Microsoft Windows 98/ME/2000/XP|
|Software Included||CardScan 7|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|System Requirements Details|
|Operating System||Windows 98/2000/ME/XP|
|Min RAM Size||64 MB|
|Min Hard Drive Space||50 MB|
|Service & Support|
|Type||1 year warranty|
|Service & Support Details|
|Full Contract Period||1 year|