I.R.I.S. IRISPen Executive 6

  • Editors' rating
    7.4 Very good


  • Good scan quality
  • Supports barcodes
  • Recognises CMC 7 banking font
  • Reads text on coloured backgrounds


  • Produces black-and-white scans only
  • No built-in memory or wireless connectivity

I.R.I.S. has been making OCR systems since 1987, so has plenty of experience in making solutions to convert paper documents into electronic formats and storing, managing and sharing this digital information The company’s range of pen scanners have been around for a while too, so are mature enough to have ironed out a lot of the limitations of past models — such as scan speed and quality. Having said that, you’ll still need to have more than average patience if you're looking never to retype anything again.

The IrisPen Executive 6 is one of the most advanced text recognition pen scanners on the market. Relatively compact and comfortable to use, it allows you to scan text, numbers and images into the most popular Windows applications. To operate the USB-powered and connected device you simply slide the IrisPen over printed information (such as newspapers, magazines, faxes and letters) and in a matter of seconds the scan is output onto your screen for editing and saving. Unfortunately there’s no built-in flash memory, so you’ll have to stay tethered to your computer.

The latest incarnation of the IRISPen is confusingly available in three different versions: IRISPen Express (£90), IRISPen Translator (£140) and IRISPen Executive (£140). Each of the three models are identical in terms of physical appearance and operation, but differ in terms of the features they offer. For instance, the two customisable pen buttons offer four assignable functions on the IRISPen Express and IRISPen Translator, but the functions are unlimited on the IRISPen Executive. The IRISPen Express doesn’t support multi-line scanning or speech synthesis, either.

The IRISPen Translator adds language translation (11 language pairs), whereas the flagship IRISPen Executive further supports all widespread barcode standards and types, including the 2D barcodes PDF 417 and QR barcode. The IRISPen also supports bearer bars drawn around the barcodes. By default, the bundled driver application is set to automatically detect and read any of the barcodes supported by the IRISPen. All barcode types are thus selected by default. You can, however, limit the recognition to specific barcode types. This will help avoid any possible errors when reading a certain type of barcode. To limit the reading to certain barcodes, you can deselect the corresponding buttons in the proposed list.

Furthermore, it recognises the banking font CMC 7, can read handprinted numbers and/or handprinted letters, and comes with basic image adjustment tools to optimise the image generated with the pen for the recognition process (useful if you scan very bad quality or low-contrast documents). The built-in text-to-speech engine read back text to you on your computer, but this feature is a little pathetic.

Text, numbers or small images — whatever you need to scan, the wizard guides you through the process. Three included user profiles further allow you to create a user profile according to your retyping needs, and keyboard shortcuts let you easily assign typical or customised keyboard commands (enter, space and so on) to the two pen buttons. The IRISPen can actually scan most fonts, in a wide variety of styles and point sizes (from 8 to 20 points), as well as special characters, reading marks, special symbols and formatting elements such as vertical lines separating table cells.

Top ZDNET Reviews

We were impressed by the IRISPen’s performance when scanning both printed text (alphanumeric characters, punctuation marks, numeric data) and figures (including special characters, mathematical symbols, punctuation marks, and currencies). It wasn’t perfect (no scanner is), but as retyping text from paper documents is often a necessary but very tedious and time-consuming task, the IRISPen could be a real boon to your business. You won't achieve the high quality required for image scanning, but for scanning short documents it’s an invaluable peripheral.