IRISPen Air 7, First Take: A multifunctional handheld scanner

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Portable scanners can come in very handy indeed, and if you need to use one regularly you're probably looking for something that's light and easy to handle. The ability to work with tablets as well as with a laptop might also be important to you.

IRIS makes a lot of products focused on document management, including OCR software and a range of portable scanners. The IRISPen Air 7, which costs $/€149 (£109), measures 3.5cm by 13.97cm by 2.5cm, weighs just 28g and has a rechargeable battery. The specs on the product website don't divulge how long the battery lasts, but the promotional video mentions five hours. The device charges via an ordinary USB cable, and you probably carry one of these as a matter of course.

There are apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. All are included with the purchase of the pen, so they are free to download and install. We tried it on a Windows PC and on Android.

On the PC you can connect the IRISPen Air 7 via either Bluetooth or USB, but it's Bluetooth-only under Android and iOS. You can't have both the USB and Bluetooth connections active at the same time on the PC. Turning Bluetooth off and on is a simple matter of pressing the scanning head against a surface for about three seconds. A blue light flashes on the pen to show you that Bluetooth is turned on.

Applying light pressure against whatever you want to scan causes a red light to illuminate the clear plastic scanning head, so you know that scanning is taking place. You need to be careful when you scan: the scanning head is quite wide, and you have to keep the text you're scanning in the centre because the IRISPen Air 7 only captures one line of text at a time. In use, it's a bit like a highlighter pen, moving along a line of text with a steady motion at an even pace -- which needs to be quite fast to get the best accuracy from the scanner.


IRISPen Air 7 output direct into WordPad on a Windows PC.

Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The IRISPen Air 7 Android app.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

On the PC, scanned text can be dropped straight into any open app that will accept it. The screenshot above shows a feed straight into WordPad, for example. On an Android device, text goes into the IRISPen app (right). You can edit it here, or copy and paste it into another app.

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Accuracy is not too bad, and you shouldn't have to do much editing if you want to work with scanned text.

Other features include text-to-speech and translation among 40 languages. The computer-generated voice is predictably bland, but used in conjunction with the translation capability it offers some interesting possibilities -- for language students, for example, or someone who wants to get a quick translation of text in a non-native language.

The IRISPen Air 7 seems fast and efficient, and its portability means it may well find a place in your bag where bulkier options might be left behind.