The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 scanner makes scanning effortless

Apr 21, 2016- Permalink

I was recently given the chance to take a look at the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500. I was planning an article on the need to scan and backup important documents and memories and my initial research showed that the ScanSnap iX500 was routinely on top of the list when it came to SOHO (Small Office Home Office) scanners. I’ll get to the nuts and bolts in a second but first let me give you my initial reactions to the iX500.

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

Fujitsu’s ScanSnap iX500 makes scanning a breeze.

The ScanSnap iX500 is so easy and convenient to use that it quickly becomes an indispensable part of your computer/office setup. Some other scanners I’ve used require launching the software, adjusting settings, doing a prescan and crop and then the actual scan. The extra steps can sometimes lead you to put off scanning tasks and we all know how easy a deferred task soon becomes a forgotten one. With the ScanSnap iX500, you can set up a preferred workflow, e.g. always scan to a searchable PDF file, and then just insert the paper, press one button, and name the resulting file. It becomes so easy to return home and scan receipts or grab the mail and scan that new financial statement. That ease of use lends itself to one of the principles of David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) productivity method, which is if a task can be done in less than five minutes, do it now. The ScanSnap iX500 makes keeping up with your paper life so easy that your inbox never turns into a mountain. I’ll have more on that in my backing up memories and documents article.

Let’s put it another way. If the ScanSnap iX500 was a friend, I’d invite it to parties. If I knew when the unit I’m using was manufactured, I’d get it a birthday cake. The thought of scanning filing cabinets full of documents was scary, but the ScanSnap iX500 made the task simple and, dare I say, fun.

Let’s take a look at the technical specifications of the ScanSnap iX500. It has an auto-document feeder which can hold up to 50 pages at a time. It’s a duplex scanner, which means that it scans both sides of a page in one pass, which is great for documents like credit card statements that try to cram as much information into as few pieces of paper as possible. In Normal scanning mode, the ScanSnap iX500’s scanning resolution is 150 dpi (dots per inch) for colour and grayscale and 300 dpi for monochrome. Best mode takes it up to 300 dpi for colour and grayscale and 600 dpi for monochrome. At those resolutions, the ScanSnap iX500 is able to whip through the pages at 25 pages per minute, which means 50 pages if you’re looking at a double-sided source. The only time that scanning speed is reduced is when you crank up the resolution to Excellent. It will then slow down to 7 ppm but in return you get a scanning resolution of 600 dpi for colour and grayscale and 1200 dpi for monochrome.

The ScanSnap iX500 is excellent at recognizing paper sizes automatically, though there are adjustable guides to steady the paper flow. Without any assistance, the feeder is able to handle A4, A5, A6, B5, B6, business card, letter, legal and custom sizes from a maximum of 216 × 360mm to a minimum of 50.8 × 50.8mm. Using the carrier sheet, which is a see-through plastic handler, you can scan delicate pages and photographs as well as A3, B4, and double-letter pages. You can even carefully fold a page that is too big for the scanner in half, scan both sides, and the ScanSnap software will stitch the image together for you.

The ScanSnap iX500 weighs about 3 kg and when in its off mode (which means the paper holders are closed) it takes up a mere 292 × 159 × 168 mm (W x D x H). It’s very sleek looking when it’s closed and could best be described as looking like Darth Vader’s lunch box. When you open it to reveal the paper feeder and scanned document output tray, it is still not something that is going to take up a lot of space on your desk or shelf. Opening the device powers it on and closing it turns it off. I really like the fact that the indicator LEDs are only illuminated when the device is on. The ScanSnap iX500 knows it’s cool and doesn’t feel the need to brag that it’s around by illuminating the room with bright airport landing lights when it’s off like so many other devices these days. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. TV.)

How do we get started with the ScanSnap iX500? After excitedly removing it from its box, you open the unit and take out the protective packaging (a few small pieces of foam taped to the unit) that protect the scanner’s more sensitive areas. Before attaching the ScanSnap iX500 to your computer, use the ScanSnap setup DVD to install the required software. You then attach the ScanSnap via USB or follow the instructions to connect it to your computer via WiFi. The ScanSnap iX500 has a USB 3.0 connector (and is USB 2.0/USB 1.1 compatible) and on the WiFi side can connect via 802.11b, g or n.

The WiFi abilities and its built-in dual core CPU means that the ScanSnap iX500 is able to act independently of a connected computer. What does that mean? It means that if you’re about to head out the door and want to quickly scan a document to your iOS or Android tablet or smartphone, you just fire up one of ScanSnap’s free apps, put the paper into the scanner, hit the scan button in the app and in seconds the document is in your tablet or phone even if your home PC is off. Again, that makes scanning convenient and easy to do as needed.

The ScanSnap iX500 also comes with a suite of software:

  • ScanSnap Manager allows you to easily change the settings and workflow for the one-button operation of the scanner.
  • ScanSnap Organizer (Windows only) allows to view your PDFs and JPEG files and arrange the files in folders.
  • CardMinder allows you to quickly go through that mountain of business cards that you may have collected over the years. The software uses intelligent text recognition to grab the data off the cards and assist you in placing them into a contact database that can also be linked to a wide variety of other applications.
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap performs OCR (optical character recognition) on your scanned files and enables you to convert that data into Word, Excel or PowerPoint files.
  • Evernote is a program with a rabid fan base. It allows you to collect notes, images and web pages and store and access them in the cloud via the web or app. Since you’re using the ScanSnap iX500 to scan a ton of paperwork and images, Evernote is one tool that can be used to access and search the resulting information.

If you wondering what the heck the cloud is, it’s just a term for networked storage of documents on servers hosted on the internet, which means you can generally access your files anywhere you are. Besides Evernote, which goes way beyond simple cloud storage, the ScanSnap iX500 also comes with software to access the popular cloud services SugarSync and Dropbox.

On the “Windows only” side of things, the ScanSnap iX500 also comes with an application to scan files to Microsoft SharePoint and Office Live, a trial version of Rack2-Filer Smart, which is a digital document manager, a trial version of Magic Desktop which enables you to sort scanned data or mobile created documents into work and personal groups. The ScanSnap iX500 also comes with the global standard for creating, manipulating and editing PDF files, Adobe Acrobat X Standard. Our review unit did not come with Acrobat, so I won’t be discussing that.

I’m a huge fan of the ScanSnap Organizer software. You can quickly view and edit a PDF file from its built-in viewer and rotate or delete pages that you don’t need. I also like the ability to import a PDF that was previously created by the ScanSnap iX500 and add pages to it with a new scan. You just import the PDF, open it in the built-in viewer and then hit the scan button on the ScanSnap iX500. It will then ask you where you want to append or insert the new scan. This is great if you create a PDF for, say, the current year statements of an account and want to add the new new months in as they arrive.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 is easy to setup and even easier to use. I can see why it has been so heartily recommended. Great tools and services reduce friction, the impediments to getting a task done that cause you to delay or abandon the task. The ScanSnap iX500 smooths the process and can help you reduce the clutter and increase the productivity and peace-of-mind in your life.

It’s also the perfect tool for our article on backing up and archiving the important documents in your life.