HP's Pushbutton Digitizer

By Jamie Bsales | Posted November 16, 2006

If you've been thinking about reducing the paper clutter in your business life, meet your new best friend. The $499 HP Scanjet N6010 will let you digitize and manage paper documents, turn hard-copy printouts into PDFs that you can then store or share via e-mail, scan photos to drop into brochures and presentations, and create a searchable digital contact database from that stack of business cards on your desk.

This compact N6010 is easy to set up and a snap to use. The unit can scan both sides of a double-sided printout at once (a real convenience) and churn through them at a rated 18 pages per minute. Even better, the complete software bundle — PDF creation, copy utility, optical character recognition (OCR) software, document-management software and a business-card database — means you're set to go right out of the box.

No-Hassle Setup
Setting up the N6010 is relatively simple. The package includes a setup and troubleshooting guide for the hardware (software documentation comes on a CD), two installation CDs and a USB cable. Install the software first, power up the scanner, connect the USB cable, and you're ready to go. The software installation isn't as integrated as it could be, though. You have to install each component sequentially and agree to a service license agreement three separate times. And we were never prompted to insert the second CD (containing the ReadIris Pro 11 OCR application). Still, the process took us less than 15 minutes.

For small businesses, ease of use is critical. HP designed the front-panel controls around four one-touch task buttons that let you scan to a PDF document, scan to the document-management software, scan to the copy utility or scan to the business-card software. That means you never need to launch a scanning utility (unless you want to), as the appropriate application launches automatically when the scan is complete.

Create PDFs with One Touch
Our favorite feature is the N6010' capability to scan directly to PDF, which lets you convert any paper-based document (receipts, magazine articles and so on) to a compact digital format that nearly every PC owner can view. This choice is perfect for documents that you need to send to others via e-mail.

The HP Scanner Tools Utility lets you assign default settings — color mode, destination folder, file-naming convention — that will then be applied whenever you hit the Scan to PDF button on the scanner's control panel (note that the default setting is for black-and-white scans, which we suspect most people will want to change). This sort of set-it-and-forget-it convenience helps ensure that even technologically challenged folks can get tasks done, instead of piling documents next to the scanner and hoping they'll get to them eventually.

In our tests, a one-page color brochure with text and photos (scanned at 300 dpi) fed through the scanner and was automatically displayed in Adobe Reader on our PC monitor in 25 seconds. Pushing the quality to the scanner's max of 600 dpi took 40 seconds per page, but the output results were excellent. Our only complaint is the noise the N6010 makes during scans. It's not so much loud as annoying, with all sorts of humming and high-pitched whirring. Fortunately, it churns through pages fast enough that the din ends quickly.


The HP Scanjet N6010
DeskTopper: The upright design lets the HP ScanJet N6010 fit on even the most crowded desk.

Full Software Suite
Beyond the PDF-creation capabilities, HP also bundles all the tools a business user is likely to need. NewSoft's Presto! PageManager 7 for scanning, organizing and sharing documents. A handy thumbnail preview mode lets you see documents in a range of formats at a glance from within the program, and you can set PageManager to automatically back up files so you can restore earlier versions.

HP also includes Presto! BizCard 5SE for digitizing business cards. And here again, the process is easy: Close the scanner's paper guides to their smallest position, place the cards face down in the tray, and hit the Business Card button on the control panel.

A card takes just seconds to scan, and BizCard does a fair job of correctly interpreting the card and placing contact information into the proper fields in its database — though you'll certainly need to proof each card, especially with today's more elaborate business card designs. We like that the clean interface resembles a Roladex entry, with the interpreted data above and a straight image of the card below.

For more complex OCR tasks, you'll need to load the included ReadIris Pro 11 from I.R.I.S Inc. This program can turn printouts into editable documents (with support for more than 120 languages) in a range of formats, including PDF and Microsoft Office.

With its quick set-up, pushbutton ease and fast, high-quality results, the HP ScanJet N6010 is ideal for the business owner who has outgrown the scanner functions found on, say, an all-in-one printer. Once you see how easy it is to use, you'll be inspired to get and stay organized.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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