By Nerino Petro at 31 March, 2009, 12:57 pm
Scanning documents is invaluable in reducing the amount of paper that firms must maintain, not to mention how it improves lawyers’ access to that information. However, while large multifunction copiers with scanning capabilities are being used in document centers in more and more offices, for many law practices maximum efficiency can be found by using desktop scanners at individual workstations instead. That approach, though, raises cost and space issues. The KeyScan KS-810 may solve your problems in both areas.
When it comes to scanning everyday papers such as individual letters, notices and other small documents, it can be much more efficient to have them scanned at workstations by the document recipients, versus everybody having to go to the main document center. But the cost of sheet-fed scanners can be daunting to small firms or firms that need to put scanning capability on a significant number of desktops. Also, desktop space is often at a premium, so any solution needs to be small and cost-effective, while providing the capability to scan a variety of document sizes, from business cards to legal-size paper or up.
Back in the 1990s Compaq and Visioneer both sold keyboards with an integrated grayscale scanner, although those models disappeared after a few years. It turns out that this technology came from a small company called KeyScan. Now KeyScan has reintroduced this concept to the marketplace, while simultaneously raising the bar by introducing the KeyScan KS-810 keyboard with an integrated 600 dpi color document scanner. The KS-810 includes an all-in-one software package and a two-port USB hub, which is unique in the desktop scanner market. But does this combination represent a useful melding of tools, or does it suffer, like many other hybrid devices, from loss of functionality or usability? Here’s my take on it.
The feature set. The KeyScan KS-810 has a fullsize QWERTY keyboard with a number pad, function keys, Internet hot keys and multimedia/scanner hot keys. In size, it’s slightly larger than some standard keyboards but still smaller than many other multimedia keyboards, allowing you to add scanning capabilities without sacrificing precious desktop space. Overall, its keyboard is fully functional and can easily replace a standard keyboard.
The color scanner is located at the top right of the keyboard, with the paper-loading slot at the top and the multimedia/scanner keys located on the scanner housing. You can scan documents as small as 2 x 3 inches and as large as 8.5 x 30 inches, and at resolutions as low as 100 dpi and up to a maximum of 600 dpi. On the top left of the keyboard is the two-port USB hub, as well as the USB cable and power cord ports.
The device includes KeyScan’s NoTouch software, which combines scanning, conversion and optical character recognition (OCR) features. For OCR and conversion to MS Word or searchable PDF formats, the software relies on the IRIS character recognition software engine. The big feature of NoTouch is that when Autoscan is enabled, inserting a page into the feed slot will automatically scan the document.
The imaging application included in NoTouch can scan single or multipage documents and output to standard image formats such as JPG, BMP, GIF and multipage TIFF, as well as searchable Adobe PDF, MS Word and WordPerfect formats. My scanning speed for gray-scale letter-size pages averaged between eight and ten seconds per page. While this is too slow for high-volume scanning, it should be suffi cient for smaller offices—and it’s still quicker than having to leave your workspace to use the multifunction machine.
The actual conversion to the designated file format and OCR process, though, was quite fast, and the OCR was accurate in retaining page layout to a great degree. The KeyScan’s imaging application also allows TWAIN-compatible software, such as Adobe Acrobat and OmniPage Professional, to interact with the scanner. Plus, it lets you send scanned images directly to a number of applications from its Application Bar (created when you install the application on your computer). Application Bar programs include MS Word, Adobe Acrobat, WordPerfect and OmniPage Pro. One oddity is that the imaging software doesn’t install a link to PaperPort (a scanning and digital fi le organizing software), although you can use PaperPort with the scanner. The imaging application also provides a COM server so a program can access the scanner using the COM model and insert images into documents.
I did find some minor things not to like. First, the unit requires a separate power brick to power the two-port USB hub, so you have two cables snaking across your desktop. Also, the Read Me file recommends you download and install the latest software but fails to tell you to uninstall the prior version first, which results in a conflict. The NoTouch application interface could use a bit more polish in its appearance and usability, too. Lastly, since scanned documents travel beneath the keyboard, the keyboard is raised slightly so that the keys are a bit higher than a standard keyboard.
Still, I was favorably impressed with the capabilities of the KS-810 and its NoTouch imaging application. This is a good desktop option when the functionality of a standalone sheet-fed scanner isn’t needed or space is at a premium. And its ability to scan multipage documents as well as business cards and legal-size documents is quite useful. Add to that its reasonable price, which is currently $159. It would be hard to find a sheet-fed scanner that takes up no more space than a keyboard and includes the KS-810’s capabilities and functionality for that price. So with that, I consider it a winner.
SCORECARD With a maximum possible score of 20, here is how I rate it:
Ease of Use: 4
Quality of Materials: 5
Feature Set: 5
Value for Cost: 5
Total Score: 19
Since this article was published in the the March 2009 issue of the ABA's Law Practice Magazine, my good friend Ross Kodner posted a dissenting opinion in his March 12th post At First it Seems Like a Good Idea, But Then … I understand his points, but I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree.
As I pointed out in my article, I felt that the KS-810 "… is a good desktop option when the functionality of a standalone sheet-fed scanner isn’t needed or space is at a premium" and I stand by that statement. While I love my Fujitsu sheetfed scanners, there are many folks who just don't have the need OR the spacee for one and the KeyScan KS-810 can fill this niche very nicely. And I don't know about you, but I generaly don't abuse my keyboards where they need to be replaced annually.
In fact, I'm still using the same keyboard at work I bought when I started back in 2006 and at home, I'm using the keyboards that came with the systems when purhcased 3 or more years ago (I've updated the computers, but left the keyboards). The KS-810 was no less solid than those that come with systems from Dell, HP and others, and in fact it is sturdier and with a more solid feel than any keyboard I've used in recent history.
I used the KS-810 everyday as my primary keyboard for over a month before writing my review and my program assitant has been using it for several months now without any issues and we both do a lot of typing. If you have to do a lot of multi-page or high volume scanning or have the desk space and the budget for a sheetfed scanner, than those are great choices; however, if you only do the occiasionl scan of a single or a few pages, don't have any free desktop space or have a really tight budget, the KS-810 may be just what you need.