Iris IrisCard Anywhere 4 review

The IrisCard Anywhere 4 business card scanner cleverly combines hardware and software to assist anyone who collects lots of business cards.

Price
£96

If you are the kind of person that goes to a lot of conferences or networking events then you probably find yourself picking up plenty of business cards. Even in this modern age, that old fashioned small rectangle of card seems to be the most popular way of exchanging contact details with someone you meet face-to-face.

However, when you get back to the office, you are left with the tediously time-consuming task of typing the contents of these cards into your computer. Thankfully, you can just simply scan the cards into your computer instead.

There are several business card scanners on the market. The IrisCard Anywhere, the latest model from long-standing manufacturer Iris, looks very impressive on paper. The Anywhere is a small, portable, battery powered scanner that can scan not only business cards but also other documents up to A6 in size (105 x 148mm). The bundled software can store the scanned information and export it to a wide range of applications and data formats.

The scanner's small dimensions of 160mm long, 43mm tall and 56mm deep means it shouldn't take up much room in a laptop bag. It is powered by its own internal battery, which is charged via a mini-USB cable. Iris claims the battery is good for more than 150 scans.

Since scans can be stored on the scanner's internal 512MB of flash memory, cards can be scanned without the aid of a computer. Alternatively, scans can be saved to a USB flash drive, or to an SD card (or microSD card in an SD adaptor). These ports and slots are located on the back of the scanner. A 1GB SD card is supplied which should be more than enough storage. Scanned cards are, by default, saved as JPEG files. In our tests, these were between 102kb and 228kb in size depending on its complexity.

The scanning procedure is very straightforward. Having inserted the SD card or USB stick, or left the slots empty if you want scans stored on the scanner's internal memory, you press the power button and wait the adjacent light to stop blinking. You then feed a card into the front of the scanner and it is pulled through to the back. Then you feed in another card, then another and so on.

The scanning process is fast, and usually processing is finished by the time a card is spewed out of the back of the scanner. Only really colourful cards, or those containing photographs, seemed to need a bit longer. A light flashes while processing is underway, and it goes out when processing is finished so that you know you can insert a new card.

You can leave your business cards as JPEG files, but doing so seems like a waste when you can use the contact details from each card in other software. To make that happen, you need to use the provided CardIris Pro 5 software.

When connected via USB to your PC or Mac, the scanner's storage acts like any external drive, so you can view its contents and delete them when you've imported cards to the Cardiris Pro 5 software.

CardIris Pro 5 imports multiple scanned cards as a batch and uses optical character recognition (OCR) to read the contents of your scanned cards. It then creates entries for each contact in its database and fills in the appropriate fields. Inevitably, its OCR didn't get it right all the time, but it was pretty accurate, and the very well designed user interface makes it easy to correct any errors.

CardIris' contacts database has a fairly good range of fields for contact information including Skype number, email and web site address. You can add custom fields for otherwise unsupported information, such as a Twitter name.

The program is a basic but competent contacts manager. Data can be exported from CardIris Pro 5 to a wide range of external contact management applications including GoldMine, Lotus Notes, Outlook, Outlook Express and GroupWise, and to a variety of formats including HTML, XML, vCard, .csv, JPEG, TIFF, and even straight into an email.

It can retain the scanned card images as an aide memoir. You can view both the front and back of each card, rotate and crop cards, and even change the brightness and contrast of each image. More usefully, you can attach notes and a picture of the person in question to each business card.

There's no getting away from the fact that the OCR capability in CardIris Pro 5 is not perfect, so you will need to check every scan over and make a few tweaks here and there. This wasn't a time-consuming task though, and the scanning process is straightforward too.

Overall, the IrisCard Anywhere is a clever product that does its job well. What may prove more troublesome is being diligent enough to use it regularly, instead of accumulating a huge pile of unscanned cards.

Verdict

The IrisCard Anywhere 4 can be used to scan business cards and then store their contents – as well as facsimiles of the cards themselves. The CardIris Pro 5 desktop software, which works on both Macs and PCs, can be used as a contacts database and can also export contact data to a wide range of external applications and file formats. Some tweaking of the scanned and processed text may be required, but voracious business card collectors will find this perfectly acceptable.

Document feeding: Sheet feed type (single) Resolution (default): 300dpi Document Size (Max): Up to A6 Interfaces: SD, xD, MS, MS Pro, MMC, USB Slave (type-B Mini), USB Host (Type-A) for USB flash drive Output File format: JPEG On-board flash memory: 512MB Battery: 700 mAh Lithium polymer rechargeable battery through USB cable

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