Scanning For Excellence

The IRIScan Book 2 portable scanner isn’t perfect. But it’s a close enough copy to suit many needs.

File this review of the IRIScan Book 2 portable scanner under “technology does it again.”
Measuring about 12 inches long, and narrow like a long stick of butter, the IRIScan Book 2 slides over a book or sheet of paper and magically picks up the image on that item. (Don’t try that with butter.) Unlike the multifunction printer with which you usually scan, it doesn’t need to be connected to a computer while you’re scanning. So you can take it anywhere your material is. And because it is not a flatbed, you can easily scan books, even if they don’t sit flat.
The designers made a terrific decision when they decided to scan directly onto a microSD flash memory card, the type you find in your smart phone. That gives it plenty of storage for documents and unties the scanner from the computer. Yet, I found I could scan while connected to my laptop via USB cable. That’s when the microSD card looks to the computer like just another disk drive, allowing you to copy your scans onto any disk on your computer, regardless of using a PC or Mac.
The IRIScan Book 2 is powered by two AA batteries. Once you drop them into the scanner, you’re ready to hold down the scan button for a few seconds to turn it on. Then, for each scan, just momentarily press the scan button again, which turns on a green light to indicate you’re scanning. Press it again to stop. The IRIScan also gives you two choices: whether to scan in black and white or color, and whether to scan at 300 dpi (dots per inch) or 600 dpi. Each of these is controlled with a single button click on the top edge of the scanner. It’s quite simple to use and gives good scanned output in PDF format. Just make sure you use a steady hand while scanning.
While the hardware on the IRIScan is excellent, the accompanying software, ReadIRIS 12, is merely handy. It will help you do optical character recognition (OCR) of your scanned documents and convert them into Word or Excel format from PDF. It also works on PDFs that didn’t come from the scanner as well as other types of image files. And it can save documents in PDF format after you have converted the text, as well.
To use ReadIRIS, open a PDF or image file with it. This will load it onto your screen. It then shows an outline wherever it determines the text is on the document. If you’re confident with the selections made automatically, simply click “Recognize + Save” then give it a name and save it. If not, you can remove the automatic text selection then reselect manually.
I found the recognition to be in the 90 percent-plus correct range when I clicked “Recognize + Save” for a typed document that shows right side up on the ReadIRIS screen. If scanned upside down or it’s handwritten text, the recognition is very low.
The resulting Word document is actually a bunch of text boxes, sometimes in mixed fonts, combined with graphics. Not a bad result, but likely not the way you would have created it from scratch. So you’re likely to need to do some editing and proofing if you plan to use the resulting document professionally. Also notably, ReadIRIS can be set up to recognize words in many languages and has an OCR Wizard to walk you through the recognition process.