Moving to a paperless life three years ago was an immensely liberating experience. Not only did I free up space by getting rid of a filing cabinet, but I had fast, easy access to all my paperwork no matter where I happened to be. Documents I need access to on the move are stored on my iPhone and iPad. Virtually all that is left in paper form is my passport and driving license.

One key aspect of living paperlessly is scanning any paper documents as soon as they arrive, which is done using a Fujitsu ScanSnap portable scanner. Portability wasn’t the driver for me – I just loved the tiny footprint, allowing me to keep it on my desk permanently while losing next to no desk-space.

Fujitsu has today launched an updated model, this one offering wifi as well as wired scanning, including direct to iPhone and iPad. I’ve been trying it out for the past couple of weeks so that I could share my thoughts the same day it goes on sale … 

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First impressions

For me, as an existing user of its non-wireless predecessor, it looked almost identical to my existing model. To anyone else, your first impression is likely to be much the same as it was when I took delivery of that model: extremely compact, a bit plasticky in appearance but solid-feeling in the hand.

It’s a little wider than an A4 or US letter sheet of paper, around 5cm deep and 4cm high. It comes with a microUSB cable – used for wired connection to a Mac and for charging the built-in battery – and a DVD with the Mac app, ScanSnap Manager. A DVD felt a little quaint these days, when most Macs no longer have an optical drive, but you can also download the app online.

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Quality

It’s worth making the point that while the iX100 will scan anything you feed into it, it’s not designed for photographs. It’s a 300dpi scanner, which is more than good enough for accurate, readable scans of color documents, but absolutely not good enough for photo editing. The iX100 is all about scanning paperwork.

It copes with paperwork of all sizes, from business cards and credit card receipts to A4/US Letter pages. You can even fold A3 pages in two and the software will automatically detect that you’ve scanned two halves of a page and stitch them back together for you.

Wired use with a Mac

Once the software is installed, switch on the scanner by pressing the single button on it, or by opening the flap ready to insert a sheet of paper. Your Mac recognizes the scanner with a brief message, and you’re then ready to go.

ScanSnap Manager has lots of different options in terms of what happens when you scan a document, including scanning to email, to Word, to iPhoto and to Google Docs. I set Scan to Folder as the default action.

To scan a single sheet of paper, simply hit the button on the scanner once to begin and again afterwards. For multipage documents, the app keeps scanning pages into a single document until you hit the button again. It’s very quick and easy.

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If you have room on your desk, as I do, scanned sheets take a straight path and exit the back of the scanner. If you’re pushed for space, you can instead flip up a flap at the top and pages feed back on themselves.

The software shows you previews of each page as it scans, and you can press the Finish Scanning button in the app instead of pressing the button on the scanner if you wish. Here I’m being a little meta by scanning a page about the scanner.

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Once complete, the default filename is the date and time of the scan. Click the filename to edit it.

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The process couldn’t be easier, the boxes popping up automatically when the scanner is used.

You can browse to where you want each document scanned, but personally I’ve found it to be quicker and easier to scan to a standard folder and then move documents to wherever they are needed. I typically scan two or three documents when the post arrives, and it’s easier to just open the folder and drag them to their destinations.

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Wireless scanning to an iOS device

Scanning to an iPhone or iPad is done via wifi, with a choice of going via a router or creating a direct connection to the scanner, which generates its own wireless network.

Switch on the scanner by pressing the button or opening the flap, and make sure the wifi switch at the rear of the scanner is on. I just left this on permanently.

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When you open the free ScanSnap app, you go into Settings and hit Connect to. The name of the scanner appears, tap that to connect.

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You’ll be prompted for a password, which can be found on the bottom of the scanner. This is to ensure that someone else within wifi range can’t direct scans to their device.

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Password entered, you’ll then get confirmation that you’re ready to scan.

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Again, you can either hit the physical button on the scanner or tap the Scan button in the app to begin scanning, and again you get previews as you go.

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Scanned files appear in a list in the app.

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Opening them gives you three options: print (if you have an AirPrint-compatible printer), Send by email (which opens a new email with the document as an attachment) or Open in an app.

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The apps it can be opened in depend on the format in which you scan and which iOS apps you have installed. I scan to PDF, and keep my stored PDFs in GoodReader, but you can see here it offers me a few other options.

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Conclusions

I was already a massive fan of the iX100’s wired predecessor, the $199 S1100, providing decent-quality document scanning in an incredibly neat form factor.

Personally, I don’t have a tremendous need for on-the-move scanning. I do tend to scan documents at the earliest possible opportunity, but for any paper I acquire while out-and-about, I’m happy enough to use my iPhone camera with a scanning app.

However, at $229, adding battery power and the ability to scan to iOS devices only carries a $30 premium. You are giving up a little quality – 300dpi vs 600dpi of the wired model – but in real-life use, I could see no practical difference. As I said at the outset, this is a scanner for documents, not photos (where you’d want way higher than 600dpi anyway). For the $30 price difference, I’d say it’s a no-brainer to have the additional flexibility of the new model.

If you’re not already living a paperless life, you’ll want to borrow a sheet-fed scanner to cope with the initial mass of papers. But once that job is done, a sheet-fed scanner is massive overkill for keeping up with day-to-day paperwork. The iX100, on the other hand, is tailor-made for the job of digitising the paper that enters your life on a daily basis.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 goes on sale today, priced at $229. The wired-only S1100 is available for $199.

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