- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

It may be a sign of mania, but I’ve been on a couple of “jags” lately. One is country music (that Ashton Shepherd sure has a nice voice, and what about Darius Rucker?), and the other is getting my stuff together. Truth be told, I’m doing better with country than with organizing.

But I’m trying. Last week, on seeing my review of Neat Receipts for Mac, the folks at CardScan in Cambridge, Mass., got onto me about their new CardScan Executive for Mac, a $260 gizmo that plugs into your Mac, scans business cards and creates a database for you. You can then export the data to Apple’s AddressBook.app and sync it to your iPhone.

If you’re the kind of person who comes back from trade shows and business meetings with a fistful of name cards, you know how useful something such as this can be. It took me well under half an hour to scan in 83 business cards, something that might have taken me the better part of three hours to enter manually, assuming I could maintain a pace of one card every two minutes.

I believe this is the first stab that CardScan, which I’ve seen evolve over the years on the Windows side of things, has made at the Mac market, and it’s probably for the same reason Neat Receipts is doing its product for the Mac: There’s money in the market. However, the CardScan implementation seems to be much better, off the bat, particularly for its purpose of “reading” business card data and creating a contact list from those cards.

In testing, I simply installed the CardScan software, connected the small scanner (like the Neat Receipts, it runs off the power sent through a Mac’s USB port) and was off to the races. I can’t recall a time when something like this has worked as well as quickly, straight off the bat. It’s a sign, to this reviewer at least, that the company has thought- and engineered-through all the kinks, or most of them.

Not every business card scans perfectly. Those created with software on a personal computer, such as BeLight’s Business Card Composer 4.0, were not as well-read as those that come from a professional printing operation. Type that appears on gray backgrounds, or “reverse” lettering (white on red, for example) is also tough to have recognized by the software.

CardScan lets you compensate for that in two ways: One, it offers ways to edit the list you create and revise items that aren’t clear. Also, it stores an image of the scanned card, which you can magnify to view the data and then enter.

So, no, CardScan isn’t 110-percent automatic, it isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. But what it does do is make the process so very much easier that you (or an assistant) can turn a chore into something more pleasant.

Is it worth $260 - or roughly the cost of a football Sunday for four at FedEx Field in the cheap seats - to buy this? It depends: If Willy Loman is your role model, or if you spend your days prowling the halls of Congress, keeping contacts in order is vital.

NeatReceipts for Mac, which is promising a much more robust version in January, says that software will include business card scanning. Let the battle begin?

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com