May 16, 2007
DocuPen Executive Kit From Planon
A small portable Scanner
I heard about the DocuPen scanners two years ago. In the past text recognition software always seemed to be lacking in the ability to make real sense out of the scanned document. I am not a typist so correcting pages of messed up text after using OCR was not an option for me.
This chance to look at the Docupen RC 800 Color Scanner Executive Kit has helped to make me more comfortable with the DocuPen product. However I am not completely happy with its ability to scan well enough to easily use Optical Character Recognition Software (OCR) to convert the scanned document to text.
The scanner is slim, more like a Harry Potter Wand than a vacuum accessory. I did have a few difficulties getting started so I called the support line. They were busy so I left my phone number on the answering system. My call was returned in about two hours. They were very responsive and gave me the answers I needed to get up and running. They also sent me a new CD with updated drivers and software.
There are two versions of this product.
The DocuPen RC800 unit includes:
USB cable for communication with PC (Mac) & recharging
A CD with DocuPen Pen Twain driver
DocuPen stand-alone application & PaperPort Software
Quick Start Guide
The Executive Kit (UNIT TESTED HERE) adds:
Additional Memory - a 128 MB memory card
Universal Mobile Charger – A Lithium Ion portable battery for recharging when alternative power is not available recharges the DocuPen up to 55 times on a full charge. This charger can be used to power other portable devices, such as: digital cameras, cell phones, PDA’s etc..
A Universal Memory Reader that enables you to read up to 9 types of memory cards.
Retractable USB Cable for connecting the scanner to your USB port for downloads and charging
Executive Leather Case
A set of connectors that includes cables for charging Ipods, Sony Ericsson cell phones, Nikia cell phones, Mini USB for most PDAs, Motorola Cell phomes, Blackberry, Canon, Olympus, Casio, Minolta, Panasonic, Kyocera, and Fugi Camcorders.
The advertised price for the basic version is $299.00 and $399.00 for the Executive Kit. I have seen the basic unit priced as low as $244.00. The additional accessories included in the Executive Kit are being sold individually on the Planon website for a total of $170.00. Add the packaged connecting cables for charging other electronics as listed above and you can see the Executive package is the best deal if you need the additional accessories. The company recommends you use Sandisk memory cards as they are still checking other manufacturers’ to see if they are compatible. I did not try another company’s card so cannot comment on that.
Planon says you can scan and save hundreds of pages of B&W text but that will not happen using only the 8 Megabytes of internal memory. If you want to scan many documents, photos, or illustrations you will need a memory card. The Executive unit I tested came with a 128 MB Card. I suggest getting 1 Gig or more The entire Executive package comes in a metal box and is protected by some Serious Foam packaging.
Installation and Setup
The box has an instruction card with very basic information on how to install the driver as well as the PaperPort and the DocuPen Scanner Control Software. Simple instructions on how to get started using the DocuPen are on a second card. There is an instruction PDF on the CD that goes into more detail with illustrations. It was easy to install the software on the ThinkPad.
Operation of the DocuPen
The pen is best used while not connected to the computer or the external charger as attached cables can cause skewing as well as some problems with fitting the entire 8.5” page under the unit. It is only 8.9 inches long. You must be careful to place the scanner on the document so as to include all the text or photo. I often missed the right hand side of the document. That made it impossible for the PaperPort OCR software to accurately convert the scanned document to text.
The function indicators are shown in the illustration. You can choose the mode you want to scan in by using the REZ button next to the ON/OFF button. Available choices are: black and white, standard resolution, high resolution, 12 bit or high 24bit color and the resolution from 100 to 400 dpi. The big green M is for memory (changes to RED if no free memory left) and the green Icon next to it is for battery. This seems lots to grasp but it becomes easy after a few scans.
The page you are scanning must be on a flat surface. The scanner should be placed at the top of the page so as to be in a horizontal position. Press the ON button. Wait until all the lights stop flashing. Change the settings to scan the document or photo by pushing the REZ button until the Icon you want is lighted. With a slight pressure toward the direction of the scan proceed to move it at an even pace down the page. This does take a number of tries to get it right. Many of my first tests were tilted. Watch the red X on the scanner. It flashes if you are moving the scanner too fast. Just slow down until the light goes off and keep it at that speed.
I did find that the pen turned off in few seconds during a scan or while idle when it was connected to the USB port. When not connected by USB the scanner stayed on for a while after you scanned the first page so you could scan more pages. This is OK if you have multiple pages as they will then appear as a group in the folder. If you want to file single pages it is best that you let the Pen turn off, restart it, and scan the next item. That allows storing by single pages. I suggest you watch the Icons after completing a scan as the memory light will flash until done saving the document. Depending on your settings saving to memory can take a while for color photos.
Installing or Upgrading the Memory
After testing the DocuPen with only the built-in memory of 8 MB I found that anything other than black and white scans ate up that memory in a hurry. I highly recommend you install the included 128 Memory Card. If you do a lot of photo scanning, you will need to buy one with one gig on it. The memory install is very easy. Open the DocuPen and slid the memory in the slot. Close the door. There is a formatting mode in the DocuPen software that can be used to format the memory card. The formatting also is done each time you dump all the scans stored in the Pen memory to your computer.
This is the center of the DocuPen universe. It handles all scanning duties as well as formatting and emptying the internal and memory card memory banks. Even when you start in PaperPort and click the scan button you will find the DocuPen Software opening to do the job.
This was very easy to use once you had a properly scanned document file. Just click on the thumbnail and drag it to the right Icon (Word, Excel, PDF, etc) and PaperPort will read and display the results in the proper application. The operative words are “Properly Scanned.” I found this a difficult and often irritating learning curve. Photos and illustrations were very easy to get right. Text almost always took three or four scans to get one where most of the text would be recognized.
I started to think it was the PaperPort Software that was falling short. I was wrong. As a baseline test I scanned a page of this review using my HP flatbed scanner. I then moved the scan to the ThinkPad and ran it through PaperPort. PaperPort OCR gave me a perfect text document. My conclusions are that the DocuPen scanner works quite well when archiving photos, illustrations, bills, and plans. It falls short when I asked it to scan for Optical Character Recognition. It does improve when you use the highest resolution it can provide but it still is not able to render text well enough to make me comfortable. I do recommend the product for archival use while away from your desk.
Sample Scanned Color Images