If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, then tax time is the most dreadful. It's full of stress, worry and pressure as you search for bills, scramble for write-offs and stumble on 20 receipts for shoes your spouse bought last year. After you've had your fight, and she comes back at you with 30 receipts for bowling equipment, which you feebly explain is different, you're going to need to gather and collate everything. A scanner can help. I.R.I.S, a Canon company, has recently come out with several new ones. I evaluated two: the IRIScan Book 5 Wifi and the IRIScan Anywhere 5 Wifi.
IRIScan Book 5 Wifi
Book scanning is not as easy as it would seem. Industrial book scanners are large, cumbersome devices. They can cost into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. So the idea of a handheld book scanner is exciting, especially if you're a researching super-geek. Disappointingly, however, I found that with the IRIScan Book 5 Wifi the flaws outweigh the benefits.
The IRIScan Book 5 Wifi is a sleek rectangle measuring 0.87 inches X 10.19 inches X 1.49 inches. It's available in red, white, black or turquoise. It's very light at 5.4 ounces and will fit easily into just about any laptop bag.
The scanner's housing is made of plastic with a 1.5-inch LCD color display. Also plastic are the control buttons, which unfortunately give the scanner a chintzy feel. Metal or some other material would have made a big difference. With the scanner, you get a micro-USB cable, a bag to protect your scanner, a 4 GB micro-SD card and an SD card adapter.
Problems started with setup. The Quick User guide that came in the box was unsatisfactory in that its instructions were spartan. I advise going straight to the online guide if you purchase this scanner. But hold onto the Quick User guide as it contains key information like your activation codes and your Wifi password.
First the good -- the IRIScan Book 5 Wifi is fast. Though I scan somewhat regularly, I have not kept up with the state-of-the-art in scanners so I was duly impressed with its speed. I.R.I.S. says it will scan black & white high resolution in three seconds, low resolution color in two seconds, and black & white low resolution in one second. Low resolution is fine for tax purposes. That means you'll be scanning a page a second. The quality of the scans are also good. I scanned some colorful magazine pages and it represented the colors faithfully. It will scan in 300 dpi, 600 dpi and 1200 dpi.
However, IRIScan Book 5 Wifi is designed for books. "Book" is in its name. And here there's a major problem with its design. This scanner has trouble capturing a book page because there's a 1-inch margin between the edge of the device and the scanner sensor. The margin is less at the other end at under 0.5 inches. Below is an image of the IRIS Book 5 showing the margins around the sensor.
Those margins, and the fact that the sensor isn't flush with the edge, makes scanning the page of a book challenging at best.
If you're only interested in scanning magazines, whether to capture recipes, articles, or what have you, the Book 5 Wifi may be worth considering.
The scanner's software strained my patience as I discovered there's more than one piece of software. I ended up with four shortcuts on my PC: IRS Compressor, Read IRIS Pro, InstantResult (which I could not get to work) and I.R.I.S. Resource Center.
There is also an app for your mobile device as the scanner is WiFi-enabled. The app, IRIScan Book, was disappointing in that it only showed a list of images, and not thumbnails. If you want to select only one or two images to download from your mobile device, and you've taken a bunch, you won't be able to sift them out. All you'll see is IMAG0001, IMAG0002, etc. String a dozen of those together and good luck. You'll need to download them all to find which ones you want.
Also discouraging is that I.R.I.S. charges extra for additional apps. Want to convert paper documents to Word? That's $4.99. Paper to PDF? That's $3.99. IRIScan to Text? $2.99.
One bright spot is that the OCR (Read IRIS Pro) did a first-class job, even with foreign names and places, which I expected it to trip up on. This despite the worrisome fact that in the help section of the software it says it has been designed for a Windows 7 operating system and boasts that it has been "updated to a Microsoft Office 2013 look." I'm sorry. What year is it again?
The IRIScan Book 5 Wifi attempts to offer versatile connectivity. But you have to get off your own Wifi in order to connect to the scanner's Wifi. You can then go to a browser and open a URL to see your images – only again you see a list of image names, not thumbnails – essentially forcing you to download everything. When I did download everything, they weren't saved as jpegs but as a tar file, which was unrecognizable by any software on my computer.
Eventually, I concluded the best way to get documents off the scanner and onto my computer was to plug it in via the included micro-USB cable and open the folder on the scanner that contained them, just as I would open a file from any hard drive.
There's more I could say about the IRIScan Book 5 Wifi. To be charitable, I feel that the scanning speed and image quality are strong. Ultimately, however, this product needs an overhaul, both with the scanner and the software. If you're shopping for a book scanner, it behooves you to look at other options first.
IRIScan Anywhere 5 Wifi
The IRIScan Anywhere 5 Wifi, which is designed for scanning on the go, does work better than the Book 5 Wifi, which it strongly resembles in appearance, but with the addition of a base so that you can feed papers through it. There's also a tab you can adjust for different size documents to create an edge when feeding.
The Anywhere 5 is plenty fast, delivering identical speeds as the Book 5 Wifi. Just insert the page and the scanner auto-feeds. If you have a stack of papers of the same size, you will get a lot scanned in a short time. The Anywhere 5 isn't designed to scan books so the unique difficulties associated with doing so don't apply. Any 8.5 inches X 11 inches (A4 size) page will go through smoothly.
When it comes to its computer software, the Anywhere 5 Wifi scanner uses the same ones as the Book 5 Wifi and so suffers many of the same deficiencies, with the important exception of the excellent OCR. The Anywhere 5 Wifi manages to add yet another piece of software, one dedicated to scanning business cards. I started to wonder if I.R.I.S. was going for the record of most pieces of software for a single product.
In terms of connectivity, I found the mobile app, IRIScan to Cloud, worked better than the Book 5 app. Here you can view thumbnails. Why I.R.I.S. decided not to do this with its Book 5 app is a mystery. In any case, thumbnails are a huge improvement over lists and I was able to select the images I wanted to download. In addition, IRIScan to Cloud can upload images directly to social media and various cloud services, from DropBox to OneDrive.
The IRIScan Anywhere 5 Wifi scanner does an excellent job capturing loose-leaf paper, receipts and photos. While I still wrestled with the software on the computer side, the mobile app was better than the one for the Book 5. If you'll be saving documents on the go, particularly to your smartphone, this is a viable option.