Sitting on my desk is a pile of at least 200 business cards. I’d like to store the information online then recycle the paper.
That’s easier said than done. It shouldn’t be.
CardScan can do it…
Six years ago I wrote about the CardScan 500 from Cortex Technology for the Sydney Morning Herald. It wasn’t new, the device I used first sold in 1999. For heavens sake, it worked with Windows 95.
CardScan is a range of small scanners designed to read business cards. It came with smart OCR software able to make enough sense of the information on the cards to automatically fill-in the fields in an online address book.
I could buy a CardScan, the product is still available and at $US160, the price isn’t bad.
… CardScan rejected
CardScan wouldn’t be a good idea. When I had the device it sat on my desk unused for weeks at a time, eventually I put in the cupboard so it would stop gathering dust. Getting it out for a single card wasn’t worth the effort, in the end it would get used every three or four months. It made sense when it was shared in a busy office.
There must be a simpler way
I’m on a mission to simplify my life, that means fewer devices, not more. It would be better to use one of the devices I already have: desktop scanner, Android smart phone or iPad. All should be capable of scanning and reading cards.
All promise card scanning. None deliver.
Scanner. Desktop scanners can easily capture card images. I’ve PaperPort 11 and OmniPage, they can OCR the information, but I need to manually cut and paste fields into a database. This would work if I wasn’t so lazy. Scrub that, the effort involved isn’t worth the gain.
Android phone: At least a dozen Android apps promise to scan, interpret and file business cards, non of them work as promised with my phone, which is only five months old and more than powerful enough. I don’t think it is a hardware problem. The apps I’ve seen to date simply aren’t up to the job. To be fair, I haven’t tried every Android business card reading app. Spending on software in this category feels like throwing money away. There are free applications which are lures for paid apps, none are alluring enough.
iPad: Apart from anything else, it feels wrong snapping business cards with the iPad camera and frankly the task is clumsy. There are iPhone business card scanning apps, which may work with the iPad, in my experience iPhone apps are often frustrating to use. I found one business card reading app in the iTunes store: WorldCard HD at US$15 a pop. Going by my Android experience with WorldCard I’m reluctant to stump up the cash.
Update: A couple of people suggested I try Linkedin’s CardMunch, I’m testing it now.