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TUAW review and giveaway: Doxie portable scanner

The dictionary defines "doxy" as a lover or mistress, so it's not surprising that the new Doxie portable scanner from Apparent has pink hearts as a defining graphic feature. The hearts are in the dock when you have the Doxie software running, there's a pink heart over the "i" in Doxie, there's a string of eight progressively smaller pink hearts along the front of the device, and to scan, you push a big button with a pink heart on it.

Apparent's product is a very capable product, despite the graphics which make it appear to be something designed for little girls. Fortunately, the company realizes that the pink hearts might not be acceptable to manly men, so the scanner comes with a choice of stick-on skins that provide it with more masculine zebra hide, wood grain, plain black, blue and white sky scape, Scottish tartan, and black-and-blue plaid appearances (see below). Read on as I give this new entry to the portable scanner market a full workout, and then enter our giveaway to get a chance to win a Doxie for yourself.
There's also a nice little carrying bag that is thoughtfully heart-free. My personal choice would be either the wood grain, which would match my desk, or the zebra hide. Hopefully the company will also come out with an optional camo skin for Doxie...
Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you certainly can't judge Doxie by her girlish looks.

To start scanning, you need to download and install the Doxie software. Rather than include a CD, Doxie comes with instructions to download the latest version from the Doxie website. The current version of the software, 1.0, was released earlier this week. The software comes in a standard Mac .dmg disk image file -- unfortunately, there are no instructions to drag the heart-shaped Doxie icon to your Application folder, so many Mac newbies are going to just run the software from the disk image. That's not good practice, and the folks at Apparent should be sure to tell Mac users to drag the app file to their Application folder, then eject the disk image.

Once the software is installed, you simply plug one end of the included USB cable into a powered USB hub or directly into your Mac. That's it -- there's no power supply to plug in or to lug with you when traveling. The Doxie software initially asks you to do a calibration, which involves putting a special piece of paper into the scanner face down and pushing the signature Doxie heart button. Whirring ensues, and within about 30 seconds Doxie is ready to go. She even made me an indecent proposal:
The software is remarkably easy to use. You choose the type of scan to make -- document or photo -- and then set the resolution and color of the scan. If you choose the defaults, Doxie will scan photos in color at 300 dpi and documents in 200 dpi grayscale. You insert the document to be scanned and then push the pink button, either on the scanner or in the dialog seen above. After the scan is complete, you can choose where to save it. How easy is the scanning process? I'd like to give my Dad one of these, since he's continually sending me awful scans that he makes on his HP All-in-one printer.

Scans can also be saved to various applications. On my Mac, Doxie recognized that I had Adobe Reader, Preview, Evernote, and iPhoto installed, so it provided those apps as destinations for my newly-scanned files. Doxie can be set up to scan directly to a number of cloud services. At this time, you have your choice of Fickr, Google Docs, Picnik, Scribd, Tumblr, and Twitter. There's also a free cloud storage service called Doxie Cloud where you can save and share scanned documents for up to 3 months.

Scanning is simple: you put your item to be scanned into Doxie's slot (yes, I know that sounds bad...) and press the heart button. The slot is about the width of a standard piece of letter paper, which gives you an idea of the maximum size of documents you can scan.

Unlike some other portable scanners, Doxie can handle color photos as well as those black and white receipts. The software resolutions from 75 to 600 dpi in color, B&W, or grayscale. For scanning receipts and the like, I found the grayscale setting to work fine. On occasion, the scans would be slightly tilted, indicating that the paper might not have been placed precisely into the scanning slot.

Photos, on the other hand, were somewhat more problematic. In my test scans, the scanner almost always left a gap at the bottom of the scan as if it were not pulling in the photo properly. I tried scanning the photo in sideways and upside-down, and found that when I scanned the photo sideways, it always worked properly. Scanning the photo in the "correct" orientation -- with the top of the photo going into the slot -- the scan always had white "gaps" that appeared as highlighted in the red boxes below. I initially thought this could be an indication of a software issue.
I decided to try another photo and had the same issue. About this time I thought it might be a good idea to recalibrate the scanner, although I had calibrated it prior to beginning my test scans. When that was completed, I tried again. Same problem. I watched the next couple of scans closely and noted that when I put the glossy photos into the scanner in their correct orientation, they were pulled slightly off-center during the scan. That was the culprit that was causing the white gaps to appear. Scanning the photos in sideways, the photos didn't "twist" and the scans worked well. Since Doxie's software includes a rotation button, this worked fine.

How was color accuracy? I made two scans of the same photo (Denver's old airport sometime before the advent of security), one using Doxie (at left below), the other my Epson Perfection 4490 Photo scanner (at right below). While the Doxie seemed to have a somewhat greenish cast to the sky, a close look at the original photo indicated that the scan was actually closer to the color of the original.
Many of the Doxie images were darker than the Epson images, but in all cases both the color and brightness could be adjusted before saving. There's even an Auto Adjust button that attempts to make changes in brightness and saturation for you, and it worked well. See the following screen shot for an idea of how the photo scan software works:
Doxie comes with a nice, long USB 2.0 cable and a carrying bag, so it would work well on a business trip. The price of the Doxie scanner is quite reasonable at a suggested retail price US$129. The Epson Perfection 4490, which is a much more capable (but definitely not portable) scanner was available from various online retailers for as low as $125. Neat's NeatReceipts Mobile Scanner is very similar to Doxie, and is considerably more expensive at $229 suggested retail (online prices were around $179). Neat's software is incredibly more powerful than Doxie's, however -- it can parse information out of scans and save the text in a variety of formats.

It all boils down to what you need. If you want a very mobile scanner that can handle both color and monochrome documents with ease, and then share them to a number of locations, then Doxie is for you. If you just have the need for scanning receipts and you own an iPhone, you might want to consider one of the many scanner apps (JotNot, for example) that turn your phone into a virtual scanner. For those of you who need the power of OCR in a mobile scanner, then the NeatReceipts Mobile Scanner is probably your best bet. And for those of you who have large batches of photo or document scans to make, then a dedicated desktop scanner is going to do the job for you.

One more thing... Doxie is the first product I think I've ever reviewed that comes with its own comic book. It's called "Will Doxie find love?" and since the dictionary also defines doxy as an archaic name for a prostitute, I'm sure she'll have no problems finding friends.

Doxie has a few minor flaws (not being able to consistently pull in scan-able materials completely straight), but for the most part it's a well thought-out, easy-to-use, and very compact product

And how about this: TUAW is giving one lucky reader their very own Doxie!

All you need to do is tell us in the comments section what you want to scan with your Doxie. We'll randomly pick a winner for this cool new device. Here are the details:
  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • To enter, leave a comment telling TUAW what you'd like to scan with your new Doxie.
  • The comment must be left before midnight on Sunday, April 18th, 2010, 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Prize: An Apparent Doxie mobile scanner with a value of US$129.00
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.


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Peripherals

The dictionary defines "doxy" as a lover or mistress, so it's not surprising that the new Doxie portable scanner from Apparent has pink...