For any business, detailed bookkeeping demands meticulous tracking of every receipt that crosses your desk. Though traditional analog filing is an important part of keeping organized, scanning receipts provides both a convenient way to store and share these documents and an additional layer of backup should anything happen to your hard copies. Though receipt scanners have their place, there are other ways to capture even the largest, most unruly pile of receipts and retain them for digital safekeeping.
Standard Flatbed Scanner
When you take into account its larger size and multiple additional uses, a standard flatbed scanner can represent a lower monetary investment in the long term when compared to a dedicated receipt scanner. Unlike receipt scanners, flatbed scanners will scan multiple receipts at once -- as many as you can fit on the glass. However, you may have to separate those receipts into separate image files, depending on your business's record-keeping conventions and whether you'd like to process your scans with optical character recognition (OCR).
Smartphone Document Scanning Apps
A growing number of mobile applications for various smartphone platforms leverage the capabilities of installed cameras to capture receipts as photographs rather than as scans. Blackberry and Windows phone users have Receipt Reader, which uses OCR to extract information from photographs of receipts and places them into a table that can be exported as a PDF or in a format readable by Microsoft Excel. Android users have OCR Test, an open-source, experimental app that offers free OCR and even a live preview of how the app's internal engine perceives images from the camera. IPhone users have JotNot Scanner Pro, which offers image enhancement and cropping but does not include OCR capabilities. Note that you may have to pay for some of the apps.
Holistic Note Collection Tools
If your business already uses an integrated note collection solution such as Evernote, Microsoft OneNote or Springpad, you can take photographs of your receipts using any digital camera and import them into your existing database. As of the date of publication, Springpad does not support OCR. However, Evernote automatically runs OCR on any imported image. For OCR in OneNote, use the Document Imaging utility included in the Microsoft Office software suite.
Cloud and Through-the-Mail Scanning Services
OfficeDrop, which gained some attention from CNet, BusinessWeek and other outlets when it was known as Pixily, offers users the ability to mail in hard copies of receipts and other documents and have them scanned and returned in digital format. OfficeDrop can also send your receipts to an existing Evernote account. Similar services gaining traction include Shoeboxed and Expensify, both of which combine through-the-mail scanning services with the option to capture and send receipt images for OCR processing via integrated mobile apps. Most of these services are fee-based, depending on the number of documents you want scanned.
- Shoeboxed: Online Receipt & Business Card Management System
- Expensify: Expense Reports That Don't Suck!
- BusinessWeek: Pixily Moves Your Paper Documents Online
- CBS News: Let Shoeboxed Scan Your Receipts, Store Them in Evernote
- Android Market: OCR Test
- ITunes Preview: JotNot Scanner Pro
- CBS News: Receipt Reader Turns Your Smartphone Camera Into a Receipt Scanner
- Microsoft: About Microsoft Office Document Imaging
- Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
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