Paper Receipts vs. Electronic Receipts - Episode 3

21 April 2011 05:39 PM CDT

Time for the final installment in my series on receipts. Just for catch up, so far I've discussed why I find receipts important (little pieces of immense amounts of data), companies trying to digitize and bring receipts into the 21st century, and the potential opportunities available to someone who can successfully merge receipts, loyalty programs, and social commerce. Today I conclude with a discussion of a hardware and software maker.

NeatDesk for Mac Box

I recently purchased a NeatReceipts scanner. I love it. The manufacturer, The Neat Company, has been making receipt scanners for quite some time. You may recall seeing their advertisements and their products in the SkyMall catalog in airplanes. I've always wanted one but have been waiting for an Apple compatible version. They now have an Apple compatible version and I'm a proud owner. I bought the NeatDesk, which is a document feed scanner.

You can load various documents (business cards, receipts, and regular documents) into the feeder and can scan batches and batches of paper. The included software, NeatWorks, helps you maintain a digital file cabinet. You can create various "drawers" (i.e. Receipts, Business Contacts, Home Mortgage Legal Documents, etc.), and can then scan and sort all kinds of paperwork. The software has Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which can recognize text and convert it digitally. The reason OCR is so important is that it allows you to search your collection for specific information. Using the Spotlight feature in the Mac's operating system you can search for specific terms, such at "Home Depot" if you're looking for a specific receipt for a return or a warranty. The other amazing aspect of OCR is that it can pull data out of your documents and then pre-populate various fields in the NeatWorks software. The software includes various profiles for different kinds of documents (i.e. Receipt, Contact, Document, etc.). If you are scanning receipts the software will recognize that you are scanning receipts, and will then pull data into a spreadsheet, including anything from Vendor, Date, Method of Payment, Total, Sales Tax, etc. You can then export all of your data as an Excel spreadsheet (or a Quicken file), or you can export your entire database as individual PDFs, images, or many other formats.

The scanner and software literally create an entirely digital collection that is searchable and manipulable. You can take your database and do anything you want with the data (i.e. overlay your receipts on a Google map, analyze where you spend the most money, determine how much money you spent on sales tax over a given period of time, etc.). Naturally, there are numerous tax preparation benefits as well.

So, as a receipt scanner and receipt digital manager I'm sold. Also, the other features (document feed scanner, OCR, and the ability to create and export numerous file formats including PDF), have me over the moon. I've scanned old family letters, large family history documents and research, various health care documents, important insurance information, and many other vital documents I wanted to create a digital copy of. As advertised, the NeatDesk literally creates a digital file cabinet. Now go get one!