A compact mobile scanner is a nifty organization and productivity tool for digitizing business cards, receipts, invoices, handwritten notes, or other paper documents you’d otherwise stuff in your pocket, briefcase, or tool chest for retrieval later (that is, if you can find them). Portable scanners get their power either from a USB cable connected to a computer or from an integrated rechargeable lithium ion battery. A mobile scanner can scan a document, in black and white or in color, to a computer, to an SD card, to a storage service in the cloud for digital filing or processing, or to a smartphone. Given its small dimensions and inherent stability on a relatively flat surface, it is easy to use on the fly on the jobsite, in a trailer, or in a vehicle.

The units discussed scan in color or in black and white. They run both Windows and Mac software that converts the scan into a PDF, a searchable PDF (through included OCR software), or JPEG (photo). Many units also include software for adjusting scan settings such as brightness, contrast, and resolution to optimize readability. Every unit covered here comes with a TWAIN driver, which enables communication between the scanner and computer handling software, ensuring compatibility with thousands of image enabled applications and supporting scanning from almost any program with a scan command. Many can interface with third party software such as Microsoft Outlook, Quicken, QuickBooks, or Excel.

Features that you'll hear manufacturers talk about include:

  • Ability to scan to an SD card, USB flash drive, and/or smartphone
  • Simplex (one sided) or duplex (two-sided) scanning
  • Maximum dpi (resolution)
  • Scan speed
  • Minimum/maximum paper size
  • Dimensions
  • Weight
  • Inclusion of a calibration card, carrier sheet to protect a fragile document or photo being scanned, cleaning cloth, and storage pouch or carrying case
  • Ability to scan to the cloud storage services such as OneDrive, EverNote, Box, and DropBox, for convenient retrieval from any computer and for sharing a link
  • Ability to run on battery power without a computer or a USB power cord or first installing software on a computer
  • Wi-Fi capability

All the units below, street-priced between $100 and $200, deliver crisp, sharp scans in both black and white and color. (All photos courtesy manufacturers.)

The Visioneer Mobility Color Simplex Cordless Scanner features a 3-cycle button for selection of color JPG, black and white PDF, or color PDF
The Visioneer Mobility Color Simplex Cordless Scanner features a 3-cycle button for selection of color JPG, black and white PDF, or color PDF


Visioneer Mobility Color Simplex Cordless Scanner
(www.visioneer.com), a manual feed unit, comes with a rechargeable lithium ion battery that can handle 300 pages per charge and has ports for an SD card and a USB flash drive. It can be charged through the USB cable from the computer or at a wall outlet. Out of the box, the unit can scan directly to the SC card or USB flash drive without installing any software. It can also scan to a smartphone using the USB cable that comes with the phone and to other mobile devices that support mass storage. It is also possible to upload photos to the iPad with Apple® Camera Connection Kit (not included) and to Evernote® with an Eye-Fi card (not included). The unit, which comes with a 2 GB micro SD card and adapter into which it fits, ships with Nuance PaperPort, OmniPage, and Mobility PC Connector software.

Pros: easy 3-cycle button for selecting Color JPG, Black and White PDF, or Color PDF image. Well-padded storage pouch offers extra protection on active jobsites.

Cons: resolution only to 300 dpi; unit relatively heavy; Wi-Fi not built into the unit.

Maximum resolution: 300 dpi
Calibration sheet: yes
Carrier sheet: no
Cleaning swab: yes
Storage pouch: yes (padded, zippered)
Maximum paper size: 8.5” x 14”
Maximum speed: 6 ppm
Dimensions: 11.5” x 2.75” x 2"   f
Weight: 1.37 lb.

 

The Brother DSmobile 920DW features a user-friendly LCD display and dedicated scan settings keys
Photos: DS-920dw-leftsample The Brother DSmobile 920DW features a user-friendly LCD display and dedicated scan settings keys

Brother DSmobile 920DW (www.brother.com) manual feed duplex color mobile scanner with Wi-Fi capability has a handy LCD display and dedicated scan settings keys that allow the use of scanning options without a computer. Without any installation of software, the 920DW can automatically save scanned files to an included 4 GB SD memory card which fits into a front port. Just on battery power, a user can scan up to 680 sheets onto an SD card. Without a computer, it’s possible to scan a document and send it wirelessly to a smartphone. Users can also scan to a computer via the same USB cable (included) used for charging the unit. Software included: desktop document and business card management, OCR, and receipt management programs, and BR-receipts offering organization of scanned receipts and data exporting to Quicken® and QuickBooks®
Pros: sliding paper guide; wireless transfer to Wi-Fi enabled computers and mobile devices with Internet browsers
Con: no port for USB flash drive

Maximum resolution: 600 dpi
Calibration sheet: yes
Carrier sheet: yes
Cleaning sheet: yes
Storage pouch: yes
Maximum paper size: 8.5” x 16” duplex or 30” simplex
Maximum speed: 8 ppm
Dimensions: 12.1” x 2.6” x 1.6”
Weight:  1.17 lb.

The DoxieGo is cordless and can be recharged through either the included USB cable or the included wall charger
DoxieGoWifi-ScanPaper-web The DoxieGo is cordless and can be recharged through either the included USB cable or the included wall charger

Doxie Go (www.getdoxie.com) is a cordless manual feed simplex scanner with a built-in battery that can scan about 100 documents per charge and internal memory that can hold up to 450 pages. It comes with a wall charger and a USB cable for downloading the scans, and ports for a USB flash drive and a SD card or wireless SD card. The unit scans to three output formats: PDF, JPEG, and PNG (portable network graphics). An optional sync accessory facilitates scans directly to an iPad or iPhone. Included software ADDYY® OCR. Software capabilities include automatic image recognition to maximize image quality, automatic cropping, rotation and contrast adjustments and scanning to OneNote, Dropbox, EverNote, Google Drive, Flickr, and other online storage solutions. Optional Wi-Fi scans are sent wirelessly into the Doxie app. User can send scanned docs to any app on a computer including Acrobat, iPhoto and Photoshop.

Pro: entirely cordless
Con: no carrying case

Maximum resolution: 600 dpi
Calibration sheet: Yes
Carrier sheet: Yes, a 5” x 7” photo scanning sleeve
Cleaning kit: Yes
Storage pouch: No
Maximum paper size: 8.5” x 15”
Maximum speed: 4.6 ppm
Dimensions: 10.5” x 1.7” x 2.2”
Weight: 14.2 oz.

Canon's Image Formula P-208 features one-pass duplex scanning and has a document guide that holds up to 10 sheets of paper.
Photos: P-208 Canon's Image Formula P-208 features one-pass duplex scanning and has a document guide that holds up to 10 sheets of paper.

Canon Image Formula P-208 (www.canon.com)USB-powered scanner features one-pass duplex scanning and has a document guide that can hold up to 10 sheets of 14–34 lb. bond paper. Without installing any software but just connected via the included USB cable and using just the “lite” software (CaptureOnTouch) pre-loaded into the unit, it can scan directly to the computer.

Pros: has a 10-sheet feeder; can handle a variety of document types including thick, thin, plastic or embossed documents
Cons: relatively heavy; no battery-power option; unlike the other units covered here it does not scan to editable text format

Maximum resolution: 600 dpi
Calibration sheet: no
Carrier sheet: no
Cleaning sheet: no
Storage pouch: no
Maximum paper size: 8.5” x 14”
Maximum speed: 8 ppm simplex/16 ipm duplex (ipm = Impressions Per Minute)
Dimensions: 12.3” x 1.5” x 2.2”
Weight:  1.3 lb.

Fujitsu's ScanSnap S1100 sports a flip-up paper support, saving space on a crowded desk
S1100 Left 3-4, L-Path Paper w-shadow Fujitsu's ScanSnap S1100 sports a flip-up paper support, saving space on a crowded desk

The USB-powered Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 (www.fujitsu.com) manual feed mobile scanner comes with organizational software to handle business cards, receipts, document filing and scanning to the cloud. The software supports auto skew correction and auto color detection. By activating the scanning button and continuing to feed documents, the scanner automatically senses and processes the next page. Pressing the scan button again closes out the task. This process enables creating single or multiple page searchable PDF or JPEG scans. The software supports extracting and exporting of business card contact information, scanning to the computer or printer and to Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Docs for storage in the cloud. Additional software includes ScanSnap Organizer, CardMinder, ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap, Scan to Microsoft® SharePoint®, Evernote Sync to iPad / iPhone and Android
Pro: flip up paper support redirects the paper up rather than out the back, saving space on a crowded desk in a small office or trailer
Con: no battery

Maximum resolution: 600 dpi
Calibration sheet: no
Carrier sheet: no
Cleaning sheet: no
Storage pouch: no
Maximum paper size: 8.5’’ x 34”
Maximum speed: 7.5 sec per page
Dimensions:  10.74” x 1.87” x 1.33”
Weight:  0.77 lbs.

Plustek's MobileOffice S410 features easy operation--one button to scan a card to JPG, another button to create searchable PDFs online
Plustek's MobileOffice S410 features easy operation--one button to scan a card to JPG, another button to create searchable PDFs online

Plustek MobileOffice S410 (www.plustek.com)Compact Color Digitizer for Documents is a simplex manual feed unit that can scan directly to popular cloud services such as Evernote and Google Picasa. It comes with software for advanced image enhancement to adjust brightness, straighten pages, and crop images to minimize file size and boost OCR accuracy. The software also supports thumbnail viewing for easy locating of files. Operation is straight forward – one button to scan a card to JPG, another button to create searchable PDFs. Bundled software: DocAction, ABBYY®, Presto! PageManager, Presto! BizCard.
Pro: small and light, easy to operate
Con: cannot scan without installing software package

Maximum resolution: 600 dpi
Calibration sheet: yes
Carrier sheet: no
Cleaning sheet: yes
Storage pouch: yes
Maximum paper size: 8.5” x 36”
Maximum speed: 6 ppm
Dimensions: 11.61" x 1.97" x 1.59"
Weight: 0.91 lb.

Epson's WorkForce DS-30 has one-touch scan to cloud capabilities
Photos: Epson WorkForce DS-30 has one-touch scan to cloud capabilities Epson's WorkForce DS-30 has one-touch scan to cloud capabilities

Epson WorkForce DS-30 Color Portable Scanner (www.epson.com) manual feed simplex color document scanner, powered only through a USB cable, features one-touch scanning to many popular cloud services, including SharePoint, Evernote, Google Docs, and WebDAV. Included software creates editable text and searchable PDFs and provides adjustment of resolution, brightness, contrast of document, unsharp mask, descreening, text enhancement, and document skew. Bundled software Epson Document Capture, Pro (for Windows), ABBYY®, FineReader®, NewSoft®, PageManager® (for Mac)
Pros: small size, very lightweight - easy portability
Con: no battery

Maximum resolution: 600 dpi
Calibration sheet: yes
Carrier sheet: no
Cleaning sheet: 2 (wet and dry)
Storage pouch: yes
Maximum paper size: 8.5” x 14”
Maximum speed: 4.6 ppm
Dimensions: 10.86" x 1.97" x 1.45"
Weight:  0.7 lb.

Bill and Patti Feldman write frequently about technology for the construction industry. They live in New York state.