Here's something that isn't run of the mill. Fujitsu looks like it has stepped into the shoes of a typical SOHO customer to discover what they might need from a paper document processing perspective. The result is ScanSnap!, a carefully targeted small office hardware and software solution for turning paper documents into electronic ones. But has Fujitsu got it right?

Hardware-wise, the ScanSnap! scanner unit is unglamorous but definitely functional and space-saving. It's an A4 sheet-feed only scanner, so you can't scan books or magazines or stapled documents, but A4 sheets are scanned in under 7 seconds each and the unit can scan both sides of the page at the same time with no measurable throughput penalty, in full colour, at 300ppi.

Up to 50 sheets at a time can be handled by the automatic document feeder (ADF) and the unit is smart enough to detect when a document is in colour or if there is a blank page. Connection to the host PC is via USB 1.1, though a proprietary scanner interface is used, so you can't use the ScanSnap! unit within third party applications.

A full copy of Adobe Acrobat 5.0, which can claim two thirds of the £390 purchase price of the ScanSnap! package, is included. Scanned pages are automatically turned into Adobe PDF documents, but only as captured page images that can't be edited. You can download Adobe's free Paper Capture plug-in to convert PDF documents of up to 50 pages into editable text but you'd be better off investing in something more powerful, like ScanSoft Omnipage or Abbyy Finereader. A neat CardMinder utility is also supplied and this can scan OCR business cards for inclusion in contact databases.

Price when reviewed:

What ScanSnap! is great for is quick and easy digitising of single pages into PDF format files for emailing, archiving, etc. However for the asking price, the lack of top-flight OCR functionality is a serious omission. Ignoring the steep price, if you already have OCR installed, Fujitsu ScanSnap! can be recommended as a surprisingly handy and effective tool.