Strobe Pro NY Visioneer
£179.99 (including VAT)
If there's one single bit of hardware that I had to choose as the best bit of kit I've ever had, it would have to be the Visioneer PaperPort. Renamed the Strobe Pro, this was one of the first kitchen roll-sized sheetfed scanners. Now it, and the company that makes it, is back.
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The Strobe Pro NT has always been one of those rare products focussed sharply on one key function: breaking down the barrier between paper and PC. Sitting neatly between keyboard and monitor, its L-shaped paper path means that you can feed a page into the front and it comes out the top.
Its excellent PaperPort Deluxe document management software handles your scans expertly. Like very few other products (the Palm PDA would be another), the Strobe Pro just does one job very well.
The Strobe Pro NT now features USB (and parallel and serial port) connectivity with Win98 and NT4, as well as 300dpi, 30-bit colour. Set up is straightforward. And scanning itself is very quick - an A4 page will whip through in about five seconds.
But this product is as much about the software as the hardware. The PaperPort Deluxe software uses an Explorer-like interface, with folders in a left pane and thumbnails of the contents of that folder in the main, right pane. You can even, with the latest version, open hard drive folders and PaperPort will create thumbnails of files of 38 different file types, including MS Office.
Along the bottom of the interface is a row of icons for different programs or devices. Drag a scan onto one of these and the appropriate action will be triggered - drag it onto the printer and it will print, on to the e-mail icon and it will become an attachment in a new e-mail, onto the Word icon and it will automatically get OCR'd and entered into a new document.
My one concern is Visioneer itself. This is a company that has a patchy record in its commitment to the UK - it came, it went, it said it would come back and now it has. My recommendation is that you assure yourself of its support before purchase.
With that caveat, I still recommend the Strobe Pro as the best sheetfed scanner around. I use it all the time in a Canutian battle against the waves of paper that flood in front of me.
It's a great ally. It just works.