Saturday, August 02, 2008

Use Scanr and feel like James Bond

Scanr.com is one of several websites where you can send a picture and they will mail back a PDF of the picture. Scanr has worked it's way in as one of the tools I frequently use to be more productive.

I first learned about Scanr, and other services like it on Lifehacker.com. As I checked them out, Scanr.com had the simplest and most straight forward sign up process. You simply mail a picture to doc@scanr.com, wb@scanr.com or bc@scanr.com (more on the last two later) from your device (computer or handheld device with a camera) and you are returned a code to associate your device with your site login.
You get a free trial period, which turns out to be unlimited usage for almost 6 months, to try out their service. Since I signed up, they started showing their subscription plans and I can convert my trial to a paid account. Since I'm cheap, I'll keep going with the free version for a while.

Those that know me, know that I am a geek. I'm proud of being a geek and when I'm in a meeting which has seen heavy white board use, I'll bust out my camera and take a picture of it. I used to then transcribe it later, but with Scanr, in minutes I can have it turned into a PDF and meeting notes can be sent on their way.

I currently have a boss who loves to sketch stuff out on a white board. He doesn't have a meeting without using the white board. We were at an off-site training session and he had to go 6 hours without touching the white board which I'm sure was pretty tough for him. But after the days training, we stayed late and made use of their spacious white boards. And as I saw my compatriots picking up their pens to take notes, I quickly pulled out my camera and said, "I've got this one."

I make good use of Scanr for documents too. In my MBA program, we get graded group assignments or sample exams with feedback and since we are spread all over the Eastside, we email them around. But paper is really hard to email. So, again, out comes the camera and I feel like James Bond stealing secret documents as I stand there and shoot pictures of the pages. I send them to Scanr and I get back my PDF (which reported supports color now, though I haven't seen it yet).

Another use I have is for online homework submissions. I'm an engineer way down inside (it goes with the geekiness), so I like to do homework with a pencil, a Pentel P205 mechanical pencil, to be precise. However, this makes it difficult to submit homework online, one of the recent developments in education. But with Scanr, it becomes a non-issue. I can do my homework by hand, convert it to a PDF, embed it along with the spreadsheets or documents and then post it online.

Scanr also will convert business cards to a .VCF file, which is useful if your address book supports them. I don't trade too many business cards, so the few times I've used this feature has been a bit of a novelty.
Once you have your scan within Scanr, you can send the document to your contacts, either as an email or a fax. Scanr provides the ability to create a contact list by importing from several different address books and integration with Plaxo. I have used it to fax medical receipts to my insurer and class documents to my classmates. My results with Scanr have been pretty good.

The photos don't have to be perfect and if they aren't, the provide some brief pointers on how to improve the quality. It only takes a few minutes before my scans show up on their site. I think that the user interface is a little plain - its pretty functional with out much panache. I think that their subscription prices ($2.99 per month or $30 for two years) are a little higher than I would want to pay for a service that I use on the frequency that I use Scanr. They do have a 40 uploads for $10 plan though, which seems much more reasonable to me. With my continued studies and my continued geekiness, I foresee continued use of Scanr.

The ability to quickly convert documents into a PDF all the while feeling like James Bond stealing secret documents is all in all pretty cool.

Sign up for Scanr here .

2 comments:

Hair Farmer Joe said...

Perhaps I'm not geeky enough, but I don't see the advantage of this over Photoshop where you can edit and save your photos into many different formats - including pdf.

Beau said...

Joe - you've brought up a very good point. Honestly, I never thought of doing this. Can you make multi-page PDFs out of several photos? I'll try it out.

But the big advantage that Scanr gives is that I can do it from my mobile phone. Photoshop doesn't run there.

Thanks for the comment.