At the recently concluded Macworld | iWorld 2012 conference (see “Macworld | iWorld 2012: In a Word, Confident,” 30 January 2012) I spent some time chatting with vendors of various products, often by invitation (those who have never attended such an event as a media representative have no idea how many email invitations you get requesting such tête-à-têtes). One such chat was with the Fujitsu representatives, who gave me a quick demo of their various scanning products, something I found interesting because of my work helping to produce Joe Kissell’s book, “Take Control of Your Paperless Office,” in which scanners are prominently featured. At the end of our chat I was surprised to be given a review unit of the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100, a tiny scanner designed for the digital road warrior.
First, the good news. This little item weighs slightly under three-quarters of a pound (350 g) and is very slim, easily fitting into a backpack or briefcase. It’s completely USB-powered, so it doesn’t require a power brick, and the included USB cable even has an attached Velcro tie, making it, well, a snap to coil and store. Although the ScanSnap S1100 can handle only one sheet at a time, and scans only a single side at a time, feeding sheets through it does not require you to line them up precisely, and the scanning process is quick. The quality of the scans, while not super high-end (600 by 600 pixels per inch), is more than adequate for my needs. Once I got it home and set it up, I found it works well enough for me to take my first steps toward, if not a paperless office, an office that has much less paper cluttering it.
Ah, but setting it up: that was the rub. As you may recall, Apple’s Mac OS X 10.7 Lion was released in the July of last year, and was in developer testing for months prior to that. Yet the ScanSnap S1100 still comes with a DVD-ROM for setup that contains software compatible with only Mac OS X 10.4 through 10.6. And Fujitsu does mean it: the Getting Started guide actually tells you that one of the bundled applications, Cardiris 3.6, requires Rosetta, which, as we all know, became an ex-parrot pining for the fjords under Mac OS X 10.7. (Note that different ScanSnap scanner models may well come with different software bundles, so my description applies only to the S1100 unit I received.)
However, a flimsy sheet tucked away in the packaging does say, “To use the ScanSnap on Mac OS X v10.7 (Lion), you first need to update the bundled software,” and the sheet provides a (rather long) URL that you need to type into a Web browser to find out more. The referenced page, though, provides only a set of links; you must click the S1100 link to get to another page that provides even more links to the required updates, and you must scroll a ways down that page to find them. And, yes, it is “them” — there are two separate updates that need to be downloaded, one for the ScanSnap Manager software and another for the bundled Cardiris software. It gets even better (and by “better” I mean something rather the opposite): you can’t just download the Cardiris software, but, instead, must register a request for the software and wait for a confirmation email message that provides a link to get the update.
What the flimsy sheet with its single line of Lion instructions (in eleven languages) does not make clear is the order in which you should do things to make the ScanSnap software happy under Lion. Should you just bypass the DVD and download the updates, or should you install the software on the DVD first and then download and run the updaters? I made an educated guess and ran the installer that was on the DVD first, since the scanner comes with a big warning piece of tape on it that tells you not to connect the scanner until the software is installed.
The installer allows you to choose which components to install: since I knew that Cardiris would not run on my Lion-ized iMac, I unchecked that component — a mistake, I soon discovered, since the Cardiris updater requires the older version be present, even though the older version cannot run at all under Lion. I also discovered that the ScanSnap installer is one of those that requires a reboot upon completion. Sigh. Double sigh, because I had to run the installer again to get the Rosetta-requiring Cardiris application installed so I could update it after I jumped through the email hoops to obtain it.
The entire out-of-the-box experience took me well over an hour. At the end, I had a functioning scanner and the requisite software to use it. Not to say that the software is perfect: though it is usable, portions of it look like they escaped from the earliest days of Mac OS X, and other parts look like the barest of old-school gray-dialog utilities. What’s more, the pieces are spread around in various components, some in your face and others behind the scenes, and you never know which one is in charge at any given time: you really do have to read the online help to know who’s on first and what’s the name of the guy on second. Nonetheless, I can use the scanner to create PDFs (searchable ones, courtesy of the bundled ABBYY FineReader OCR) and even send documents directly to Word or Excel or Google Docs (though not to any of Apple’s own office apps like Pages). For my needs, the ScanSnap, now that the hurdles have been overcome, works well enough.
But when it comes to hardware peripherals, it doesn’t matter how good the hardware is (and the ScanSnap hardware seems very good) if the software is lacking. Software that drives a peripheral should either get completely out of the way (hiding behind the scenes, doing its job silently and efficiently), or it should provide a user experience that is as simple and as seamless as possible. The ScanSnap software I received does not deliver on that score. And there’s really no reason in 2012 for a major player like Fujitsu to be giving such short shrift to its Mac software when smaller, more agile players like Doxie can produce a roughly equivalent mobile scanner that doesn’t even need a cable (it can scan to memory and wirelessly transmit scans to a Mac, PC, iOS device, or the cloud), and drive it with easy-to-use software that looks like it was designed for a Mac in 2012, not 2002.
I’m grateful to Fujitsu for providing me with a review unit, and I hope to make good use of it. The hardware really is polished but the ScanSnap S1100 could benefit from a complete software makeover.