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Cute Doxie Flip Scanner Has Its Uses

I received a review unit of the new Doxie Flip scanner just as MacTech was kicking in (see “MacTech Conference 2013 Abounds with Networking and Fun,” 11 November 2013), so I put the unopened box aside until this week. I hadn’t read about the device and didn’t know anything about it at all, which might explain why I was puzzled when I opened the box.

Inside, I found something that looks like a child’s toy version of a flatbed scanner, fabricated from white and black plastic with no sharp edges, and no bigger than a hardcover book. The scanner bed itself is only 4 x 6 inches (10.2 x 15.2 cm), less than half the size of a grown-up flatbed scanner. And, like a toy, it even runs on four AA batteries (but you know it’s for adults, though, because the batteries were included).

I sent a rather curmudgeonly email message to my TidBITS colleagues: “For the life of me, I can’t figure out a single practical use case for it: it’s not great for scanning bills and forms (they’re too big), or business cards (overkill: the scanner is too big). Anybody have an idea why someone would want such a thing? I’m baffled. I suppose it could scan one’s grandmother’s collection of recipes on 3-by-5 cards, but beyond that…”

Fortunately, the universe delights in making me feel like an idiot (thanks, universe!). Less than an hour after writing that message, I got a call from a less-than-tech-savvy friend of mine: he needed help organizing the various medications he needed to give his ailing wife and was buried under a bunch of handwritten notes that needed to be transcribed into a word processing document and set into some sort of order. I thought, “What the heck?,” packed the Doxie Flip into the optional lightweight carrying case that had been shipped with the review unit, and drove up into the hills where he lived. Within a few minutes I had scanned all his notes: no computer necessary, since the Flip comes with a 4 GB SD card, suitable for capturing over 2,000 scans at 300 DPI resolution.

Back at home, I popped the SD card from the scanner into my iMac, downloaded the Doxie software, and imported the scans. A half hour later, I had transcribed his handwritten notes into a convenient set of tables and sent them back to him via email.

Then, another friend, who was planning her Thanksgivukkah feast (an occurrence that reportedly won’t roll around again for another 77,000 years), wrote me to ask if I could send her a latke recipe from a battered 50-year-old paperback cookbook of mine, Sara Kasdan’s “Love and Knishes.” Instead of taking a photo, I flipped the Doxie over and laid it on the page in question: you can pop the scanner cover off, lay the scanner bed right on the thing you want to scan, and adjust the alignment by looking right at it through the clear plastic window on the bottom of the Flip — it even has alignment guides embossed in the window.


The resulting scan was clear and sharp, much better than I could have achieved by holding a brittle paperback open with one hand and snapping an iPhone shot of it with the other.

The scanner itself, as you might have surmised from the tale above, is light: without batteries, it weighs only 1.27 pounds (576 grams), less than the first Retina display iPad. Even though it is not as slim as an iPad, it can easily fit into most backpacks and equipment bags if you need to take it with you.

The SD card that comes with the Doxie Flip fits right into the SD card slot of those Macs that have such a slot — but no worries if your Mac doesn’t, because the Flip also comes with a tiny USB SD card reader.

The scanning options, accessible from controls on the top of the scanner and visible in a teensy LCD display, are sparse: you can scan at 300 DPI or 600 DPI. That’s it. No other options. At 300 DPI, it can scan a page in about 7 seconds.

The software is easy to use, but not fully featured. One big feature promised by the Doxie Flip manual is AutoStitch, which supposedly can assemble a large image from overlapping scans, but when you click the Stitch button in the current Doxie software you get a message that amounts to “Stay tuned: it’s coming next month.” Similarly, the software’s Export function lists OCR PDFs as options, but that feature also is not yet implemented for the Flip.

Doxie’s $149 Flip scanner is not for everyone. It’s certainly not for anyone looking for a high-duty-cycle sheet-fed scanner for implementing a paperless office. On the other hand, it is handy for those odd little scanning jobs that you might, if you had steady enough hands, try to pull off with an iPhone camera. I can’t, in fact, give you a good use case for this device, but you’ll know one when you see it. I did. Twice in one day, showing that this toy-like scanner for which I couldn’t figure out a use can prove surprisingly useful.


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Comments about Cute Doxie Flip Scanner Has Its Uses
(Comments are closed.)

Shawn King  2013-11-14 11:30
You say, “I drove up into the hills where he lived. Within a few minutes I had scanned all his notes...Back at home, I popped the SD card from the scanner into my iMac, downloaded the Doxie software, and imported the scans. A half-hour later, I had transcribed his handwritten notes into a convenient set of tables and sent them back to him via email.”

I’m confused. Couldn’t you have simply taken the notes home with you and transcribed them - without scanning them first? It seems like the scanning is an unnecessary step, taken to attempt to find a use case for the product.

And if the scanner would scan to JPG, you wouldn’t have needed to "downloaded the Doxie software, and imported the scans”.

You also say, "Instead of taking a photo, I flipped the Doxie over and laid it on the page in question...The resulting scan was clear and sharp, much better than I could have achieved by holding a brittle paperback open with one hand and snapping an iPhone shot of it with the other.”

Did you try? And how is laying 1.27 lbs go gear on top of an admittedly old and brittle paperback somehow better than taking a pic of the same page with an iPhone?

I too am a reviewer of the Doxie Flip scanner and, while appreciative of being included in the list of reviewers, confused as to why so many reviews seem to stretch so far to show a use case for it.

Don’t get me wrong - I love Doxie scanners but the Flip seems to me to be a solution looking for a problem.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-14 11:40
To address your quibbles:

My friend needed me to leave the handwritten notes with him, so he could consult them and give his wife the proper medicines while I worked at home to come up with a cleaner and more organized solution; if I had taken the handwritten notes with me he'd have had nothing.

The scanner does scan to JPEG, but the Doxie software can "staple" the scans together and export them as a single PDF, which is convenient.

I did try taking a picture of the recipe with the iPhone and it didn't come out so well, between lighting issues, focus issues, and fumble-finger issues. And the scanner's 1.27 pounds is roughly about the same amount of pressure one might apply with one's fingers to hold the book open—trust me, I was gentle: the book was unharmed.

As I said, I can't give you a regular use case for the scanner, but it turned out to be very useful for a couple of projects that came my way the very first day. It's not so much a solution in search of a problem but a solution for problems you might not even know you have.
JAMES CUTLER  2013-11-14 13:05
I regularly store for my records images of box labels with Ethernet addresses and serial numbers. This scanner would do a lot better job than either my iPhone or my DSLR and would require less post-editing.
Mark Martinez  2013-11-14 13:21
Looks like a portable version of the HP ScanJet 4600 see-thru scanner that I used for many years. I couldn't find drivers for the HP 4600 when I upgraded to Lion, so I had to give up on it. The see-thru feature is very useful. The last time I tried to make potato latkes ended in disaster. Does the author of "Love and Knishes" have any recommendation for potato gratings that aren't too big or too mushy?
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-14 13:30
My copy of "Love and Knishes" is a 1967 paperback of the 1956 hardcover, so doesn't cover the finer techniques of potato grating with modern kitchen appliances. In those distant times, people grated potatoes by hand. Slowly. Often using the fine side of a box grater. Like animals! ☺
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-20 07:37
I have some notes on potato latkes. First, I use a food processor to grate the potatoes. Second, spread out a dinner napkin in a big bowl, put grated potato on napkin, fill bowl with water to soak potato for 2-3 minutes. Then dump out water as you wrap napkin around potatoes. Wring excess water out of potatoes by twisting napkin.

Also, don't be afraid to add onion, carrot, or fennel to your potato gratings. Only onion is the most authentic, of course, but a carrot or a little fennel are nice modern touches. Finally, use eggs to bind it all together. If your recipe doesn't have any eggs, find another one.
Steve Nicholson  2013-11-14 16:39
I've often thought about getting some kind of scanner to scan in my old vinyl album covers. I've never had good results using a camera. Assuming they get their auto-stitch software working, does the form factor lend itself to taking multiple scans of an album cover?
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-14 16:45
Hmmm. Given a 12x12 inch cover, that would be a minimum of 3 scans down and 2 across for each side, or 6 scans per side. But you'd want the scans to overlap for auto-stitching to work, so figure maybe 4 down and 3 across: 12 scans per side. Sounds doable but a bit of a pain…
Joe Swann  2013-11-14 17:37
We have tons of prints from our film days -- 4x6 and smaller. I could put one of the kids on scanning those and not tie up the computer! And as people in the family pass away this could be a great tool to scan their snapshots to share with all branches of the family before they are divided up. Then there's this big, hand drawn map of my community from the 1950s I'd like to digitize. I have some paintings by one of my more artistic cousins. My mind races on...
Andy B  2013-11-14 21:40
Just FYI, the Doxie Flip appears to be a rebadged version of the Flip Pal.
Nancy Albrecht  2013-11-18 16:55
That's the first thing I thought of when I saw it, too. I find my Flip Pall very useful especially for scanning material contained in books, old newspapers etc. The auto stitch software is miraculous. I got it for scanning genealogical material but have found it very useful when I just don't want to deal with the larger stationary flatbed scanner which is buried under piles of stuff.
kcrosado  2013-11-18 17:20
What sort of quality does it deliver when scanning photographs? I can see this being extremely useful for historical research, where I often have to copy old snapshots in archives or people's homes. Cameras and conventional scanners range from PITA to totally useless for this.
Nancy Albrecht  2013-11-18 17:24
The FlipPal is perfect for it. Copied old newspapers about our family from the 1920s, stitched them together, sent them to my sister, they looked as good as or better than the originals. The "stitching" was perfect and completely invisible.
Hank Roberts  2013-11-18 18:29
"Flip Pal" sounds interesting. Maybe I can retire my comparably smal little old PetiScan, for which I've been keeping the Pismo running.
brendon  2013-11-18 19:42
I collect and sell baseball and Magic: the Gathering cards as a hobby. This is the scanner I've been waiting for. I bought one on the day it came out and it has been awesome!
ealadner  2013-11-18 20:55
Thanks for the recipe!
richardson  2013-11-19 09:38
This has been sold for a few years now as the Flip Pal scanner. It's used quite a bit by folks for genealogy and scrap booking purposes. If you have your own stack of old photos or an old album, you can half watch a favorite TV show while scanning hundreds of images. Relatives or clients who have precious photos or documents don't really want them to leave their home, so you scan them right there. Some times you can even get a decent scan through glass. That and curled glossy photos are extremely difficult to photograph with a camera of any sort. I don't use the software at all, just Photoshop for stitching and edits. You'll also want to look very closely at your scans and make sure you don't have faint diagonal or horizontal lines. If so, return it for another one. It's a very handy tool to have around.
I have the Flip Pal for genealogy and I see no difference between the two.