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Installing ScanSnap Not a Snap

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.


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Comments about Installing ScanSnap Not a Snap

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Your correct, a real pain.!
Redwing  2012-02-03 13:12
The ScanSnap S1300 which I purchased a few weeks ago, is exactly the same with regard to the software installation. The secret is not to try to be too clever, (which I am not), and just install everything from the DVD. Then follow your nose to see what can be updated, in the way that you ended up eventually doing.
Douglas A. Brace  2012-02-03 16:14
Interesting that you had so many problems with it. At work, I've used various ScanSnap models for Windows and they work just fine. I was thinking about getting a model for me home Mac, guess I won't be.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-02-03 16:21
Please, Douglas, don't get me wrong: I have had absolutely no problems with the ScanSnap scanner itself. Once I got over the troublesome installation hurdles I described above, I found it to be a useful addition to my Mac setup. It's a good scanner and does what it is designed to do.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-02-03 16:43
I love my ScanSnap S1300, which I've had for a few years, and I use constantly (especially since my bank began supporting scanned deposits).

I agree with Michael about the confusion of installation. My experience was better, but the software is a little baffling. It's not made the way Mac people think, but it's awfully good once you get it tweaked the way you want.

I love it, and recommend it without hesitation.
Jack Hayes  2012-02-03 17:07
Doug, I agree with Michael and Glenn. My S1500M is wonderful. It's the best document scanner I've ever used...after I got the software installed and learned it's quirks. I wouldn't hesitate to buy it again.
wfbennett  2012-02-15 09:03
I agree. The S1500M is the best scanner i have ever used by far. I was lucky and have had no trouble with the software, but i believe it is worth it to get the software installed so you can use this great scanner.
Jack Hayes  2012-02-03 17:00
Ditto to your experience. I don't understand why, but it seems that the major Japanese manufacturers have little or no appreciation for the Macintosh experience. Although I love my S1500M as a scanner, the software is exactly as described...late '90s or early '00s at best. I also have cameras, a camcorder, and printers from Canon, a high end NEC photography monitor and a high end Epson scanner. The experience is identical for every one of them...poor. Their Mac software NEVER follows standard Mac conventions, it is usually butt ugly, and appears to be a direct port of something they think looks good on Windows...if you are still using Windows XP!

And the poor experience extends to their on-line experience as well. Trying to find the current software is always a confusing pain in the a**. I really wish that they would get the message. I don't know if it is cultural ignorance or arrogance or what, but they make great hardware and lousy software.
Rob Lewis  2012-02-14 20:36
Amen 1000 times! Not only does Fujitsu make terrible software, but they are arrogant about it (I've suffered with this for several years with my older S510M scanner).

Pretty much all Japanese manufacturers have a bad case of "Not Invented Here" in my experience.
I have an older ScanSnap and had issues you describe. However, I ditched the built in software and now use DevonThink Pro -- the best digital organizer for the Mac.
Bob Johnson  2012-02-03 22:31
I've installed and used ScanSnaps on both Windows and OS X. My experience on both has been the same: good hardware, marginal software, bad installation process.
nick patapoff  2012-02-03 22:56
Your mileage may vary is certainly true in this case.

I just hooked up my S1500M last week and it was too easy. Plugged it in and but not on, went to the Fujitsu site to download the latest. A note said an application was no longer needed. Just download the original s/w and the Lion update. Install. Bingo.

Took me longer to get the scanner out of the box.
emaven  2012-02-04 22:47
This is not to let fujisu off the hook, but try VueScan for the software. It works with my really old scanner to the latest scanner and OS.
Doug Grinbergs  2012-02-13 16:48
On not hiring professional Mac software testing help to make your software user experience not suck, this seems penny wise and pound foolish. (I test software for a living.)

I have to wonder how much bad publicity - like this article, maybe some angry Facebook posts and tweets - it will take before they are shamed into fixing this.
Jack H is onto something & completely agree. Having worked for several Japanese firms I think the issue is cultural. The bigger a Japanese firm is, the more relative emphasis there is on administrative procedure than product/project success or user outcome. Causes: 1. Large firms still have lifetime employment and you're unhirable if fired from one (because that means extreme incompetence or company shame). 2. Conglomerate structure often has unprofitable units supported by others, ie, survival isn't linked to profitability, only "do your best." 3. People are shifted around a lot, so few gain in depth experience/knowledge/skills. 4. Position is often linked to loyalty to a particular inside leader, not individual performance. 5. Budgets have long cycles & are inflexible. These factors drive US PMs crazy and are why Japanese personnel require locals to get anything done - if they can trust & delegate them enough to!
PS HP's Mac software install packages are similiarly awful too.
Dennis B. Swaney  2012-02-14 10:43
The best solution: dump the POS Lion and use Snow Leopard. You'll be happier.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-02-14 10:56
No, I wouldn't, even though I very much mourn the software I had to abandon with the sunsetting of Rosetta. I have two Macs in my office: one running SL and one running Lion, and I have to say that the Lion Mac is the one that gets the most use and is the most satisfying to use. I quite like the expanded range of gestures available with the trackpad in Lion, I have come to depend on the new auto-save paradigm in apps like Pages, I prefer Mission Control over Spaces, and Photo Stream has made it far easier for me to deal with the photos I take with my various devices.

Dumping Lion may be the best solution for you. It certainly wouldn't be for me.
Ray Holan  2012-02-14 11:50
Have recently done install with the ScanSnap S1500, your scanner's bigger brother and encountered the same disappointing experience with software installation and operation under Lion. To me, the software is the real "driver's seat" of a scanner. If software is klutzy, as Fujitsu's is IMHO, it doesn't matter how cool the hardware is.
Thanks for running the ScanSnap through the paces. I am actually looking at their different models to automate my offices now. I have decided to wait.

Someone mentioned on Youtube that even though they only had a few hundred fans who subscribed, they actually had several million hits on their channel. I am guessing the same is true for tidbits as well. I have been reading Tidbits for as long as I can remember - especially the reviews. It's one of my first stops to look for back issues when deciding on a purchase. Good thing you stay so on top of every single thing for a Mac. I suppose Fujitsu will also begin to understand too and hopefully make some changes to their installer and bundled applications.

Thanks for saving me a lot of headaches!
Michael  2012-02-16 08:20
I think it's only when the spotlight gets shown publicly on such lousy software and user-confusion-prone directions get fixed. Fujitsu produced an incomplete & non-elegant package for Mac. It's a shame my S300M's user interface is so crude and confusing. After years of use I still problems figuring it out. Thanks for shining the light on this truly inept software package for such an amazing piece of hardware design. Sad isn't it?
Preston Nevins  2012-02-16 15:15
I just wish the dang progress window wasn't locked into being the frontmost window during the entire scan process. I usually scan 200+ page documents initially to JPG with my S1500 for later conversion to PDF as necessary, and have Adobe Bridge open as I scan to check that nothing gets borked in the process (two pages pulled through etc). Having the scan window jumping to the front means that I have to drag it to the bottom of the screen each time to minimize its footprint or I can't get any other work done.

Can other options like VueScan actually set the different scanning parameters like color/bw, double-sided etc? I have VueScan, but just use it for my flatbed scanner. If I could totally trash the Fujitsu software that'd be heaven.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-02-16 17:13
I haven't tried this but am wondering if using Spaces in Snow Leopard or Mission Control in Lion might help: put the Fujitsu scan window on one virtual screen so that you can continue to work on on a different virtual screen.
Muondude  2012-02-18 20:36
I have had a ScanSnap S510M for over 4 years and it is a real workhorse. Compact, great feed and excellent scan quality. The software is fine and does the job. However, it is not portable.
mctavish  2012-02-25 16:21
So, has anyone used Doxie which Michael wrote was an equivalent scanner with much better software?
Dave Kitabjian  2012-04-13 16:45
Looking for advice. S1500M is the only ScanSnap model that claims to be Mac compatible. Listing at $500, does anyone know if any of the others work with Mac (and are cheaper)?

Ignoring price for a moment, the main feature it appears to be missing is easy filing. I want to be able to scan my documents then be able to make a simple click to indicate whether it gets filed to, say, 1) medical receipts folder, 2) rental receipts folder, 3) tax forms 2012 folder, etc. From reading the docs, it sounds like ScanSnap is going to put all your scans in one, big folder. Is that true? And what names does it give to the files?

I've read some things about DevonThink, but it's not clear to me that it would help this need.

Advice welcome!

Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-04-13 17:00
I own the S1300, which works fine with the Mac. It has a ScanSnap Manager utility that, with a little customization, you can specify where things go. So, for example, I click the app in the Dock to view a list of profiles. I use two, mainly: One for scanning checks that scans them in grayscale (which my bank requires for online deposit) and outputs each side of the check as a separate JPEG file in a specific folder that I chose.

My other profile saves the output directly to Yojimbo, which I use to store everything else; it also does an OCR pass, so all the text is searchable.
Dave Kitabjian  2012-04-13 17:56
Thanks, Jeff. It seems my info was wrong; the S1300 and S1100 are also Mac compatible.

1) Other than the inclusion of Acrobat with the S1500M, do all 3 support the same software? (Probably a question for Fujitsu, but you know how hard it is to get informed info about such things...)

2) Question about the "profiles": can more than one profile be configured to point to a (different) folder? That would be great.

3) I'm trusting the write-ups that one-click of the profile can put multiple page scans into a single PDF and automatically determine whether to scan b/w or color. Is this true? If so, it will be a big time saver, and I'm ready to place an order :-)

Thanks in advance!

Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-04-13 21:38
1. I think so, but some of it doesn't work. They licensed an old business card reader software that won't run under Lion.

2. Yes, you can set up several custom profiles.

3. Yes, it can do that.
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