A full-page scanner inside a pen

There are quite a few portable scanners on the market, but Planon’s $350 DocuPen RC800 is unique. The size and shape of a breadstick, it isn’t really a “pen” that you drag over lines of text, it’s a true page scanner.

The DocuPen is bundled with various bits and pieces, depending on the package you buy. We looked at the basic version, which comes with a nice leather case, a USB cable and PaperPort 9 SE scanning and OCR software. The Executive Kit adds goodies like an AC adapter and memory card.

When you take the unit out of the box, a handy quick reference card explains how to get started with it, sort of. It omits such small things as how to charge the battery (it charges over USB, or using an optional a/c adapter, I discovered), The unit has 8 MB of memory, so doesn’t hold a lot (a colour page is over 3 MB), but you can install a MicroSD card to get virtually unlimited capacity.

The scanning technique is simple, but takes a bit of practice. You hold your source document down firmly (if it slithers, the scan is skewed), press the (unlabelled) power button to turn the unit on, press the also unlabelled mode button to set the unit to photo colour, document colour or black and white, then drag the scanner down the page. Scan quality was variable, and depended heavily on smooth, steady movement when scanning.

The unit’s power use was frugal. It didn’t need constant charging; it got a top-up every time it was connected to the PC.

Although it’s pricey, the DocuPen is a handy little gadget to have in your briefcase when you absolutely have to get a paper document into electronic form.

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