CompuSchmooze® February 2005 – Easier Way to Track Business Cards from CardScan

CompuSchmooze® February 2005 – Easier Way to Track Business Cards from CardScan
Copyright © 2005 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.
By Steven L. Lubetkin

CompuSchmooze Podcast #2, 3-21-2005, Interview with Dexter Sealy, Chief Technology Officer, CardScan Inc.

Now that I’ve taken started my own public relations consulting practice (see the January 5 Voice), I spend a lot of time networking with prospective clients at luncheons, conferences and meetings.
When I come home from these meetings, I empty my pockets of stacks of business cards collected from these prospects. There was a time when it was a truly tedious task to manually enter the data into a contact management system like Microsoft Outlook.

Then, a few years ago, a company then called Corex — they’ve since changed their name to CardScan– (http://www.cardscan.com) introduced a single-purpose scanner/software combination called CardScan to scan and convert business cards into useful data.

In its earlier days, CardScan was a mixed blessing. The software couldn’t always read fancy typefaces or graphic designs. Users said they spent more time correcting entries than if they just keyed in the card information themselves. Sometimes, though, the technology industry actually does make dramatic improvements.

The newest versions of CardScan’s software can read a wide range of business cards and even correctly interpret words written in white on dark backgrounds (“reversed” text, to graphic designers).

To me, CardScan’s biggest negative factor has always seemed to be price.

The company, which has now changed its name to CardScan Inc., sells a version of CardScan for offices that allows five people to share one of its high-end scanners, the CardScan Executive, and five software licenses, for $449.99. The CardScan Executive standalone system, which includes a color scanner, is $249.99, but there is a rebate through February 5 that brings the price down to $219.99.

Happily, they’ve also introduced a CardScan Personal edition. This version has a no-frills black-and-white scanner, with a suggested retail of $149.99, but which periodically goes on sale at local office supply stores for around $125.

CardScan’s high end Executive product can link directly to all the popular contact management programs like Microsoft Outlook, ACT!, Lotus Notes, GoldMine, smartphones, PocketPCs, and Palm PDAs. The CardScan Personal program integrates with Outlook, Palms, and PocketPCs.

CardScan scanners attach to a USB port on your PC. You insert business cards one at a time in the scanner, and the system scans and recognize cards one-at-a-time or in batches. You can also add information to the records in a batch with a single command, such as assigning them all to the same category, or adding a common note to the Notes field in each record.

The software is very intelligent. It can figure out from the card’s design and surrounding text which phone number should go in the “Fax” field in the CardScan database. Likewise, it automatically populates email, web address, and all the other fields.

After the program has scanned and converted a batch of cards to data, you can page through the records and compare the data to images of the cards that you can magnify and pan around on the screen.

My experience is that CardScan Personal can recognize successfully about 90-95 percent of the text on most cards you give it.

Once you configure CardScan to work with your favorite contact manager, an icon for that program appears on the toolbar. Select the records you want to transfer by highlighting them, and click the transfer icon. The cards automatically get populated into your contact manager software. If you don’t have a contact management program like Outlook, CardScan can actually work quite nicely for that purpose, and will even integrate its address book with your email program.

Unless you need to integrate with something other than a Palm or Outlook, or absolutely must have color scans of the business cards you collect, you should be fine with CardScan Personal. The main thing (for us consultants, anyway) is to convert those piles of business cards into useful prospecting information.

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