Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Keep Your Receipts Neat Electronically

What's the best time of the year? Tax time. Right? Yeah, right. Paying the taxes isn't even the most onerous part. It's dealing with hundreds and hundreds and who knows how many of those little receipts. You have to save 'em, know where to find 'em again, add 'em up, and make sure you get the right receipt into the right expense category. If only technology could be of some help.

Well, you're in luck. Now there's a way to capture those fleeting receipts once and for all and get them onto your computer where the magic of software can help you track and organize them. The product that does this is the NEAT Receipts Professional Mobile Receipt and Document Scanner and Software Combination Version 3.0. The scanner itself is a wand with a slot in the side. You feed in your receipts. The wand scans them and the software extracts key information for export to a spreadsheet or financial program.

The portable scanner measures 10.8 x 1.6 x 1.3 inches and has an attached USB cord. No power supply. It gets all the power it needs from the USB port on your computer. That's a real desirable feature in any device you want to take traveling. No having to hunt around for an outlet to plug a wall wart power supply into. In fact, if your laptop PC is charged, you could scan receipts en-route home from your business trip. Isn't that when everyone does their expense report? Or, avoid all the questions about what you're up to by simply scanning everything in your hotel room. It only takes a few minutes each day and then you won't have to worry about where you stashed that two-inch receipt.

This thing is pretty versatile. The scanner itself will read-in receipts, documents and business cards. It has a max resolution of 600 dpi, so you don't lose the small print. The scan is color, black and white or grayscale with JPEG and PDF outputs. But that's just the hardware end. The real magic is in the software. It can find key data such as the date of purchase, payment method, vendor, and amount spent. For business cards, it will find name, company, address, phone numbers, email address, and so on. It then enters that information for you automatically to avoid data entry errors and speed up the tedium of record keeping.

The NEAT Receipts system goes further to learn what expense category goes with what vendor so your hotel and rental car bills all get filed appropriately. The results can be exported directly to QuickBooks, Microsoft Excel or Word, Quicken, Outlook, Microsoft Money, or TurboTax.

Beyond receipt and business card management, this system gives you the ability to scan printed documents and convert them into searchable PDF files. You'll be able to edit text using simple copy and paste functions. It auto sizes any scanned receipt for document, auto crops and auto rotates so that the document appears right side up no matter which way you fed it in. Images can be saved in JPEG or PDF format.

Once you realize how little of that bulky heavy paper you actually have to tote, you may find yourself scanning everything into your notebook computer. Scan a whole filing cabinet worth if you wish. Your hard drive won't weight even one ounce more when it's holding a couple of hundred pounds of business papers. Why, this could be the device that gives us the paperless office.

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