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Jan 19, 2022

Possibly the Best (?) Document Scanner for Home and Office Use

I have gone paperless!

Actually, I have been paperless for several years. However, a new scanner allows me to do more than before with less hassle and at higher speeds than ever before.

I went paperless several years ago. Since then, every piece of paper that enters my house, whether I carry it in or it is delivered by the mailman, gets examined promptly, usually within hours. With anything that requires action, such as paying bills or scheduling a trip to the grocery store, I force myself to handle it promptly, usually within minutes after opening the envelope. Any paper that needs to be saved for any reason gets scanned, saved in my secure cloud file storage services, and the paper is then immediately shredded and sent to recycling. Finally, any piece of paper that doesn’t require action and isn’t worth saving, such as advertising “junk mail,” goes to the shredder within minutes after its arrival.

Life without paper is great!

A few years ago, I purchased new scanner. I must say that I am pleased with it. If it isn’t the absolute best document scanner for home and office use, it certainly must qualify as “one of the best.” Indeed, it is undoubtedly the best document scanner that I have ever used. Admittedly, I have only used a dozen or so document scanners at home and at work in the past few years but this is the best scanner I have ever used. It cost more than I had planned to spend but now that I have used it for a while, I am very happy with the purchase.

Best of all, I don’t even need a computer to scan and save all sorts of documents! That’s right, this scanner doesn’t even need to be attached to a computer!

Scan to Cloud

Rather than purchasing more filing cabinets to store my various pieces of paper receipts and other documents that need to be saved, I now digitize everything and store all these documents in the cloud or in a tiny flashdrive, then my computers automatically make multiple backup copies and store them in several different locations, both at home and in the cloud. I really like the idea that I can quickly and easily search for any document and retrieve it wherever I am from any smartphone or tablet or laptop computer. And I do mean ANY smartphone or computer! Windows, Macintosh, Chromebook, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android, or even a computer borrowed from a friend or a computer at a public library. All have easy access to my thousands of documents that have been digitized over the years. All I need is some sort of computing device, an internet connection, and my user name and passwords.

The scanner I purchased is called a “document scanner” simply because it is designed to scan either one side of each sheet of paper or both sides of the paper, up to 600 dpi dots (or pixels) per inch. You can load up to 100 sheets of paper into its Automatic Document Feeder. If you specify double-sided scanning, that’s 200 digital images. You have the choice of saving the multi-page scans as individual files (one file per page) or as one large file containing all the pages scanned.

Of course, if you need to scan more than 200 pages, when the Automatic Document Feeder is emptied, the scanner simply pauses, waiting for the user to insert more pages. If additional pages are added, the scanner simply continues adding more pages to the same scanned document. In theory, the scanner could scan thousands of pages into one digital image file. However, I suspect the more practical use is for scanning documents of up to a few hundred pages.

I will stress that this is a DOCUMENT scanner simply because it is designed to scan sheets of paper, not bound books and not any non-paper items such as coins, postage stamps, pictures that are still in picture frames, small toys, or other small physical items. If you want to scan an entire book with this scanner, you will need to first cut the binding off. However, my new scanner will also scan photographs or documents sealed in plastic, such as a driver’s license, after you read the user’s manual to learn how to do that.

While my new scanner will scan photographs, I would not consider it to be designed to digitize high-quality color photographs that typically are used for weddings and similar events. After all, it is called a DOCUMENT Scanner. If I wanted a high-quality color image scanner that accurately digitizes every shade of ever color image at very high resolution, I would have purchased something designed for that task instead of a document scanner.

Of all my scanning since I obtained this new scanner, there was only one time I had to resort to reading the manual: I wanted to make a digital image of my driver’s license that is sealed in plastic. Everything else has been super simple and obvious without reading any instructions. However, I found I could not scan a document sealed in plastic by simply inserting it into the sheet feeder used for paper documents. The plastic is too thick to go through a document feeder that is designed for paper.

The different method wasn’t obvious to me until I read the manual. Scanning and digitizing everything else was simple with no reading of the users manual required. The instructions I would give to anyone else are: “insert the pages, select the options, and press SCAN.” Simple!

The scanning process looks similar to a typical office photocopier: the individual sheets are “grabbed” from the Automated Document Feeder one at a time and fed through a series of rollers, past the scanning photosensors, and then stacked in the output stacker. If you have ever used an office photocopier, you undoubtedly are already familiar with this process.

I will not use this scanner for any delicate pieces of paper, such as a 100-year-old newspaper clipping or for a very old marriage certificate. The process of moving a single sheet of paper through the scanner involves several rollers and other mechanical components. While the path through the scanner appears to be in a straight line, without bending the paper as it goes through the rollers, gears, and other components, I still will not trust the scanner with anything fragile. Of course, that is true for all sheet-feed scanners, not just for the one scanner I purchased.

I also have scanned a number of photographs in the past few months with the new device, including both color and black-and-white photographs. I was quite pleased with the results although I would add two caveats:

1. The same disclaimer about scanning delicate items still applies. I scanned a dozen or so black-and-white photographs, some of them were original 70-year-old photographs while other were modern copies of old photos. Everything worked well. However, I would never insert any photograph that is very old or appears to be delicate into this scanner. It isn’t suitable for scanning albumen print photographs, gelatin-silver print photos, or anything similar. The rollers and other components used to transport the scanned item through the scanner are not guaranteed to preserve the item(s) in their untouched condition. I have scanned perhaps perhaps 500 documents and modern photographs through this scanner and never had a single paper jam but any scanner always has the POSSIBILITY of jams. You would not want that to happen to a valuable old family photograph!

2. While the color reproduction on this scanner is very good, I don’t believe the light sources inside the scanner are optimized for color photography with suitable color temperature compensation. The colors looked good to my non-photographer’s eyes but if I was trying to reproduce high-quality color wedding keepsake photographs or anything of similar quality, I would go looking for a scanner that was designed for such work.

However, the colors scanned from magazine pages, newspaper articles, advertising flyers, old photocopies of census records, and more all looked very good to me, especially when scanned at 600 dpi. (I do most of my scanning at 200 dpi and only switch to a higher resolution when digitizing high-quality documents.)

My new scanner is a Raven Pro Document Scanner.

The Raven company actually produces three different scanners, all similar but they vary in details. I purchased the Raven Pro scanner and will be writing about that one. I chose it because of the following features:

This is one of the few scanners that can scan and store the digital images directly into several popular cloud services (Raven Cloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, Box, SharePoint, OneDrive, Quickbooks Online), USB Drive, Email, FTP, flashdrive, SMB Share, or Fax. No computer is required for delivering scanned images directly to these services.

That’s right, this scanner doesn’t even need to be attached to a computer!

I could take it to a relative’s house or to a library, (as long as either wi-fi or a flashdrive is available, along with a power outlet) and spend hours scanning documents. Everything scanned could be stored in DropBox or Google Drive or to a number of other cloud-based file storage services. Other options include scanning directly into email messages that can be sent to any email address you specify, even to your own email address if you wish.

While I have been using wi-fi to connect to the internet for the past few days, the scanner also includes an ethernet connector for use with a wired network connection.

You also can have the image(s) sent to any FAX machine if you already have an account on a computer-to-FAX service of some sort. The FAX service is not provided by Raven. I haven’t tested the FAX capabilities yet and probably never will simply because I have no need for FAX. However, I would guess the image being sent will be of much higher quality than the typical FAXes you have seen in the past. It can even send color FAXes. Of course, all this will also depend upon the image reproduction capabilities of the receiving FAX machine!

Numerous other capabilities are included in Raven scanners, including the capability to save images via FTP (file transfer protocol) to any computer you can reach and you have a user name and password that works for FTP. The scanner will also send the mages directly to Sharepoint, SMB, and other technologies available in many corporate offices. Again, I did not test these capabilities as I have no use for them.

A free Raven Cloud subscription is included for UNLIMITED secure cloud storage. Yes, UNLIMITED storage! It not only stores scanned items produced by the Raven scanner but you can also store PDF, JPEG, or TIFF documents up to 30 megabytes in size that originated elsewhere. However, Raven Cloud is limited to storing only those image documents; you cannot import word processing documents, spreadsheets, or your genealogy database from some other computer. Still, the Raven Cloud will store tens of thousands, (maybe hundreds of thousands or even more) of JPEG, TIFF, or PDF files.

All scanned documents produced by the Raven document scanners will produce searchable PDFs with OCR capabilities. It will scan at 200, 300, 400, or 600 dpi.

Since the Raven scanner does not need to connect directly to a computer, the digitized images can be used with almost any computer available today. Simply save your scanned documents to a cloud service, to email, to a flashdrive, or to some similar service. Then you can later retrieve the scanned images into almost any computer: Windows, Macintosh, Chromebook, Linux, Android, iPad, or even to your smartphone! I really appreciate this capability as I use several computers running different operating systems. I would hate to be tied to only one computer that is kept at home when I might be traveling to distant locations.

Speaking of travel, the Raven scanner I purchased weighs 9.26 pounds (4.2 kilograms) and is 12.44 by 8.15 by 7.01 inches (31.6 by 20.7 by 17.8 centimeters). It obviously won’t fit into a pocket but is still light enough to easily be carried to a relative’s house, to the office, or to a local library or archive. (Always ask the librarian or archivist for permission before scanning anything!) I already have a gym bag that is perfect for carrying this scanner along with its power cord, a flash drive or two, and even a few dozen documents to be digitized. I suspect it will also fit nicely into a bowling ball bag.

The Raven scanner handles paper documents up to 9.5 inches (24 centimeters) wide. The advertised specifications claim the paper can be as long as 14 inches but I had no trouble with longer documents, including very long grocery store receipts printed on narrow paper that was 3 or 4 feet long. I don’t know what the longest possible length can be. All I can say is that it easily handled every receipt that I could find around the house, even receipts from a CVS drug store! (You KNOW how long those receipts can be!) The scanner will easily digitize paper invoices, all sorts of business documents, business cards, handwritten notes, drawings, ID cards, business cards, grandchildren’s artistic drawings, and more.

NOTE: Use of plastic cards, embossed credit cards, drivers licenses, ID cards, insurance cards, medicare cards, or any membership card can be accomplished, but do not feed them into the Automated Document Feeder in the same manner that you use for paper documents. The plastic cards are too thick to travel through the scanner. Instead, refer to the owners manual to learn how to manually open the scanner, remove a “pad module,” and then manually feed plastic cards into the scanner one at a time.

Scanned pages can be edited after scanning by tapping the page thumbnail edit icon on the scanner’s control panel, then selecting your edit options such as rotating or cropping. You can also delete pages or insert new pages as well. Choose “Save” when done. Once a document is saved in the cloud or in a flashdrive (or both), you can find a plethora of programs for your computer that will edit, fold, spindle, and mutilate PDF files as you wish.

The included Artificial Intelligence-powered OCR (optical character recognition) software automatically turns your documents into searchable PDF files, making it easy to to find the document you are looking for. Every printed document you scan will be OCR’ed automatically but don’t plan on doing that with handwritten documents.

I found it easy to display the scanned PDF files on any computer, select the entire page or part of the page (using Control-A, Control-C on most systems or Command-A, Command-C on Macintosh systems), than pasting the text into a word processing or other program. This copy-and-paste has to be done from a computer, however. You cannot do that with the scanner alone.

If you store thousands of scanned documents in the Raven Cloud, you can easily search later for any words or phrases inside any document. The entire process of finding and retrieving any file shouldn’t require more than a few seconds, even if you have saved thousands of documents in the Raven Cloud.

The Raven scanners allow you to save documents to two or more locations simultaneously. For instance, it is possible to save documents to Raven Cloud, to DropBox, to an email address, and to Evernote simultaneously with one touch of the SCAN icon. Regardless of where I want to send my scans, I always add the Raven Cloud to the list to make sure I have a backup copy there. This is sort of the same thing as adding a “bcc:” copy to all my email messages.

Other cloud services (DropBox, Google Drive, and many others) all have somewhat similar capabilities and can be used with the Raven scanners although the details will vary from one cloud service to another.

The Raven scanner also includes automatic blank page removal, straightening, rotation and cropping. You also can remove pages that you don’t want, and add additional pages after scanning.

NOTE: There is no printed users manual included in the box with the scanner, However, a rather large and detailed PDF users manual is available online. You can download and even print the manual, if you like. (I won’t print it as I am now enjoying a paperless existence. I read everything on computer screens.) I haven’t yet finished reading all of the manual as I am having too much fun scanning! If you would like to read the user’s manual first before making a purchase, you may find it at: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0236/9286/9696/files/Raven_Scanner_Plus_User_Manual_01172020.pdf.

The Raven Pro Document Scanner is also fast! It will scan both sides of documents at speeds of up to 60 pages per minute. That’s fast! Load the pages, select the options you want (double or single sided, desired resolution, destination, and more), and then press SCAN. Then it is zip-zip-zip as the pages fly through the scanner. (Scanning at higher resolutions will be slower, however.) After the last page goes thorough, there is a delay of a few seconds while the software inside the scanner is obviously performing some functions. The more pages scanned, the longer the delay. Then a status message appears stating that the final image(s) have been delivered to the destination(s) you specified.

I have not yet experienced a single paper jam, even when some of the paper (such as cash register receipts) was not smooth or wrinkle-free. The advertisements claim the Raven scanners have “Anti-Jam technology” but provide no description of what that means. Whatever the technology used, it has resulted in smooth operation so far.

I am very impressed with both the set-up process and the ease of scanning documents. Everything was easy to understand, except for the process of digitizing documents sealed in plastic. I zipped through the set-up and then scanned a few dozen documents before I ever bothered to download the users manual. That’s perfect for us males who do not like to read instructions!

Three Versions of the Raven Scanners

Raven makes a number of scanners. When deciding what to purchase, I quickly narrowed my choices to two different models of Raven Document Scanners. The two are quite similar to each other, look alike, and apparently run the same internal software. (Yes, these two scanners each contain complete computers built into each scanner. The internal computers run the Android operating system.) However, the two different models do have some significant differences.

The three different models include the lower-priced Raven Original Document Scanner versus the higher-priced Raven Pro Document Scanner. Yes, the only difference in the names is “Original” versus “Pro.” As you might expect, the Pro version probably will appeal more to anyone who anticipates digitizing a lot of documents. Raven lists the Pro version as scanning up to 60 pages per minute (or 6,000 pages per day) but I don’t believe I have the patience to stand or sit in one place and feed 6,000 pages into a scanner during an 8-hour day! In contrast, the lower-priced Raven Original Document Scanner will only scan 17 pages per minute. These speeds are correct for both single-sided and double-sided scanning.

In addition, there is a third model: the Raven Standard Document Scanner. I haven’t had my hands on that model and, after reading the specifications, I rejected it as not meeting my needs. It appears to be s “dummied down” version of the Raven scanners. It is advertised as being for Windows and Macintosh computers. It appears to require software installation inside the computer and does not support scanning to the cloud as described earlier. It is chaperon however. For details, look at: https://amzn.to/3Ifl4fi.

Besides speed, the more expensive Raven Pro Document Scanner has numerous improvements over the cheaper Raven scanners:

The major differences between the Original and the Pro versions include:

The lower-priced Raven Original Document Scanner will scan up to 17 pages per minute versus 60 pages per minute for the Pro version. That is a major difference if you do a lot of scanning.

The Raven Original Document Scanner will accept up to 50 sheets of paper in its Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) versus 100 sheets of paper for the Pro version.

The Raven Original Document Scanner has a 7-inch LCD touchscreen on the front for the operator’s use while the Pro version has an 8-inch LCD touchscreen.

Both versions include two-sided duplex scanning with OCR (Searchable PDF) as well as automatic blank page removal and automatic de-skewing (straightening) of pages that don’t go through the scanner in a perfectly straight line. Both will scan at 200, 300, 400, or 600 dpi.

The Biggest Downsides of These Scanners

Nothing is ever perfect and these two scanners are no exception. They both share one big problem: price.

These are high-end scanners with advanced capabilities not found in simpler scanners. Therefore, the Raven scanners do command premium prices.

I found the Raven Original Document Scanner available on Amazon for $439.85 (US).

I then found and eventually purchased the Raven Pro Document Scanner from Amazon for $649.85 (US).

These prices may vary from time to time as Amazon often changes prices. You also might find Raven scanners available at higher or lower prices from other merchants.

These prices are high but, when compared to scanners with similar specifications made by other companies, Raven’s prices seem to be close to the competing products. If you narrow your search to scanners that can digitize 10 to perhaps 20 pages per minute and also have built-in automated document feeders varying from a capacity of 10 to perhaps 50 sheets of paper, you will find that most of them retail for $400 or more. Moving up to the higher-speed and higher-capacity scanners finds the prices moving up as well. Scanners that compete with the higher-speed Raven Pro Document Scanner typically cost $600 or more. In addition, most of the competitors’ products at those price ranges do not offer direct-to-cloud scanning (with a few exceptions).

While all these prices are certainly higher than what I normally budget, a survey of all the sheet-feed scanner products shows the pricing of Raven’s document scanners seems to be in line with all the competitors’ products.

There is another issue that may or may not be seen as a drawback by potential customers: these two Raven scanners only text documents in PDF file format as well as in popular graphics formats, including JPG, TIFF, and PNG.

Summation

You also can watch a rather detailed video review on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uHW5zJcbpg8. The video is good as you can see most of the things I described in the above review. Another scanner review that I like is available at https://youtu.be/wUbX4LKLevY. You can find a number of other videos (of varying quality) about the Raven Pro Document Scanner by starting at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Raven+Pro+Document+Scanner.

Once you have received your Raven Pro Document Scanner and before you install it, watch Raven Pro Document Scanner – What You Need To Know with Tech Steve at https://youtu.be/BotpCBIHskc. This last video shows step-by-step instructions on how to set up the scanner and then walks the viewer through all the various commands and capabilities of the device. That’s a lot easier and faster than reading the 38-page manual. I also found the video to be easier to understand than the users manual!

With an expensive purchase such as this, I would strongly recommend you read the reviews from previous customers at these web sites and anywhere else you can find such reviews before you actually order any sheet-fed scanner. That will help you decide whether or not this scanner is a good “fit” for your needs.

I swallowed hard and paid for the higher-priced Raven Pro Document Scanner. I plan to digitize hundreds of pages of documents as I digitize my remaining books and the contents of my 4-drawer cabinet full of notes and photocopies I have accumulated in the past 35+ years. I also will occasionally will take it with me on trips, mostly to relatives’ homes. I felt the higher speed is worth the higher price. 60 pages per minute versus 17 pages per minute is a rather significant difference, especially if you plan on digitizing thousands of documents. It also allows you to digitize many more documents in the limited time available while in a library or at a relative’s house.

If you are interested in these scanners and don’t need the higher speed of the Pro version, you may find the cheaper Raven Original Document Scanner is better suited to your needs and to your checkbook.

Overall, I am delighted with the Raven Pro Document Scanner. It is fast, reliable, produces high-quality images, delivers the scanned images to a wide variety of places, is super easy to set up and operate, and does not require an attached computer.

I have been leading a paperless existence for several years now and the Raven Pro Document Scanner simply allows me to do the same thing faster and easier than ever before. I especially like the free Raven Cloud used to store an UNLIMITED number of documents and then being able to easily search and retrieve any document I need within seconds.

While the Raven scanners are expensive, I also believe that you get what you pay for. I expect this to be my primary, heavy-duty scanner for many years. A few years ago, similar scanners with the same capabilities cost $1,000 or more; often much, much more.

My purchase was made from my personal funds with no reimbursement from anyone. Nobody has asked me to write a review of this scanner and I am not compensated for writing this article. I thought about the purchase for a long time, then swallowed hard and dug out my credit card. Two days later, an Amazon driver delivered the scanner to the house. After several days of frequent use, I am very glad I spent the money.

You can learn more at https://www.raven.com/pages/raven-scanner and at https://amzn.to/33KHZ3j.