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The Best Scanner Under $300

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on June 01, 2015 10:07 AM

The paperless office. Like the flying car and the sassy robot sidekick, it's something we've been promised for years, but something science has consistently failed to deliver.

Lawyers are up to their ears in paper as much as they ever were, and while our tablets and iDevices let us browse stuff without paper, we've got to cram all those documents in there somehow. That's where a scanner comes in -- but what kind should you get?

Sit back and let us regale you with our scanner story.

Three Shall Be the Number of the Options

Of course, the ideal scanner is a multifunction Xerox affair that lets you sheet-feed and scan hundreds of pages at a time. But you don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a copier, do you?

Then your options number three: A small, multifunction office printer with a sheet-fed scanner, a portable document scanner, or an app for your phone.

As we pointed out in "The Best Printer Under $100," a multifunction laser printer (and you want a laser printer, not an inkjet) is pricy, but if you're going to be scanning lots and lots of pages, you'll tear less of your hair out if you can stick a pile of pages in the sheet feeder and push the "scan" button.

Alternatively, to save money, you can go with the portable document scanner. These scan a sheet at a time, but they scan pretty quickly. They're unobtrusive and so small that you can pack them up and take them with you to, say, a deposition if you need a quick, ad hoc scan.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap basically has the market for these things cornered, and some of the ScanSnaps do have a small feeder that you can use to set and forget (just like your RonCo Showtime Rotisserie Barbecue). But because Fujitsu has the market cornered, some of these (though not all of them) will set you back $400.

Finally, we have the lowest-tech method of scanning: Using your cell phone camera. But instead of just taking photos of documents, use an app like Scanner Pro. Scanner Pro is just three bucks and offers great features, like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Evernote integration and assembly of multi-page PDFs. It will automatically detect the borders of your document, auto-rotate, and adjust the image so that it's free of shadows and other interference.

Bottom Line: Portability Plus Features

Personally, I use Scanner Pro, but I don't have to scan very many things. For the attorney who has much more scanning to do, we recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i. Like its pricier ScanSnap relatives, it scans front and back simultaneously and does optical character recognition. It does come with a sheet feeder, and even though it holds only 10 sheets, that's better than nothing. Plus, it's still exceptionally portable and even though it claims to be designed for Windows, it works with Mac OS just as easily.

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