Published on January 16th, 2006 | by Greg0
IRISPen: Handheld Scanning
The idea behind a pen scanner is simple: it’s a small, handheld device that you can highlight text with and have it appear on your computer. Not particularly new, these devices still haven’t made it into the mainstream- largely because ubiquitous flatbed scanners have made them expensive and time-consuming to use.
But don’t rush to judgement! For scanning full-pages- or even half-pages- that are full of text, the IRISPen can take a while (and be frustrating, as you try and keep track of which lines you are on). But if you are dealing with a document with pictures or graphs that you don’t need, or if you only want a few lines of text, then the IRISPen is much more convenient than a flatbed scanner. We tried the IRISPen Express ($130), but there is also the more fully-featured Executive model ($200), as well as one with support for Asian languages ($300).
It works with many operating systems (including older ones, such as Windows 98 or Mac OS 9) and older machines. It ran decently well on an older laptop with only 96 MB of RAM, and the software is relatively easy to use. The error rate was low, as long as you moved the pen consistently. And the base model supports multiple languages, for those of you who scan in Slovak or Catalan- though you may need to buy additional software for extra features.
The biggest problem we had was that it had to be connected to a laptop at all times- there aren’t any batteries, and there isn’t any internal memory. A truly portable scanner would be great for libraries (or corporate espionage), but this device doesn’t seem quite as cutting edge trailing a cord. Like with other specialty devices, the IRISPen does it’s thing and does it well, but is most useful for small amounts of text.