CardScan can rescue you from business-card shuffle

TEST DRIVE



Pros and cons:
+        Clearinghouse for PC and PDA contact
management
+        Little keyboarding for large groups of
contacts
–        Scanner more limited than a low-cost
flatbed unit
Real-life requirements:
Win9x or NT 4.0, 16M of RAM, 25M of free storage, parallel port


You vowed to type that stack of business cards into your desktop contact manager. Then
you acquired a personal digital assistant or handheld computer, but the tiny keyboard made
you postpone the job once again.


No need to procrastinate any longer. Earlier versions of CardScan software from Corex
Technologies Corp. weren’t quite up to speed, but Version 4.0 is.


It not only deciphers business cards, but CardScan synchronizes your desktop contact
database with PalmPilot or Palm III from 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., IBM
Corp.’s WorkPad PC companion or handheld devices running Microsoft Windows CE 2.0. I
tested the CardScan software with the CardScan 300 scanner connected to a PC parallel
port. The whole bundle is called CardScan Executive.


The software also works with many third-party scanners, accepting single cards fed into
a sheetfed scanner or batches laid out on a flatbed unit.


Corex programmers have fine-tuned the program’s intelligence to place the right
information in the right field. Because there is no such thing as a standard business card
layout, this is a very difficult assignment.


For the most part CardScan succeeds, though it sometimes tries too hard. The words
Internet and Web on business cards, for example, fool CardScan into putting whatever comes
after those words into the e-mail or Web address fields in the contact manager.


If a card shows a title such as Web Developer, CardScan might list the person’s
Web address as Developer. Corex should build in logic to search for standard patterns such
as username@domain.com as the e-mail address and www.domain.com as the Web address.


CardScan also has optical character recognition problems with underscore characters in
e-mail addresses. If it cannot discern the underscore in the OCR scan, CardScan inserts an
blank space. Built-in logic would save users from having to go in and enter the
underscores to avoid future e-mail glitches.


Overall, though, the OCR and intelligence features do well at getting the right data
into the right fields.


I tested CardScan on almost 500 business cards. CardScan coped with about 80 percent of
the card formats, needing little or no editing. Only 5 percent required extensive editing.


Three examples highlight the types of problems the package had:


The difficulty arises from the font used for the person’s name, the placement of
name and company and the fact that the e-mail address appears on two lines.


CardScan got everything right except for the person’s name, which was in a nearly
illegible font.


Impressively, it captured jdoe@acme.com as the correct e-mail address.


Because CardScan found no other e-mail or Web address, it entered Master in the uniform
resource locator field and Division as the e-mail address.


Although CardScan did get the company name right, it missed some information at the
left in white on a black background with a gray stripe through the middle.


It read the white text at the right correctly, except that the mail-stop code had no
preceding identifier, so CardScan could not figure out what to do with it.


Now some good news for procrastinators: On Windows CE devices, CardScan does ActiveSync
two-way synchronization with notebook or desktop personal information and contact
managers.


It has Intellisync from Puma Technology Inc. of San Jose, Calif., for two-way
synchronization between the CardScan database and applications such as Lotus Notes and
Organizer, Microsoft Outlook, Act from Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., and GoldMine
from GoldMine Software Corp. of Pacific Palisades, Calif.


If you scan that old stack of cards into CardScan, it will populate the entries into
your PIM or PDA.


And because synchronization is two-way, CardScan can serve as a central clearinghouse
between desktop PIM and handheld device.


The small CardScan 300 scanner is handy for capturing large batches of cards, but a
scanner with better image quality would improve the software’s OCR reliability.

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