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The previous version of the IrisPen was impressive, but the new one adds even more features. If you aren’t familiar with the original IrisiPen, it’s a pen-sized scanner that automatically generates text when it scans printed words. Getting clippings from newspapers or magazines is easy. Just drag the scanner across the text, and presto – it turns up in your text document.
The new pen is faster and smaller. It can steam through 1,000 characters per second, which is almost certainly faster than you can scan. As with all OCR (optical character recognition) software, accuracy is imperative. This scanner scans a line at a time, rather than whole pages, so if the OCR was full of mistakes it would just be easier to type it yourself.
Thankfully the accuracy is excellent – as long as you scan straight. It’s a good idea to use a ruler or some other straight edge against which to run the scanner.
Southpaws are at a slight disadvantage as the scanner is designed for right handers. There are settings to make it easier for lefties, which helps a little. But either way, it can be difficult to see which line you are aiming to scan properly.
If I were to redesign the IrisPen I would prefer a slightly wider scanning head, or at least have a guide to show exactly what the scanner is scanning. It’s rather hit and miss at the moment, until you get used to it. A slightly wider scanning area would let you scan a whole business card, for example, which would be… er… handy.
I’m sure this device will be a godsend for some people, but I’m not sure who would actually get the best use out of it – it’s one of those products that you don’t know you need until you need it. The barcode-reading ability might be more useful than the OCR to some people. But I’m still struggling to find common everyday uses.
Iris makes a point to say that it can be used for numbers as well as alphabetic scanning. I could see myself using this scanner to grab stock prices from the Financial Times – it automatically adjusts to different background colours.
If you need a pen or barcode scanner, this will do the trick. It’s light and easy to use, and does just what it claims. I’m still struggling to find a proper use for it, but Iris has been making them for years, so somebody must have thought of something.
The improvements may not warrant an upgrade from the previous IrisPen II, but if you’re still struggling with the older serial version, now is the time to upgrade.