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Review – NeatReceipts: Reclaiming My Office From the Paper Monster

February 4, 2011

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Last year, I saw this neat looking little gadget called NeatReceipts(made by NeatCo) in Costco for $125. I don’t usually splurge on myself (as my husband will attest to), so I passed it up because it seemed like a bit of a waste of money. Since I’m a true computer geek and I know a lot about scanning and OCR, I figured I could just do the same thing with my good old All-in-One and ReadIris OCR. When that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, I asked my husband to buy me that cute little NeatReceipts package for Christmas.

My husband being the wonderful guy that he is, bought me the NeatReceipts package and I attempted to install it on my older PC. That old PC was a bit temperamental and the install hung, so the NeatReceipts went on a shelf for a year. A little while back, I got fed up with that temperamental old PC and bought a brandy new laptop. So yesterday, while I was in bed sick, I decided to dust off the Neat Receipts and give it another shot, dragging the laptop and NeatReceipts kit along with me.

First, I was a bit annoyed when the install failed right away. Apparently, the CD in my kit didn’t support the 64-bit version of Vista. I didn’t even know I had the 64-bit version, go figure. So I went online and found the solution buried in a Knowledgebase article that didn’t sound like it had anything to do with my error. The solution was to download a newer version of the software, a request which I thought was reasonable at first. I clicked on the link, and hit “run” instead of “save” in that little dialog box. That was a mistake that would take me 3 hours to fix, ughhh! It took about 45 minutes to finish downloading, and then it tried to install. I swear I turned off every Norton item I have installed, but the installation just hung. I sat there for about 15 minutes, not knowing what to do. I eventually clicked the cancel button, at which point the program barked at me: “Installation Did Not Complete Successfully yada yada yada”. Now what?!?! I rebooted my computer, and noticed the little icon for NeatReceipts was on my desktop. Surely it didn’t install after it said that it failed? I clicked on the icon, and it fired up! Wooohoooo! A little pessimistic, I started the process of installing the scanner. Windows couldn’t find the driver anywhere. So I looked for it on the website, and followed more directions, but Windows still wouldn’t recognize that cute little scanner.

OK, so I figured the first installation obviously didn’t work, so I would just have to download it again. This time, the download took 1 1/2 hours! I verified that the issue was because of their server, since I ran an internet speed test on my laptop. So I proceeded to run the installation again, which then caused another error…this time saying that I had to delete an older version of the program first. By now, I was starting to think this program was out to get me! Maybe a little gremlin in there, taunting me?!?!

I took a deep breath. And then I continued to follow the directions and eventually got the whole thing installed, 4 hours and a few grey hairs after I started. But what I found after trying it was it was amazing! This is one of the most useful programs that I’ve ever used. As a matter of fact, if anyone asked me what I could suggest to make the product better, I would only have a few small tweaks and it would be the perfect receipt and document management tool I’ve ever seen.

The scanning process is much, much faster than my All-in-One and ReadIris combination. With my personal combination, you have to wait for the first document to finish OCR’ing before you can scan the next. But, Neat Receipts allows you to continue scanning while it’s processing other documents. At one point, I had 8 documents in the queue and it just kept chugging along. You can scan multiple documents into one file, as well as create a folder system like you would in a regular file cabinet.

It has processes for 3 types of documents: receipts, business cards, and everything else. Another great thing is that it tries to figure out what kind of document you’re scanning, and OCR’s the most popular fields for that document type. For those of you that haven’t had any experience with an OCR engine, it tries to recognize the characters in a scanned document and convert them into information that you can edit. The OCR engine is actually really good, at one point deciphering a receipt total that I couldn’t even read. After scanning documents, you have the ability to review each document, modify the information if necessary, and file it in a folder. You can even split receipts between multiple folders from the “Receipts” tab. I haven’t tried the Quickbooks/Quicken export, but kudos that it even tries!

Overall, I give NeatReceipts a 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. It lost a bunch of points because the installation and software download need a bit of work. It also lost points because it doesn’t OCR the individual lines (the items I bought), it doesn’t even give a spot to enter them if you want to. One more thing that I would like to see is the ability to split receipts when you’re reviewing the scan. It’s irritating to have to assign it to one folder, then find the receipt in the folder and then splitting it to another folder. Too cumbersome a process when you have tons of receipts in the folders like I do.

So if you want to clear out all of the paper in your house, give NeatReceipts a whirl. I had a huge amount of satisfaction today, shredding 2 big piles of paper that used to occupy my makeshift spare file cabinet today. Tomorrow, I tackle the big cabinet!

Disclosure: My husband purchased the NeatReceipts product from Costco. I was not compensated at all by NeatCo for this review, and all of the opinions are my own. More information about NeatReceipts and other NeatCo products can be found on their website: http://www.neatco.com

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