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Know everybody’s name

Nov 18, 20023 mins

CardScan turns a pile of business cards into a database

What good is that stack of business cards on your desk when you’re out? If you need to call a contractor from a client site, your only hope is to call the office and hope someone’s around who’s willing to rout around your desk for you. Good luck.

What you want is to transfer business card information into a usable database format you can easily access from anywhere. Enter CardScan from Corex Technologies. Starting in 1994, Corex introduced a scanner built just for business cards and pioneered a new industry. Today CardScan shares information scanned from business cards between computers, PDAs and the Internet.

Installation takes little time thanks to the USB link to your PC. Plug in the software CD, follow the prompts, reboot, then plug in the CardScan unit via the supplied USB cable. The scanner software starts automatically and configures the scanning unit via an enclosed calibration card.

Figure 8 seconds per scanned card, and you can feed one after another and then let the CardScan software chew on a batch of cards at once. After digesting each card, CardScan matches contact info to the correct fields in an address file. This process – reading the card information for the database and saving a picture of the card itself – takes longer on slower computers, but you can fetch a cup of coffee while the software mulls over difficult cards.

I tested the CardScan Executive 600c (color), single-user version ($299). Adding five more users bumps the price to $399, and dropping down to a black-and-white scanner lowers the price to $199. You can just buy the software ($79) if you want to use your own scanner, which isn’t a bad deal.

Scribblers rejoice. CardScan also displays the scanned card image, including graphics and notes, when you zoom in on a particular name. Not only can you see your comments on the front of the card, but you also can scan the back of the card and attach that image as well.

Like any good personal information manager (PIM), CardScan lets you add notes and extra fields to your database and search that information later. One click dials the phone number (if your computer is set up with an internal modem for placing the call) or launches an e-mail. You can create a card by filling in the database fields manually, just like any other database. When you zoom in on a manual listing, the lower half of the screen where you normally see the image of the card defaults to the Notes screen.

CardScan plays nice with others, a big help. You can import information from, or export information to, more PIMs and address programs than I knew existed, including Notes, Outlook, Outlook Express, ACT! and Goldmine. You can also share your CardScan database across your local network.

When away from the office, there are two ways to use CardScan. First, since it synchronizes with major PDAs (Palm, Handspring, Sony, Psion) running either Palm OS or Pocket PC operating systems, click the synch button, then carry your database in your pocket from then on.

Or you can upload your CardScan database to and access your information from any Web browser. This free service puts us into a whole new area of online address books and collaboration products we’ll examine at a later date.