Review: NeatDesk and NeatWorks for Mac

A few weeks ago, the Neat company sent me their new NeatDesk for Mac scanner and its NeatWorks software to review. I have been a Fujitsu ScanSnap loyalist for the past two years, so I wasn’t super excited about doing the NeatDesk review. In fact, I tested one of their mobile scanners a year ago and was so disappointed with it that I didn’t even post the review to the site (why clutter up your time with an awful review?).

To my surprise, however, I liked the NeatDesk for Mac. Specifically, I really liked the NeatWorks software. (If you buy the scanner, the software comes with it. The software also sells as a stand-alone product.)

The physical scanner is basic. It was easy to assemble, simple to install, is speedy, and it has a streamlined, uncluttered design:

What I want to talk about more in-depth is the accompanying software. Like most other programs, it automatically straightens scans, has text OCR and a document feeder, can automatically generate PDFs, and has settings for color, black/white, and image-only. Where it stands apart from other programs is with its field mapping on business card scans (it generates a contact card in Address Book with the data populated straight from the scan), it supports third-party scanners (Fujitsu, Canon, HP), and it allows you to create custom field values (this is great if you scan both business and personal receipts on the same scanner, so you can have drop-down menus for different credit cards, etc.).

Additionally, I liked that I could create custom reports based on my scans. If I wanted to pull up only my receipts from May 2009, I can do that and have the cover page reflect that information. If it’s a nice receipt, the software will also map vendor, date, and amount fields, similar to how it does with business cards. However, I only got this to work twice out of 10 times because I usually crumple up my receipts when I stick them into my purse and the text wasn’t very clear on the receipt when I scanned it. (I think of this as user error, not the program’s failing.) Here is an example of a good scan:

My only real complaint is that color paper seems to throw off all field-mapping abilities. If a piece of paper, receipt or business card isn’t black and white, it won’t map the information well, if at all. Take for example, my business card:

My card is just white text on a green background, and the software program didn’t map any data off of it. Actually, the system initially thought it was an image, not a business card. I was able to type all of the accurate information in by hand, so it doesn’t completely mess up the system, but I still wish it were more accurate. That being said, a lot of document feed scanning software systems have the exact same problem. In my opinion, it’s not a reason to keep from buying the software.

I think the scanner is fine, but I strongly recommend the NeatWorks software for Mac to use with whatever scanner you own. The software was extremely convenient and performed very well. It is much better than the software that ships with the Fujitsu ScanSnap, is right around the same price as DevonThink Pro, NeatWorks is simple to use with Evernote, and it’s a great way to control paper clutter. It earns a big thumbs-up in my book.

And, my cat Charlie is a big fan of its storage box:

46 Comments for “Review: NeatDesk and NeatWorks for Mac”

  1. posted by Trog on

    Heh. All cats have an obligation to lay on any new thing put on the floor. I think it is to hide the clutter. Or possibly to shed on anything un-shed-upon. One of the two.

  2. posted by xo on

    i bought the portable version for my laptop when i’m out on a consulting gig and then use the scansnap at home. i found the software very similar to paperless for mac (i think it’s a rebadged program.) it bothers me that i have to make it have two different files. one for documents, one for receipts, and maybe more? documents ARE receipts. Anyone else find this weird? Also keyboard shortcuts don’t work under the browsing. very unproductive.

    the windows software (under parallels) works awesome though.

    the mac software also seems to be a bit on the slow side. (i have 100 of mb’s of documents from the three companies that i work for.)

  3. posted by CC on

    Are there any scanners that are comparable to the ScanSnap currently available? I’m looking to replace my flatbed scanner and these products – software & scanner – look intriguing.

  4. posted by Tyrun on

    From what I can tell it looks like this pulls it into it’s own database which you then use to interact with your documents.

    So there’s no way for this to export automatically to PDF? I guess I’m not too keen on having to use a proprietary piece of software to interact/view my documents.

  5. posted by Alice on

    does it have an option to scan in black & white?

  6. posted by Keith on

    I agree with Tyrun. I’m happy enough to have a streamlined, portable printer to take with me (when I get the new laptop), but I have no interest in locking up my data in a proprietary DB. I just want to scan my receipts or magazine articles on the go and bring them over to my desktop hard drive when I get home.

    If the software were some sort of meta-Finder, where it all your documents were PDFs or whatever other file format you wanted) and it just recorded their location on the hard drive (behind the scenes), but providing you with a framework to organize your documents, that would be great.

    Sadly, it doesn’t even have decent DB tools for DB management (last time I checked; this could be different now).

  7. posted by Keith on

    @Tyrun,
    You can click and drag the document to a Finder window, but it gives you the weird 20-character internal DB ID, so you have to rename the file, but you can drag out a PDF. In fact, if I recall, it only has PDFs?

    @Alice
    I seem to recall you can opt for B&W.

  8. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Tyrun and @Alice — It does PDF and black and white, as I described in the fourth paragraph of this post.

    @Keith — I have mine set up so that it doesn’t save PDFs in the program but writes them directly to my existing file structure in my Documents folder. I’ve never had a need to drag and drop and it hasn’t ever added garble onto my file names.

  9. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Keith — All you need to do is “Print” and then “Print as PDF.”

  10. posted by Jean-Christophe on

    That looks like a mean cat: do not disturb or else !!!

    Thanks for your review. It gives a great deal of info and make me want to try it out. It could enhance my ScanSnap use simply (Fujitsu acompanying software could be bettered!)

    You’ve done it again! Thanks!

  11. posted by Kristin on

    I saw a demo of this product when I was at the Philadelphia airport. It was on special that day :) of course, but I resisted. I’ve been looking at this company for a few years, wondering if I wanted to submit to the reduction of paper clutter and deal with the possibility of not understanding the software. Thanks for the review!

  12. posted by Sara on

    My grandparents had a cat that looked just like yours – and his name was also Charlie! :)

  13. posted by Megan on

    Totally unrelated… but please tell me you named him “Charlie” due to his Chaplin-esque mustache. Very cute!

  14. posted by Sue on

    You have a Kitler!

  15. posted by Sky on

    Your cat is adorable! He looks like he has “attitude”.

  16. posted by LDH on

    A cat photo always makes my day, and yours is not exception. I’d take a cat photo nugget more often; please don’t consider Charlie clutter!

  17. posted by susteph on

    i have been using neat receipts for mac with the proprietary little sheetfed scanner for a while now. it’s nice, but not customizable enough for my tastes. there’re a lot of fields i don’t need to use, and there’s no way to get rid of them. also, re: xe’s comment, i agree, it’s not very productive in that you have to use the mouse to click into the first field in inspector. makes me crazy. i like to do all the data entry/correction/checking on the keyboard.

    but all told, i like it. it’s neater and easier than storing receipts in envelopes in a filing cabinet, and a heck of a lot easier to find receipts when you need them!

  18. posted by Sylvain Lemire on

    I have used the software with ScanSnap for about six months now. One big problem: the software is geared toward US system preferences as it will not play well with other coutry number preferences. An answer from Neat confirmed that and the fact that they will not correct this problem, a problem that other software programmers take more seriously.

  19. posted by deb on

    I bought a Scansnap recently. I’m trying out different (mac) software for keeping and organizing receipts, documents and business papers. Right now MacUpdate has a terrific bundle that includes Paperless (that’s where I got it). I’m also trying Devonthink, and have had Yep and Leap for a while. Yep and Leap are amazing for searching, so if you just want to save your stuff without locking it into a certain program they may be worth checking out.

  20. posted by Annie on

    Thanks for the review – very informative and helpful. I couldn’t help but be swayed by Charlie’s vote, too (and I love his mustache).

  21. posted by gooseling on

    your cat has a kickass mustache.

  22. posted by Jill on

    I was just looking on their website yesterday, after I found lots of our home renovation receipts blacked out from heat exposure to thermal paper. Ahhh!

    I was hoping they had PC software. I like my current scanner, and would prefer not to buy another piece of plastic. Anyone know of just software that would do the same?

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  25. posted by Randall Stross on

    Charlie is a good looking cat :) Neatworks sounds very good, thanks.

  26. posted by aearle on

    I’ve just purchased a scansnap S1500M, and thus its own software.

    Newbie questions:
    Is NeatWorks sufficiently better to be worth investing in?

    Practically speaking, can one use one or the other set of software depending on the situation, or is it one or the other overall?

    Is the ScanSoft software capable of making decent reports as described in the article?

    thanks for comments.

    AEarle

  27. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @aearle — Give the software you already have a whirl and see if it meets your needs. If it does, stay with it. For me, the ScanSnap software didn’t meet all of my needs, and DevonThink Pro was a bit overkill. NeatWorks falls in the “just right” for my needs category.

  28. posted by timgray on

    I have their portable one for Windows. Contacting them they said it was NOT mac compatible. I checked online and discovered that NEAT products are simply relabeled scanners from Genius. They had OSX drivers. I installed them, and simply scan my receipts to pdf or JPG files. the portable version is great because it easily fit’s in a drawer when not used unlike this monster.

    My biggest gripe about NEAT products is their “special” software that does not simply scan to a format in a folder I can easily deal with later on.
    Yes you can export them, but I dont want to take the extra steps.

  29. posted by Erin on

    Thank you so much for this review! I coveted Neat Receipts – but once I got it (as a gift) I then wanted the ScanSnap. I’ve been trying to find the best way to integrate the two – and wasn’t sure if I was being foolish to use the Neat Receipts software with the ScanSnap (I’ve still never opened or tried the ScanSnap software – and I was actually hoping to sell a bit of it as I don’t need the pricey adobe that came with it). I’m going to reread through these posts and experiment a bit this weekend – but I’d like to hear more about your computer filing system for all of your digital paper and how that integrates with the NeatWorks software. Thank you!

  30. posted by Maria on

    Excellent review, but that’s not why I’m commenting. I’m commenting because your grammar is impeccable. Very few people still use the subjunctive case correctly, writing “I wish it was” rather than the correct “I wish it were.”

    Thank you.

  31. posted by Rosemary on

    Thanks for the review. I’m still learning about the uses of a scanner and software to go paperless, and this article provided me with lots of information to consider.

    I agree with Maria. I appreciate a blog written for grown-up people. You use vocabulary, grammar and punctuation in a way that makes your writing very easy to read. Thank you.

  32. posted by 10 Interesting Links From June 9th | Greg In The Desert on

    [...] Review: NeatDesk and NeatWorks for Mac | Unclutterer – A few weeks ago, the Neat company sent me their new NeatDesk for Mac scanner and its NeatWorks software to review. I have been a Fujitsu ScanSnap loyalist for the past two years, so I wasn’t super excited about doing the NeatDesk review. In fact, I tested one of their mobile scanners a year ago and was so disappointed with it that I didn’t even post the review to the site (why clutter up your time with an awful review?). [...]

  33. posted by suzanne on

    Thanks for the review. Intriguing product/software. I’ll work on rationalizing the expense. But until then, you really need to submit that picture of your cat to:

    http://www.catsthatlooklikehitler.com/cgi-bin/seigmiaow.pl

    :-)
    s.

  34. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @suzanne — We submitted Charlie’s picture years ago and were rejected. They told us that she had a Charlie Chaplin mustache (her namesake), not a Hitler mustache. Picky, picky, picky ;)

  35. posted by josephine on

    Looks like Costco has a coupon for it on the coupon book that begins 6/15/09, but the website says it’s sold out!!!!

  36. posted by Steve-O on

    well… this is actually about that cat. Jackson Girl finds Charlie’s mustache very handsome. But she seems to love every male cat she sees…

    I wonder if it’s some sort of disguise? Part of his bad-boy mystique?

  37. posted by Katie Alender on

    I recently pestered my husband into getting me a ScanSnap for my birthday (I’d been working on him for a year!) and I loooooooooove it so passionately. In addition to how compact and easy to use it is, I love that it will sheetfeed photos and scan them directly into iPhoto as an event.

    I am not going to agonize that there is a new and different option out there right now… I’m just not. LOL.

  38. posted by Orlando on

    The NeatWorks software has long been superior to ScanSnap’s – the question is how this NeatDesk’s speed compares to the Fujitsu which has seemingly always been faster.

    Can you notice a difference in speed?

  39. posted by Leslie on

    Charlie is adorable!

    Is there comparable software for a PC? A couple people mentioned Windows in their comments, but I couldn’t tell if they were talking about a version of this software or something else.

  40. posted by Meg on

    I know a cat with a mustache similar to that, but they named him Groucho.

    How does one go about categorizing Groucho, Charlie, and Hitler mustaches?

    And oh…about the scanner… questions:

    1) How IS the speed of the Neatscan compared to ScanSnap?
    2) Does Neatscan duplex?
    3) How well does Neatscan work for magazine articles? Newspaper articles?
    4) Will either one of these scanners allow me to convert my hundreds of photographs to jpegs? If not, do you have a link to something that does the job well? Or is it best to use a service?

    I LOVE this site!! Even if I’m not completely uncluttered yet (there is MORE than a week to my uncluttering needs, because I do not have enough space for “a place for everything and everything in its place”), this is a wonderfully inspirational site and you are a gift from grammar heaven!

  41. posted by bschulz on

    Be very cautious before buying this software. It is not going to meet the needs of many people. Too bad they don’t have a trial program. I use a Canon MP830 with Paperport, which works great. The MP830 did seem to work fine with Neatwork also, but Neatworks did not have a way to enable full-duplex on the ADF. After 1 hour, here are my complaints in my refund request email:

    * Its buggy, I had to quit the application and restart a couple times to reset the view window after it refused to show the documents in the current collection
    * It does not let me set my scanner quality settings – hard drive space is cheap these days, I like high quality.
    * It does not allow me to scan both sides of a document. With Paperport, I had two choices: I could either enable full-duplex, or the Paperport dialog would let me scan one side, then flip the document over and scan the other side. Paperport automatically interleaved the pages. This is a show stopper for me.
    * It does not correctly identify fields. For example, I tried scanning my Bank Statement (Bank of America), and it made the fields the width of the document and there is no way for me to tell it where the fields are. I was hoping I could drag out the import text areas and it would remember the settings the next time. I could not correctly get the date from the scan. I can scan to PDF for free on the Mac…if I have to type in the meta data, the productivity value of your software just went out the window.
    * I created a synchronized collection that automatically creates PDF documents. This is important for me. Unfortunately, your software does not allow me to define the PDF document name template. The name is some really long cryptic name that is unidentifiable. A pretty useless feature. The PDF should be the same as the Title in the metadata.

  42. posted by Len Rubin on

    Does anyone remember the beloved Visioneer PaperPort? How ’bout InfoLog? Global Village GlobalFAX? Now Software’s Now Up-To-Date? History is littered with great products, that—due to being proprietary—took our time and data with them when they eventually departed the marketplace! No matter how compelling the interface or features set, I’d be more inclined to build something in a more dependable conventional database, like FileMaker. At least I’d rest assured my investment of time and effort and money wouldn’t be lost by an inability to easily and completely migrate all my data down the road.

  43. posted by Bill Alpert on

    Love the scanner hate the software. Poor interface, slow, and system bogging. OCR rarely maps fields correctly and software doesn’t allow much field definition flexibility. I’d like to know how to use this with Evernote. Can’t get the scanner to work with Mac OSX’s image capture app.

  44. posted by Wixon on

    User reviews on Amazon said the product doesn’t scan greyscale documents, they won’t even show up, a big negative. True?

  45. posted by JP on

    I just returned to Neat my NeatWorks for Mac after a week of trial.
    I used it with my ScanSnap, a very fine and easy configuration step by step (one minute) is needed to work with NeatWorks, you can print this configuration.
    I was interested only by the Receipts side of the soft.
    I ill not describe the normal problems due to Receipts too small, difficult to read due to damaged or old thermo printed receipts. Just after the scan a feature “Inspector” help to manually correct the data it is perfect.
    NeatWorks comes with fields which are useless and you can not change them. There is however a menu to change what they call Field and Label but they do not precise a definition of what they call Field or Label. Anyway I tried to eliminate or modify the database and try eliminate useless line like: Sent.. Sale taxes.. GST/HST or PST/QST Canadian taxes…Due date.. (strange for a receipt)etc On the other hand I did not find the mandatory fields needed when you travel: City/Location, State/Country, Currency (I do not mind to calculate the change myself manually)
    I asked Support to help me and they did answer me correctly but I understood that the Receipt database is based on Vendors and the field/label can not be edited.
    I am traveling constantly and collect thousands of receipts not all reimbursable. So to remember a Hotel in China, a taxi company in Morocco, names of hundred of restaurants, markets, pharmacy is useless, I will never go back to these Vendors! I think the NeatWorks Receipt DataBase should be under Category. Each of us has a list of Category to sort at the tax time or when you have to create a bill to be reimbursed by a client.
    My conclusion is: if you travel extensively and really need a Receipts Software to sort thousands of receipts made in different Countries or State, this NeatWorks needs a lot of changes before using it. On top, you can not reach the Support by phone, the help online is not very precise and you are going to feel lonely in front of beautiful scans but useless for serious sorting.
    Now if you stay in the same place all year long, going to the same Vendors, to do the same transaction, then this soft is for you.
    JP

  46. posted by George Zraick on

    Nice Idea but in my experience the company is working in a vacuum. The software work fine if installed on a system that doesn’t have anything else installed on it.
    In a real world desk top (mine for example) I have a HP all-in-one, Efax, and other utility’s along with Quicken installed, This system has work well for 2 years until I installed neat products. ” It crashed the system” and I spent the weekend rebuilding it because no and I mean NO Support. On Monday when I called, I got BS deflection and was told to contact them on the web to get a voice call. lol
    When I here stuff like that I know I’m dealing with a disorganized company where a department is under staffed and overwhelmed (Support). Of course the other departments have a “It’s not my problem additude” so once again a great idea that is fubar-ed by poor company culture.

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