NeatWorks vs Paperport

I bought a cheap version of NeatWorks and downloaded a demo of Paperport from Nuance in an attempt to find a good option for digitizing all my mail.

My experience with NeatWorks isn’t great.  It mostly works, but some problems have cropped up from time to time that make me have some concern.  For example, when I first installed the application it automatically searched for updates: it found one, and I installed the newer version of the app (newer that what was on the CD).

Well, it turned out over the next few days that much of the text that it would OCR would not make it into the search index.  So when you went to search for some keywords nothing would be found.

I contacted support and after walking me through a bunch of stuff, it turned out that there was a much newer version of the app available (but somehow their auto update didn’t find it).  This new version seemed to fix this problem, but I basically had to rescan all my documents.  At that point, it was only a few, but what if I run into another problem after I have a few hundred scanned documents?

Speaking of a few hundred documents, right now I have 50 pages scanned and my database is 300MB.  This is insane!!  Even if you backup your data and compress it it ends up being like 500KB / page.  WAAAAAAY to large.  I guess it really isn’t THAT big of a deal.  I mean if I end up with 5000 pages (100x what I have now) and my database is 30GB, it will really be stupid, but it won’t really be a problem I guess. 

Another concern of mine with NeatWorks is lock-in.  What if I want to move to some other software product in the future?  How can I get my documents out of NeatWorks?  Well, it turns out not very easily.  You can export each document to a PDF, but you have to do it 1 at a time.  If you select multiple documents, it puts them into 1 giant PDF.  This is completely useless.  If you have 5000 pages and you want to start using some other PDF indexing product, it will take you forever to export all those files.  Also, you can only use the software with their scanners.

Also, last night I noticed that some receipt that I had scanned never showed up in my “inbox” (it goes from the Quick Scan to the Inbox).  This has me concerned.  I got no error message or any indication that something didn’t work right.  It just never showed up.

Paperport has some nice pluses on its side.  It uses any scanner (not just 1 like w/ NeatWorks).  It stores all images as PDFs in a folder on your file system so you can manage them as you would any other file.

Reviews for PaperPort were not good, but others claimed the newer service pack fixed a lot of problems.  I did have it lock up on me once, but otherwise it seemed to work. 

The main problem with Paperport is it is trying to do to many things.  NeatWorks is for exactly what I am doing, Paperport is trying to be a fully featured Scanner software product, helping you to manage photos and stuff like that.  The UI is pretty poor also.

Basically though, the only reason I can’t see myself using Paperport is that there is no way to attach and search by a date field.  I don’t care about the date I scan a document (the file created date), I care about the date of the document.  So when I search for Mastercard statements, I can filter out what I want by date.  I didn’t see any way to do this with Paperport.

Then when I went to submit a question to their support team asking about this, I was totally convinced to not buy their product (click for full size):

As many users have commented, it really does look like Paperport WAS a good product which has just morphed into a big, bloated, difficult to use product.

UPDATE: Now Nuance has changed me for the full product.  I’m guessing part of their trial is that they will automatically bill you for the software if you don’t cancel your trial.  Wonderful, I am really glad I didn’t pick Paperport: time to call and demand a refund…. again (they charged me 8 bucks for some BS extended download service on my free trial… these guys suck).

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5 thoughts on “NeatWorks vs Paperport

  1. It’s been about a month, any update on your use of NeatWorks? What version are you using (ver 3 or 4)?

    I’m interested, although don’t like the idea you have to use their scanner… I already have one, and if theirs breaks and they go out of business then I’m out of luck?

    How reliable have you found their OCR and text recognition? Is it truly easy to just import, categorize, and export data? (I’m thinking of my friend who would want things truly easy)

    Can you import other data sources (and possibly import this) – considering how many bills are now coming electronically, I would prefer to keep it all stored in one database.

  2. For the most part, I am happy enough with NeatWorks. I thought I might like Paperport more based on the features, but no, not really.

    The problem with paperport was that it is trying to do way to much. It’s trying to be your photo scanner and editor, and your newspaper clipping organizer, and your receipies lookeruper, and your image viewer etc. It’s a pain.

    Yes, being locked into the neatco scanner kinda sucks. You can import PDFs into neatworks, so you could use another scanner and then import the PDFs, but that would add extra work.

    The OCR is pretty good, i.e. plenty good enough for me. Is it 100%? I can’t say that, but after my initial glitch with OCR everything has worked as I hoped. (Initial glitch = OCR was not working when I first installed the app. The install CD pointed me to a URL to check for product updates and that URL didn’t contain the latest version of the app, so when I called support they had me go download SP2, which fixed the problem).

    I haven’t done anything with exporting data and I don’t really plan to, so I can’t speak to that, but for me the process goes like this:
    1) Scan docs
    2) Make sure it categorized them right (receipts went to "receipts" window, and everything else to "documents")
    3) Merge pages into docs (drag and drop)
    4) File them (for each doc you type in what you want, i.e. notes, document date, category, and then stick it in a folder, you can create folders to help organize things, but it isn’t done very well (the folders that is), but to give you an idea I have a folder called "Personal CC Statements" and one called "Tax documents" etc).

    Thats it.

  3. Neatworks is a proprietary system, & this type of thing is "usually" a deliberate move by companies to make it difficult to move from one product to another. The solution I’m using is to scan most documents in as .pdf’s. I only scan in receipts & such as OCR to the Neatworks db. If I want a document in both places I scan it in as a .pdf then import it into Neatworks. I know there is an export feature on Neatworks so I could do that too. Then I back up everything to an external HD. Really, most documents I want as .pdf’s on my hard drive anyway – it makes them easier to email or print if needed, and I’m not worried about being tied to Neatworks if I want to change in the future.

  4. I use the desk scanner from neatworks, it is great for multipage and two sided docs, very fast, especially compared to the portable scanner. I tend to scan everything to pdf and have multiple folders on my drive that is backed up.

    When you use the neatworks software it does a very good job but backup is excruciatingly slow!!!! Listen to me it is really, really, slow! The result is that you will stop backing up using their software.

    The trick is to locate the date/image file(s) they use and set them for auto backbup using a 3rd party solution without compression.

  5. I have both Neatworks and Paperport. I was happy with Paperport version 9 but made the mistake of "upgrading" to V11, which crashed constantly. I have not been able to use Paperport for more than a year as it will not reinstall as according to Nuance I have reinstalled it too many times. I had reverted to using the previous version just for accessing my old files if needed. I have been using Adobe Acrobat for all my scanning and so far have not had any problems. I use Neatworks only for receipts which I have first scanned in on a Canon copier which is fast with the auto feeder. I save the files as pdfs and then use the Neatworks import feature. I will never ever go back to Paperport or use any product made by Nuance. I don’t understand how they stay in business.
    The downside of Neatworks to me is the propriatory storage system of the database and the fact that the user cannot choose where it is stored. I like to keep my files on a separate drive or partition but I cannot do this with Neatworks. Apart from that, Neatworks is a good program and a potentially great one with further development.

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