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Jewish World Review
Sept. 26, 2008
/ 26 Elul 5768
Keeping Receipts Neat
There may be a few dour souls who actually enjoy gathering up the receipts from
their trips, pasting or taping them to paper, and assembling the package for the
legions in accounting. I'm not one of them.
And you might not be one, either, which makes a product called Neat Receipts
(www.neatreceipts.com) all the more interesting: the scanner-and-software combo is
now available for Mac users, at $179, which is $30 more than the list price of the
This is one of those rare instances when the hardware component is as appealing as
the software. Usually, a piece of hardware is just that: utilitarian. Here, the
scanner is small (large enough to let letter or legal-sized sheet of paper pass
through) and compact and powered through a computer's USB port. I can take this
puppy on the road, carrying case included, and not have to worry about yet another
Beyond the hardware, though, is the software. Neat Receipts has long been available
for Windows users, with Mac-heads (now up to 10 percent of U.S. notebook buyers) on
the outside looking in. The new version changes this.
The Mac version of Neat Receipts is still in its early stages. The idea is to scan,
"read," or, actually, perform optical character recognition" of a receipt, and then
take the receipt data and fill in categories then used for creating a report:
vendor, item, cost, sales tax, method of payment, etc. You then can print out the
whole thing and, if it all works, have something resembling the old paste-pot
exercise, but legible and with numbers that add up correctly.
Once you install the software, connecting the Neat Receipts scanner to the computer
brings up the opportunity to calibrate the device. This involves passing a glossy
sheet of white paper with one line of printed words through the device, to make sure
it gets the proper balance for scanning. Once calibrated, you're ready to go.
I had mixed results with the scanning process. Just about every receipt created an
image, but only about half the receipts were read. I'll admit, I'd put some very old
ones through, receipts printed using a tiny thermal printer like you get from a gas
pump. But even a rather bold-faced receipt from the Delaware Turnpike offered a
For now, I'm going to chalk this up to this being early days for the Mac software;
as the product matures, it'll refine features and add some. Moreover, if I can get a
scan and have to annotate it manually, I figure I'm still ahead of the game. The
resulting spreadsheet-like report has running totals, I can categorize expenses, and
have report components which are legible. Again, I have hopes for a positive
evolution here, just as has happened on the Windows side. There, scanned receipt
records contain more information such as the participants and purpose of a business
lunch, and there are more categories to select. Also, the latest version of the Neat
Receipts Windows software lets you scan business cards and export the information to
a contact manager such as Microsoft Outlook, something else that road warriors will
On the Mac and on Windows, you can use the scanner to capture a document. The result
is a searchable PDF file, from which you can extract data using other software. I'd
wish that Neat Receipts would let other programs access the scanner, and that the
PDF files it creates were smaller in size (Adobe Acrobat Professional can help with
the latter). But it's a nice ancillary feature.
Overall there's promise here. If you need more organization in your life, it's a
product worth buying, especially if the firm continues to work on the software,
which I believe they shall.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com