As mentioned in my NeatDesk review, Neatco sent me a review copy of their NeatDesk For Mac scanner. I liked the scanner, but even more so I liked the NeatWorks software so I decided to do a separate review.
This review is for the NeatWorks for Mac version. I don’t know to what extent the Windows version is different, but hopefully they are similar.
For some reason I don’t quite get, NeatWorks for Mac can be purchased on its own, but NeatWorks for Windows appears to only be available bundled with the NeatDesk or NeatReceipts scanner. Kinda wacky.
Before plugging in the scanner, I installed the software by popping in the CD. It installed like most any other program, and when it first ran, it prompted me to update which I did. I’m now running Version 2.1.4 (214017).
When it first ran, the first thing it did was notice that I was running ScanSnap Manager and asked me if I wanted to configure the ScanSnap to send scans into NeatWorks. Hmm, interesting. I’ll save that one for another post.
Running The First Time
The first time you run it, it takes you to a welcome screen. I found the video tour very helpful, so I recommend that for sure.
Libraries & Collections
With NeatWorks, you can have a number of different Libraries. You can think of a Library as a top-level repository. You can either just put everything into one Library, or have say a Business Library, a Personal Library, etc.
A collection is a group within one particular Library. By default, NeatWorks creates a Contacts, Receipts, and Documents Collection. You can add whatever Collections makes sense to you (Bills? Automotive?).
There are a bunch of options you can set when you want to scan into NeatWorks.
You can do B&W or Color, have the scanned items go into your Inbox, the Current Collection, you’re working with, or straight to a PDF.
You can have a separate item for each page, or have it all-in-one, and you can choose Single Sided or Double Sided.
You can have NeatWorks analyze (more on that later) the whole document, just the first page or not at all.
When you bring something into the NeatWorks Inbox, it analyzes it to try to find what kind of document it is. It tries to see if it is a Document, a Receipt, or a Contact (Business Card).
It then tries to analyze the content and see if it can fill in some of the (configurable) fields for you. For example, here is a receipt that I scanned in. Some of the fields auto-populated.
With business cards, it did quite a good job of picking out the company and contact information and auto-filling the fields.
Obviously, it’s not going to get everything. When that is the case, it has a wicked feature whereby you can drag OCR’ed text from the document into one of the fields. In this example, I dragged the store name to the Vendor field:
It’s not perfect, but it is a big time saver.
From the Inbox, you can edit the information for each item and drag and drop them to the appropriate collection. You can crop, split pages, and (handy) can combine multiple documents into one.
The files are stored in the Library, which on OSX is a package that is saved by default in your ~/Documents directory.
If you Show Package Contents, you can see the individual PDFs in there, and from NeatWorks you can export any or all files to PDF, CSV, or Quicken.
I know some people will not like having their documents stored in this proprietary NeatWorks library file. It’s up to you whether that is an issue or not.
There are multiple ways that you can search for information. You can type in the Search box and that will search through fields and OCR’ed text in the current Library.
You can hit the Browse button and browse by any of the fields associated with your items. For example, say you knew the rough date. You could browse like this:
NeatWorks also has a nifty “ScreenFlow” mode that shows your documents in a CoverFlow-like view:
Finally, it integrates with Spotlight. So, on the Mac, you can do a search for any of the text inside your document and it will bring it up in NeatWorks:
Printing To NeatWorks
In addition to manually importing or scanning, there is another cool way to add things to NeatWorks. Say you’ve received an email receipt and you want to save it. The program adds some options in the Print To PDF menu:
You can tell it if it is a Document, a Contact, or A Receipt right from your email program (or wherever) and it imports it, OCRs it, and Analyzes it. Awesome.
What Could Be Improved?
Nothing’s perfect and NeatWorks is no exception. The first issue is the speed. When you scan something, it starts the OCR and Analyze process right away. This can be somewhat slow (as with any OCR), and there is a lot of chugging along if you are scanning a bunch of documents. It would be great if you could batch-OCR later.
Also, it would be great if there was the concept of “Profiles”, so that you could have some predefined groups of settings that you could more easily flip back and forth between.
The Bottom Line
I am very impressed with Neatco’s NeatWorks. In a separate post, I will be exploring how to make the two worlds collide and use NeatWorks with the ScanSnap. Stay tuned.
Have you used NeatWorks? What did you think of it?