With the low cost of scanners these days, every computer should have a scanner connected to it. Just as I'm hard-pressed to envision someone...

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With the low cost of scanners these days, every computer should have a scanner connected to it.

Just as I’m hard-pressed to envision someone using a computer without a printer and a display to see the data within, I also believe that one needs a scanner as well as a keyboard to put the data in. And now there’s one that will read your receipts.

The most commonly used scanner is a flatbed model looking much like a photocopier. Open the lid, lay the paper down on a glass plate and begin the scan. As the light bar passes over the document, its image is transferred into the computer for further manipulation, analysis or display.

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Depending on the scanner and the available software, text images can be converted into actual data that can be further manipulated within a standard word processor. This process is known as Optical Character Recognition or OCR.

For the most part, OCR has been primarily used to transfer copious quantities of typewritten pages into word processors, thus saving the time that would have been spent typing them in manually.

But there are also a number of more specialized OCR applications such as scanning in business cards. Instead of stuffing cards in your pocket, you can quickly scan them into your portable PC. These systems typically come with a tiny business-card scanner that extract the information and store it into a user database.

I just discovered another specialized portable scanning system that addresses a need to organize important information from small slips of paper. We all get those little paper receipts every time we use a credit card or make almost any kind of purchase.

But instead of stuffing them away in a shoe box to later manually enter them into whatever financial program you use, check out NeatReceipts (www.neatreceipts.com). Consisting of the small TravelScanner and software, all you do is feed the receipt into the scanner. NeatReceipts then uses OCR to extract the accounting data from the receipts and plugs the data directly into the proper fields of your accounting program. In addition, the scan makes high-resolution images of your receipts along with any relevant information for easy verification.

The SmartScan technology reads and recognizes key data from your receipt such as the transaction date, amount, payment type, vendor and expense category. The information is read directly from the scanned receipt and inserted directly into the software, and does so with a high degree of accuracy. You can use NeatReceipts for expense reporting, receipt management and expense tracking.

Currently, NeatReceipts works with financial record-keeping software from Intuit including Quicken and Quickbooks using the QIF and IIF formats, Microsoft Money and Excel. The company says that NeatReceipts will also work with any software that accepts CSV file formats and works with many online credit-card statements. It’s best to check with NeatReceipts to make sure your particular application is compatible.

The NeatReceipts scanner and software bundle includes the USB-powered TravelScanner into which you feed the receipts (even crumpled ones), NeatReceipts software and a leather pouch for the scanner. The system requires Windows and connects via a USB port. $249.