Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Document Scanner — Review

© 2014 Peter Free


 17 June 2014




Update (02 July 2022)


Ignore the negative software comments in my original review (below). The software that accompanied the unit in those days was restricted to Windows and was awful.


Fujitsu has since updated its operating software choices. These now include Mac versions.


My sample (for Mac's Big Sur) works flawlessly and runs circles around Fujitsu's original Windows version (described below).


Essentially, what Fujitsu did was to make a computer driven virtual interface that substitutes for the lack of a command screen on the 2014 era unit itself.


The improvement in performance, as well as the range of choices as to what to do with the resulting scan (in terms of categorization and filing) are astonishing.


Therefore, this 2014 ix500 scanner (now discontinued) — and presumably the updated one that Fujitsu manufactures today — are very highly recommended.


I do not recall ever experiencing such an improved product. That accomplished solely by the manufacturer having updated its software. Kudos to Fujitsu.


Original review (17 June 2014)


This is a decent low volume home scanner, but frustratingly inefficient for more demanding users.


The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 document scanner suffers from archaic software that gets in the way of efficiency.  The hardware itself works well with letter-sized paper, but frequently mangles anything thin or with uneven edges or wrinkles.


As an occasional home scanner, these flaws would not be meaningful.  However, anyone scanning many thousands of variously sized pages, destined for different file folders, will find the machine slow and tedious to use.


Fujitsu’s archaic user interface


Fujitsu’s mastery certainly does not lie in creating efficient software.  Irritations start right out the box with installation of the ScanSnap software.  The installation process is not transparent — meaning that it is not clear which of the four programs that come with the unit are actually necessary for basic use.  Installation of all four takes forever by modern standards.


Curiously, neither of two copies of ScanSnap were able to get two different Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners to work properly with my Sony laptop — despite the fact that they work on my wife’s identical Sony.  My guess is that ScanSnap conflicted with some of the Adobe software and/or their plugins on mine.


Second, Fujitsu chose a strange way to get the ScanSnap program to start.  Instead of opening the application before working with it, as one does with almost every other piece of today’s software, Fujitsu has the user begin by pressing the blue lighted button on the scanner itself, while there is paper in the tray ready to be scanned.


This simplification would be fine, if Fujitsu’s program were bullet-proof.  But it is not, as my experience with its inoperability on my laptop indicates.


The glitch here lies in the fact that blue button sometimes blinks, which indicates that the ix500 will not scan.  But there is no indication anywhere of what is wrong because — by not actually starting the application — there is no on screen way for the user to see error messages.


Consequently, one has to mess around with Fujitsu’s foolishly worded and usually unhelpful trouble-shooting guide to try to fix whatever (take your best guess) has gone off the rails.



Idiot-proof software slows everything down too much to be efficient


Even so basic a thing as saving a scanned file to one’s computer involves a series of unnecessarily time-consuming steps.


The process starts with the scanner physically scanning the sheets one has loaded.  A dialog box opens, once the software has processed the image into a PDF.  A series of options are displayed on screen.  Among this string of alternatives is a “scan to file” box and a “scan to email” one.




In the case of business cards, the scanner automatically detects the small size and adds “CardMinder” (one of the programs that comes with the scanner) to its range of save file options.


The user clicks on the save avenue that she wants, and another screen pops up.  This one allows one to name the file and to browse through already established folders on one’s computer to store it.


Annoyance begins at this stage because Fujitsu overkilled its communications in regard to saving files.  Where the excess may be useful is when the scanner detects that a jam or too-thick sheet has passed through.  A dialog box opens.  It asks whether one wants to continue scanning (after clearing the jam and saving or deleting the sheet or sheets that caused the halt).


Occasionally, however, the scanner does not detect a problem.  The dialog box (with the options for saving) opens after the entire tray has been scanned.  The trick here is to close the option box — provided that one wants to continue adding both the defectively scanned sheets and the rest of those in the in-tray to the destination file.


Once the saving options box closes, another (slowly) pops up. This one asks whether one wants to delete the entire file or not.  If the user clicks “no”, she can re-run the sheets that did not copy properly (as well as those left in the tray).


The process is frustratingly slow.  It gets worse with Fujitsu’s well-intended next step.  Once the user names the file and browses to select the destination folder, the program eventually generates a message and a beep, both of which indicate that the file has been successfully saved.


That sounds like a useful confirmation. Until one realizes that these messages take (b) so long to generate and (b) require the user to physically close the message box — that they slow the scanning process down to an annoying degree.  This is the one aspect of ScanSanp’s interface that made me want to scatter its guts on the floor.


If one tries to scan without closing dialog boxes, an error message appears which also requires that the user physically hit “ok".



Physical processing shortcomings


The ix500 likes letter-size, not-too-thin paper best.  It will scan smaller items, especially if they are not fragile. It helps to move the adjustable side bars to accommodate the size of what is being scanned.


In the real world, though, most people’s files contain variously sized papers and receipts in variable thicknesses.  This means that one is continuously having to (a) adjust the side-bars in the tray and (b) monitoring to be sure that the small sized papers come out properly.  Often they don’t.


The scanner hates thin or wrinkled receipt paper.  It loathes anything that is folded over along one side or stapled.  All three wind up getting wrinkled or torn.  Sometimes enough so that they cannot be scanned afterward.


The scanner’s selectivity in paper type and size might not be much of problem, were it not for the already mentioned dialog boxes.  At each mishap, one has to negotiate one’s way through intrusive presentation of options.  The process often goes all the way to having to close the “save to” box, so as to generate the “no deletion” box and resume scanning.


In short, Fujitsu’s fail-safe approach wastes a bunch of time.


Out-tray also presents problems


The user has to monitor the out-tray during the scanning process.  If one does not, paper gets scattered all over the floor and out of sequence.  This matters when the scanner messes up a scan and one has to send the packet through again.



Scan quality


Scan quality is okay on written documents that are properly visible to begin with.  It is not so good with faded items.  It also copies whatever bleed-through there is on the back side of thin sheets of paper.


Photo scan quality is poor.



Overall — good for some purposes and not others


Provided that you can get the scanner to work on your computer, this is a very good scanner for occasional home use.  Provided that you keep up with your scanning tasks, accumulated volume will not turn utility into frustration.


That said, I do not recommend the ix500 for businesses or high-volume home users.  Fujitsu’s software is just too archaically inefficient.  And I am not convinced that having an out-tray that requires non-stop observation and paper removal is a boon to business civilization.