KeyScan KS810

The KeyScan KS810 puts a scanner in a keyboard, where it's easy to get to and doesn't clutter up your desktop.

Some ideas are so intriguing that they refuse to die, even if their early incarnations do. One such concept is combining a scanner with a keyboard. The most recent attempt at this is the KeyScan KS810 ($195 direct). Although veteran users will find it convenient, it lacks the software and the polish to be a product thats friendly to beginners.

For anyone who has discovered the advantages of scanning paper into electronic form, having a scanner handy is a must. You can use it for everything from receipts to incoming letters to pages you want to send as e-mail attachments. Unfortunately, keeping a scanner to use as needed takes up space and adds one more gadget to clutter up your desk. One longstanding way to minimize the clutter is with a manual-feed, sheet-fed scanner small enough to fit between your keyboard and monitor. The Visioneer Strobe XP300 is a typical example of this breed.

Since the mid-1990s (if not before), some manufacturers have taken the idea one step further and put the scanner in the keyboard itself. But most people dont even know that keyboard scanners exist—or perhaps I should say existed. When the KS810 showed up, I searched the Web for competitors and couldnt find any current models. If there are any, theyre well hidden, and KeyScan is effectively taking another run at a good idea that has yet to catch on.

The KS810 offers a maximum optical resolution of 600 pixels per inch. This is more than enough for the kinds of office applications its primarily meant for, and is typical for scanners that sit between the keyboard and monitor. At 19 by 8 inches, the keyboards footprint is about the same as that of standard keyboards. The scanner housing raises the height to 2.75 inches along a 12-inch stretch along the rear top right of the keyboard. When youre scanning, paper normally goes in the slot in the back of the housing, and slides out from under the bottom front of the keyboard.

Setup is reasonably easy, but theres room for improvement. To use the KS810 as a keyboard, you simply connect it by USB cable. To take advantage of the scanner, you then install the scan software, using a fully automated installation routine.

So far, so good. But the final installation step says to go to the KeyScan Web site to check for the latest software version. Unfortunately, it doesnt tell you where to go on the Web site. Whats more, once you find the right place, theres no way to tell if you have the latest version. And when I tried to download the files, I got a message that the download page was not available. It took a call to the company to confirm that I had an older version of the software and to find out where I could download the new one. Then I had to uninstall the first version before I could install the second.

KeyScan says it may address this problem simply by removing the suggestion to check for updates. Instead, it would rely on sending e-mails to users when new software versions are available. What this all adds up to, however, is a distinct lack of final polish—an issue that shows up in the documentation as well. The user manual, for example, is a file thats saved to a folder where you may never think to look for it.

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