Neat

www.neat.com.  They offer several plans.  They offer 3 versions of their scanner.  The Neat Connect actually scans your documents directly to the cloud.  You don’t need a computer.  I’ve never used this one.  My friend did and he hated it.  My son set it up for him and I think maybe it wasn’t set up right.  So I cannot comment on how well this product works.  The original Neat Desk I LOVE.  It has a double sided scanner.  You put your documents into the feeder and you can put in standard letter sized papers, receipts and business cards all at the same time and it will scan them all.  It senses things and can do a pretty good job of auto deciding what is being scanned.  I usually only scan one type of item at a time.  It’s nice little insert scans most receipts well without them going in askew.  It does great at business cards.

 

The software has evolved and gotten better in many ways.  It is still the only program out there that I trust.  I tested a couple of others and they were too difficult to deal with.  I tried other scanners and I do travel with a little Brother scanner in addition to my Neat receipts.  Neat receipts is great for that one or two page scan but if you want to quickly scan several pages it just isn’t the right tool and I didn’t want to carry my large neat desk.  The small Brother ADW1500 handles my bigger jobs.

 

Ok…so the three software versions of neat are.  The android and I’m assuming apple version of the product.  This at first wasn’t that great but now I use it for most of my receitps.  When I pay at a restaurant.  After I sign I pull out my phone, open the app, scan the receipt and file it in the right folder.  Done.  It uploads immediately to the cloud and I don’t even take that receipt from the restaurant!  I now only save a few receipts for a short time.  Any receipt for a large ticket item I save for at least a month.  Any receipt from Walmart with an item I’m not sure about, clothes, shoes, household things other than consumables I save for 30 days.  I keep one folder of all receipts. I look through it at the end of the month.  If I haven’t returned an item by the end of the month I probably won’t.  If it’s a big ticket item from Walmart I save the receipt.  Walmart won’t accept digital receipts for returns.  At least so far they have refused.  If it’s a big ticket item from any place else I save a copy of it to a file on my google drive called Warranties to make it easy to find later.  I’m talking, electronics, televisions, etc.

 

The phone app does a great job if you have a good phone.  My Canadian phone made every receipt blurry.  It was still readable but not as good as my Samsung Note.  Also bear in mind what you want to keep.  Sometimes I only keep the credit card receipt and not the receipt that breaks down the items and the taxes.  I don’t use the feature of Neat that allows for reporting.  For me it’s a replacement for a file drawer.  If you need to create expense reports or want to create reports for tax purposes you will want to scan the receipt the waiter/waitress brings with the break down on it.  If you are doing this for business be sure when you scan the receipt to input the notes about whom you were with and why.  Otherwise going back later is always harder to do.  It really only takes me a few seconds to snap the receipt when I pay. Since I carry my credit card in my phone case any way my phone is already out.

 

Now the desktop verses their newer online software.  Good and bad on both.  The desktop version creates a database on your PC.  So it is in your control.  However, that means if your PC fails you lose your database.  That can hurt.  You have the choice.  You can use the Neat desk and Neat Receipts with just the desktop version and NOT pay a monthly fee to neat.  If you do this then the phone app will not help you as it will not move the receipts to your PC.  So..bite the bullet on this one and pay for a subscription.  I use the cheapest option there is and it works for what I need.  If you are in business they offer more robust versions that allow you to have multiple users, etc.  But for most the basic plan is all you need.  I think it’s about 6.99 a month.  You’ll need to go to www.neat.com to find out.  You can buy the scanner at Amazon or at most office supply stores and probably Best Buy.  For most business travel you probably don’t need a neat receipts to take with you.  Just use your phone.  But for me in the RV….I love the neat receitps.  When I have about 5 or 6 receitps to scan especially if they are larger sized like half page or full page I pull it out.

 

So the desktop and online version of software are very similar.  You choose scan, where you want to scan to the software or to save as a pdf file and then it scans.  What makes neat the best is it reads the item being scanned and looks for information and it puts the info in the appropriate fields. It is not 100% but it’s good.  Walmart, McDonalds any place with a logo instead of a typed out name it won’t ever put the name in.  Save yourself the trouble.  Check them as they scan and type the name and if you want all the details and it didn’t pick them up fix it THEN.  Don’t wait until later.  Looking for a receipt and not having them named properly will only frustrate you.  It won’t take that much time to glance at the receipt.  I do not check the taxes.  Since I’m not pulling reports from neat I don’t verify that it got all that right.  But if you take the few seconds to verify every receipt then you can theoretically print a report from neat at the end of the year and get all your sales tax paid to deduct on your tax return.  I get that information from Quicken.

 

Ah yes…Neat interfaces with Quicken. It’s klugy.  You will want to google it as Quicken stopped doing things the way they used to.  Certain types of accounts don’t work right.  Others have written about this so I leave that to them.  Google it and you’ll find it.  I decided it wasn’t worth my time to make it work.  So I do not link Quicken and Neat.  I do, however, scan every business card then trash it and then I export the contacts into my Outlook.  So anyone I’ve ever met is in my Outlook and can be found by my phone.  (More on Outlook later).

 

Alright back to the two versions.  What I like about the desktop version and why I refuse to quit using it yet.  As a database developer I know a few things.  1.  If a database gets too large it gets slow.  Slow = bad.  So I don’t like to keep more than one year of receipts in Neat at any time.  I was archiving the receipts in the Neat format but they kept updating their software and then reloading an entire year’s worth of receipts to find one was driving me nuts.  The database got too big one time and wouldn’t even open once it loaded.  I decided the best thing to do was at the end of every month I click on that months’ receipt file in Neat desktop and I export all those receipts to ONE pdf file.  I name it the year and month receipts.  This way if I need to find a receipt I just need to open those pdf files and search.  I usually had a pretty good idea about when I bought something and where to start looking and if I don’t searching Quicken first gives me a date then I go to the file to find the receipt.  I could just wait till the end of the year and make one large PDF file but I’m not sure how big is too big for PDFs and when you start uploading to the cloud you will find big files = big problems.  Do what works for you.  Small families, people who don’t spend much, singles, you might not need to do monthly files.  With 6 kids…yeah I got lots of receipts!  The desktop version at this time is the only way to export receipts.  This is the one reason I refuse to give up the desktop version even though Neat will no longer support it.  Also I can scan without internet.  Since I’m mobile these days living in an RV internet is something I do not always have.  To me the desktop version is complete and the online version is still not quite there.

 

Now you are asking…if the desktop version is complete then why even have the online version?  Well here is the ONE reason for that.  The online version will let me scan from any scanner I have.  The desktop version will only support neat scanners.  So when I have those huge documents to scan, legal docs, insurance papers, etc.  I don’t want to do them one page at a time on the neat receipts.  If I were in my b&s no problem pop them into my neat desk and they all scan doubled sided saved to pdf if I want or saved in Neat and I’m done.  But being mobile I use my Brother ADW1500.  I can either use their software (UGH..please no) or I can use the Neat software.  So I open the neat version that connects to the internet.  I can scan using my Brother and either scan into Neat or scan into a stand alone PDF.  If you scan into neat and then think..I’d rather save that as a PDF.  No problem.  Use the desktop version open it up and let it sync with the online version and save it as a pdf.  And I figure keeping the desktop version as I do I always have a copy available of all my receipts.  I let it sync at least every week.  I can search all my receipts off line without internet.  If I only had the internet based version I couldn’t do that.  It doesn’t really save the receipts locally except temporarily.  Since everything is going “cloud” these days I doubt Neat will ever make the cloud based version keep everything for you locally.

 

More good and bad.  The neat desktop version can create a very large database file.  So you need to make sure you have it in the right location.  It installs by default to the user drive.  This is ok in most cases.  However, if you like a fast pc and you opted for a solid state hard drive in order to boot faster.  Then you’ve got a problem and Neat won’t help you with it.  I’ve talked to them even wrote them step by step instructions on how to fix it and to my knowledge they have yet to add this to their knowledge base.  But here’s what you need to know.  At some point if you have a lot of receipts your database for Neat will get too large for your small solid state drive to handle.  So make sure you know your equipment.  If you have a smaller SS drive for booting then you will need to go into the settings and change where the database resides.  I think they now have a way to do that in the software.  If they don’t then you need to do what I have and create directory links in Windows to trick Neat into thinking it’s on the C:\user drive when it isn’t.  Again you can google that.  For most people you won’t need it.  If you have an SS drive you probably know enough to do what I’m talking about or you wouldn’t know to have an SS drive in the first place.

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