App Spotlight: Scan business cards straight to your Salesforce account

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Of all the magical things a smartphone can do, I rank business-card OCR among the highlights.

Think of it: Instead of manually transcribing each and every card into your phone or desktop address book, you simply snap a photo and presto: an app transcribes everything for you.

Shape's Business Card Reader has been at this game for years; as far back as 2010, PC World's Lex Friedman noted that it "worked with impressive accuracy."

I'll second that: After CES last January, I used BCR on a huge stack of cards, and it worked almost flawlessly—especially on cards with light backgrounds and dark text. Talk about five bucks well spent.

So, why am I writing about such an old app? Because it just learned a new trick: Business Card Reader can now integrate with Salesforce.

Specifically, it lets you manually or automatically export your scanned cards to your Salesforce account (though only so-called "Marketing User" accounts, according to a Shape representative—I'm not sure why it's limited to those). All you do is sign in via the app, then enable Autoexport if you want that option. If not, you can just pick and choose which contacts to export and when.

(Update: Shape clarified that the app works with all types of Salesforce accounts that allow the addition of leads.)

Obviously this new feature will appeal only to Salesforce users, but it's worth noting that BCR can also work with other CRM tools via an API I won't pretend to understand. Plus, you can link the app to your LinkedIn account to search, import, and add contacts.

Version 2.4 also promises "significant improvement" of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean business-card recognition.

Although BCR is available for Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile, Salesforce integration is, for the moment, limited to the iOS version.

Have you found a business-card scanner you like better? If so, tell me about it in the comments.

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