SCANNERS


FIRST COMMENT:

If you need to scan much material, use sheet feeder, or accommodate varying image quality or colour shifts you may waste your money if you buy most of the scanners sold for small business or home use at prices under $1,000. (Does anyone have experience with Fujitsu's ScanSnap? Good news is that VueScan software may help utilize scanners like HP's, whose software is defective.)

Your task is to evaluate your needs - I hope these notes will help you.


NEW *
Vuescan is now available for 64-bit o/s, Windows, Mac, and Linux. A separate version handles 32-bit o/s, another version is for Windows 98.

TOC

Introduction/comment on economics of software

User Tips

Buying a scanner

Your Computer

Examples of Software Problems

Info on Specific Brands/Models of Hardware & Software (in alphabetical order)

Other Technical Info

Drivers

Formats

USB

Negatives and Slides

Resolution

OCR

Repairs

References


These notes have run on and may need editting, splitting, and changing into HTML form with full linking. But that is a low priority task in my life. (You may volunteer to help. :-)


INTRODUCTION/COMMENT

Computer stores advise me that scanners are one of their highest return items, new or used.

I find four main problems.

1. Defects in the software (aka bugs).

2. Confusing user interface. They seem to lack good layout by concept, some things are in pull-down menus others in check boxes, and some fill the image window with unnecessary graphical boxes.

3. People don't have enough understanding of how much resolution is needed, impact of color & resolution on file size, and such basics.

4. Automatic feeder hardware design.

Notice that hardware is last in that list - the first three problems are software. So good hardware is being returned because the enabling software does not do the job for users.

From a different context:
"Manufacturers really want a good "out of box" experience for their customers, as it cuts down on product returns. In fact, according to an industry source, even as easy as it is to install, about 25% of the networking gear purchased for home use is returned because of the perceived installation complexity.>
http://www.extremetech.com/article/0,3396,s%253D1024%2526a%253D13880,00.asp

The worst problem is with the basic software that directly interacts with the scanner. It is supplied by the scanner maker, and most third party application software gets its input through that sofware - so your choices are limited. Manufacturers like HP are introducing newer versions of that software for newer scanners, and not updating the older versions needed for older scanners.

One noteworthy aspect of the hardware and its interface to the computer is the use of adapter circuits and sofware to accommodate parallel interfaces instead of the SCSI interface the scanners were originally designed for. This introduces complications, thus risk of problems, especially if sharing the parallel port. (I doubt that USB-only scanners are SCSI inside, but I would assume that all parallel interfaces and all USB interfaces on scanners that also have parallel interfaces have convertors.) Check your manufacturer's web site if you have problems - HP's, for example, has many tips.

Also note that the EPP type of advanced parallel port is best for parallel interface scanners. That may be settable in your computer's CMOS Setup.

As well, you may have to muck about in Windows Control Panel.

In general, you should learn basics of scanning factors and terminology, such as resolution and gray-scale, for your use. Better yet, learn colour factors (which vary somewhat with maker of software).

USER TIPS

For starters, see my notes on Resolution below, the ScanTips web site, and the HP book listed in References.

I suggest you make a checklist of things to determine and set, especially if you regularly scan the same type of material into the same type of format.

BUYING A SCANNER

When purchasing a scanner for particular work it is essential that you:
- get information on the reputation of that specific model and its included software
- understand what the combination can do for your particular use (you might go through each step of the process that takes you to your specific goal, to ensure there are no stoppers).
- try the combination somewhere, before you buy.

The usual buying maxim applies, in addition to reliability and product support such as driver updates for newer operating systems: what must the scanner do for you? Possible features include:
- flatbed for varying or poor quality originals, and photographs which may be scratched in a feeder, or automatic page feeder for efficiency. (Some office-oriented scanners have only a feeder, and scan both sides of each side in a single pass.)
- resolution. (For archiving black and white (300 dpi is adequate for printing) or photos for the Internet or other uses needing small file size you don't high resolution. But for archiving most photographs you want quite high resolution.)
- backlighting is required for photographic transparencies such as negatives and slides. Many scanners have backlighting in the lid, with varying flexibility of size beyond negatives and standard slides. Maximum flexibility would be obtained with a large backlight which you can then mask off either by selecting a limited scanning area in software and/or using cardboard masks (perhaps slower as time consuming to place).
For originals with wide variation in light, a scanner with a DMax of 3.0 or more is recommended.
- what software will you use? That depends on the flexibility you need. Ability to select a limited area of the scanner bed, generate PDF file format, compensate for colour shift typical of some films, and make detail adjustments to colour are among features in better software. Good manual control of compensations and settings (as Vuescan has when run in Advanced mode) is needed by some people, others may just want the software to figure out what is needed to the best of its ability. Software bundled with a scanner at no extra cost is usually badly designed, in my experience. Later here I tell you about good independent software.

A recent development is scanners for specialized tasks, at the lower price levels. Examples:
- photo-only scanners (see Nikon models for dedicated transparency models). Note that an ADF may scratch photographs, unless it is designed for them as one HP model is.
- document-only scanners, optimized for fast feeding of papers not for high resolution, they are compact, have a much simpler paper path than multi-purpose scanners - thus clearing jams is easy, and software also optimized for their purpose.
If you are doing much work of a particular type their higher price may be worth the time saving.

Examples of Software Problems:

- HP Precisionscan has grayish back-ground tone and lack sharpness in black & white modes whereas the companion Copy software does not. The following verbose comments will provide reasons, and illustrate traps in purchase and use of a scanner.
That occurs when used by itself, or when launched by other software's scan-acquire process (though some other software gets it right, perhaps by automatically correcting the image on import or accessing the scanner more directly).

Precisionscan itself has no adjustment for brightness & contrast, claiming automatic is better and/or other sofware can be used to clean up images. That is bad advice on three counts: The claimed automatic features in HP's software do not work correctly, some uses such as archiving do not suit further image manipulation, and the best end result will be obtained from an image that is properly made in the beginning.

- It seems as though HP's software is using gray scale parameters in black & white mode. Gray scale typically does not use full white or full black, and softens edges - it is meant for things like photographs not text or line art. HP's PrecisionScanPro software supplied with some scanners, especially higher priced ones, may provide a "histogram" feature which could be laboriously used to set values of "white" and "black". (How many people who have the problem with the basic software will upgrade? Few - most people won't know what is wrong and will buy a different brand of scanner next time.)

Contrast may be slightly better if Detect Regions is selected (it is not necessary to select View First). That may shift the material on the page, and if Detect Orientation is selected should straighten the page. However, you will probably lose parts of the page as small as a character. (I saw it lose a word, and a single character. This software could be dangerous!)

As well, usable quality of the file will depend on the printer used if the eventual use is a print copy. If the gray background is below the threshold detail of a black&white printer it will not be printed. Printers with resolution enhancement or higher resolution may print the background as they use finer dots to be able to print lighter areas.

Different resolutions may slightly sharpen the image. As well, at some resolutions with Detect enabled portions of the page may be sharper - apparently the software interprets them as line art and uses full black for line art. (It does not adjust the background to full white unless at least a major portion of the page is detected as line art.) This phenomenon varys with resolution and darkness of the lines in an area, but does correlate for simple prediction, and tends to be inconsistent within the page (though it may have some greater tendency to treat material after a line art detection in the scan as also line art regardless of form or contrast.

The Pro version of the software has the ability to select Black&White|Bitmap, and to set black&white levels. The settings with page size can be saved and reloaded, but that does not stick through back-side or continued scans pulling into Acrobat.

(HP continue to ship versions of Precisionscan basic, shipping Pro or a comparable successor only with higher end scanners and/or those with special accessories (e.g. the 5300 has only Precisionscan, whereas the 5370 with powered film/slide adapter has Pro, and shipping something called Precisionscan LT with lower priced scanners. So one gets what one pays for, but HP do not explain that. Result: unhappy customers who purchased a low priced scanner, and lost sales of high priced scanners because the benefits were not communicated.)

- HP Precisionscan is not consistent in which settings it retains and which it does not. That may vary between push from Precisionscan and Acquire from an application that launches Precisionscan. In one or two cases it gives you an option to retain as default or use only in the current session, though that option selection does not stick in all cases.

- software lacks needed features (for example, Mustek's copy software cannot adjust brightness, which is quite important as many originals need that (it is of course a standard feature on stand-alone copy machines).

- in HP Precisionscan, color is controlled by both a check-box and selection options that pop up when ScanSpeed button is selected (color under speed - duh?).

- HP's Automatic Document Feeder implementation produces a 14 inch long image (legal size) regardless of actual paper size (even though the scanners themselves cannot take 14 inch paper on the bed). Only in later sofware is there an obscure option to define page size and shape in the output image/file, but selection of that definition does not stick between scans in the current session. (The evident size setting boxes do not actually work, as they are over-ridden by a height-width ratio which is determined by selecting an area of a scan via the Dimensions setting box.) Work-arounds include cropping after scan, and setting up a custom page definition which can be saved for later use.

- HP Precisionscan 1.02 and 2.00 do not work correctly with Adobe 4.05 to copy the second side of pages in the ADF, or to continue scanning a document. Adobe reports a device problem after feeding the first page. Precisionscan Pro 2.01 appears to work correctly when pulling into Acrobat, but not when pushing. (Precisionscan 2.01 has bugs that make it unusable.) Information on Adobe's web site suggests this as a problem with HP's TWAIN driver, and some from Kodak, that one might try deselecting Detect Regions, and that in some cases the problem may occur with single sided scanning. (Hmm - Kodak Imaging does not handle multi-page input from HP's ADF through Precisionscan 1x or 2x, but does through Precisionscan Pro 2.0x (and can be saved as a multi-page TIF file).

- Adobe Acrobat's page crop function may incorrectly report the length of an image from HP Precisionscan, when using the ADF. (The ADF always says paper is 14 inch.) The bottom margin setting to crop from 14 inch to 11 inch must be entered closer to what it logically would be not as might be assumed from Acrobat's display of page length. (It must be entered as 3.78 inches, which is the difference between the falsely reported image size and 14, not as 3.00 which is the difference between 14 and 11 inch paper. Weird!) But sometimes it works correctly.


Your Computer

Scanning at high resolution creates huge files. Some larger than the first PC hard drive I owned!

Processing high resolution files will take time on slower computers. That may be OK if you can start it on a job and let it churn away. It won't be workable if you need to interact with the software at each step, as you'll have to come back often. But you could bring a thick book to read while sitting there waiting? :-)


Info on Specific Brands/Models of Hardware & Software

Adobe:

Adobe Acrobat 405 has inconsistencies in its implementation of importing material. It seems to be less capable of placing material into a document direct from a scanner than from an image file. So if you want to insert a page into a PDF document you must first scan it to a separate file then import that file. Other software is much better but does not create PDF files. It is an odd omission for software promoted to facilitate assembly of documents.

Adobe Acrobat 405 does not efficiently rotate pages 180 degrees as may be needed when one end of the document is rough - scanning only from the other end flips alternate pages. It should have a 180 degree rotate setting, preferably with ability to rotate all even pages (it can only rotate All pages or a range of pages including a single page, 90 degree at a time).

ACD Systems

ACDSee is getting good reviews as serious image editting software for home and small business. However it is not strong on image acquisition, and my impression from a limited look at one product is not good - too cluttered, unclear what each product actually does.
The company has been in business for several years but last time I looked was not as profitable as I thought it was.

Brother ADS-2000
It is an ADF-only scanner with simple paper path that is easy to clear and hopefully less likely to jam.
Quite fast physical speed and scans both sides of the page in one.
However processing of the scan will take some time afterward, at least on an old computer.
Can scan directly to a USB memory stick plugged into it, but communication with such sticks is inherently slow as well (USB3 sticks are now common). Stick is setup from Brother software installed on a PC.
600dpi maximum which is fine for scanning papers to archive, get a flatbed for special photographs. (See my advice on resolution elsewhere on this page.)

A transparent carrier to protect a sheet, and a small transparent carrier for business cards, are included.

The short timeout on this scanner is a real bother, makes troubleshooting more difficult.

Software is provided on a CD, and available for download as full Brother scanner control or just driver, along with a firmware update. However the manual is not available from the Internet, I recommend copying it to your computer from the CD.
The main software is ControlCenter4 which facilitates setting of the scan-to-USB and scan-to-PC functions.
Simple monitoring software is also provided but the Troubleshooting function is Internet-based.

The CD has other software including PaperPort 12.1, which seems very limited - mostly a viewer that is awkward to use, it depends on other scanning software to generate the image (in this case normally Brother's). Nuance PDF Converter Professional, which requires to be online to Activate - another bother, and it is not fully functional (many Editing selections grayed out). Brother's lashup of different software is not explained, beware that Custom installation omits Paperport (which may be a good idea), PDF Converter Pro may have to be installed separately and there are indications that a basic version is installed with CC4.)

Vuescan does not work well with this scanner, notably it does not have darkness control that is normally in Vuescan - strange, as that is in CC4. A failure to properly recognize lines in a table and a failure to scan the entire page containing the table is not as severe in version 32953 than a slightly earlier version, but CC4 does it correctly.

(ADS-2100 is another version supported by the same CD, I don't know the difference, no longer in production.
ADS-2500 adds wireless and Ethernet connectivity and a touch-screen display on the front, for a higher price. Easier setting of variations would be useful, Vuescan could provide that for the ADS-2000 using a PC if Ed Hamrick can fix its defects.)

Corel/WordPerfect:

WP suite 2000 (WP9) deserves special mention for the graphics program that is included in early releases (apparently not in SP3 and 4 discs). It has nice features and capabilities. (It even cleaned up the background of a pencil sketch on old cheap paper.)

WP itself can create a PDF file from WP format, but version 9 does not handle second-level embedded features in the document, such as the font of a watermark. WP10 (suite 2001) may have improved capability, once they finish fixing bugs.

EPSON

The GT-10000+ is reported as a capable scanner, its primary software as quite intuitive, and its optional ADF as better than most. The price? Well, "you get what you pay for". :-)

Some computer/office stores carry the Epson Perfectlon 1640SU, which has an ADF (model EU-34), USB & SCSI interface, and a "premium sw bundle".

Epson make good flatbed scanners.

Epson's sheet-feeder-only scanners, GT-S50 and -S80, are getting good reviews for straight-through paper path that is fully openable to get bits of your documents out, ease of pad-roller replacement, and ability to handle varying originals. Bad marks from some for production quality - perhap improved - and software learning curve (a common problem in the industry). IIRC those scanners do both sides of a page in a single pass, thus are much faster than simplex scanners with interleaving software.

Fujitsu

One source praises the ADF on a ScanPartner 620C, but hired a summer student to figure out the software for their work.

The ScanSnap S510 and later variants have impressive-sounding features that, with bundled software, should make volume scanning much more productive if it works as claimed. (Some features in its software do not work correctly as implemented in HP software - hopefully Fujitsu's is much better. It has a good reputation.)
It is a small-footprint feeder-only unit (including transparent carrier pouch for small/fragile items like photos, which can also be used to scan an 11x17 sheet, folded then the image stitched together by software, though I'd want to test that to see if it leave a line from the edge), optional carrying case, reasonably fast at 1200dpi. The "updated" version supports Windows Vista-32 and includes Acrobat 8 Standard software.
If your need is mobile office, carried in a road vehicle, and/or ready-to-use organized for office productivity stand-alone no-fiddle, look at the ScanSnap. (Refer to http://www.fujitsu.com/global/services/computing/peripheral/scanners/ss/option/ for information on upgrade kits - the upgraded version is suffixed with "2". Model numbers are confusing, apparently S510 is the same as fi-5110EOX and fi-5110EOX2. Suffix M means Macintosh. It appears that a software upgrade for Vista-32 is downloadable from Fujitsu's support web site.)

PS: Fujitsu deserve credit for addressing many needs of the typical office, including for example trying to handle 11x17 sheets, and providing versatility. (For example, the carrier to handle photos without scratching despite not having a flat bed - while the scan won't be as good as naked on a flat bed, this scanner is not intended to be a high resolution scanner to archive photographs.)

This scanner is a good choice for modest offices who need double-sided scanning, which it does in a single pass of the page thus much quicker.

HP
So much I moved it to: http://www.keithsketchley.com/hpscan.htm

Ms. Fiorina and successors in the great bureaucracy should study it. The quality of HP's software is getting worse and its products clunkier! They have good basic technology for inkjets but I am wary of any end product.

I recommend avoiding HP.

Lexmark:

Lexamark's model X6170 three-in-one device with side-access ADF has an off-bed scanning window, seemingly glass for durability, and centre roller w/paper width adjustment on one side only (thus not suitable for small sheets because feed will be uneven). An ad for Dell looks similar. The ADF configuration resembles Microtech's.

Microtek:

If you want an alternative to HP for low volume automatic feed, consider Microtek. One model with the ADF is V6UPL "Office Edition".

The ADF is claimed to have 25 page capacity (I am skeptical). Seems lighter duty though simpler, but price is half of HP's 6350C.

Optical resolution 1200x600dpi, 42-bit depth, long bed, film strip adapter. The ADF fits several other Microtek models that I am not familiar with (typically ones labelled Office Edition, many of them more capable than the VP6UL, one a standalone scanner with diskette and Zip drives). The ADF's window is clear flexible sheet not hard plastic, but that may be easily fabricated from transparency stock whereas HP's window is molded plastic (though price is reasonable at about U$10.). Microtek's web site, www.microtekusa.com, claims it is suitable for text archiving - and Microtek customer service advise their ScanWizard software has a "line art" mode for true black & white.

However, beware that MicrosoftUSA personnel are not responsive enough and not familiar with their own products - thus it is difficult to determine if it will do exactly what you want. And the software seems to lack capability.

As well, I have encountered users who've had hardware failures in modest use, whereas I have not had any with the HP5200C, 6350C, and accompanying ADF - though I've heard of two 62xx failures.

Microtek make an 11x17 bed scanner and specialized scanners, and provided FireWire interface on some scanners before others did.

Mustek:

Software to control the Mustek 600EPIII scanner seems to have bugs.

Its copy utility does not allow brightness adjustment - a major omission since ball-point pen ink or pencil usually requires a darker copy than printed material.

Nikon:

Products include serious transparency scanners with optional feeders for volume scanning of slides etc. For what the brochure says they are (i.e. assuming they work close almost as advertised) they are probably worth the price. (While a scanner like the HP8250C has a goodbacklit lid for transparencies, changing the transparencies takes time - that's where a transparency-feeder shines. (OK, I'll take the pun. ;-)

PaperPort
I don't like it, botched user interface design, but version 9 does interleave for double-sided from a simplex ADF.
(Why would software designers use extra dialogue boxes instead of adding to buttons to the large one? Besides being a UI mess, and extra cost for the developers, that approach requires resetting parameters like scan resolution after commanding the second-side scan in the small box.)
The product is junk, worth struggling with only if it is your only cheap way to get interleaved double-sided scanning. People doing much work will buy a good duplex scanner.

Visioneer division of Xerox
I like OneTouch 4.6, a tiny UI but quite powerful. It takes time to switch settings, unlike Vuescan's UI, and takes time to learn. Wish it could interleave for double-sided from simplex ADF.

VueScan

I suggest VueScan from www.hamrick.com, because it is independent software from someone who seems knowledgeable and dedicated. However, while he has done great work in general in starting and improving the product, I think the user interface is too complex (without an index in the manual and with too-terse selections like "Default Options in the File menu - that should be labelled "Reset to Defaults", Hamrick has lost site of user friendliness) and his development process is out of control (too many defects, not a rigorous process). Therefore I no longer recommend it to beginners, nor for people doing a variety of work - rather than people using its colour negative/print control capability who can suffer through setting it up correctly then using it for dozens of scans.
Small in size with many features, it does not muck with Windows (and is useable with Macintosh o/s and to some extent with Linux). Ed Hamrick updates the software frequently to add capability and fix defects, but does not do thorough testing of each update.
Vuescan is known for capability of and ease of colour correction of colour negatives.
It can be used with many scanners, often communicating more directly with them, the caution being that scanners can have eccentricities that Hamrick must learn of and try to compensate for (such as ADF function on some mid-vintage HP scanners - even with data from HP it is a challenge due HP's poor quality).
The latest VueScan can produce PDF format directly, at least on my computer which has full Acrobat software thus has the pseudo-printer drivers that Acrobat uses.
In general Vuescan is meant for color not black&white, and emphasizes film scanning (has standard compensations for lighting & film deterioration for example). It provides many settings, nicely arranged in simple lists, but its interface has simple tabs to different setting pages and can be reset to default values. It will take some getting used to, to understand where it is putting the image file for example. It also takes care in looking through the different tabs to make sure all settings are compatible - it changes settings when you change input source such as feeder versus flatbed. Unfortunately its Help file is not well organized (no Index, for example, and seems to slim). In general the Guide Me interface to make a scan is too simple, though you can open Advanced at any time to set a parameter. The full interface has Less and More buttons to contract or expand the parameter list. One feature that would help is two-monitor capability with the control tabs all in view on one monitor to quickly check settings and the graphics window on the other.
One aid to productivity is that it keeps the last scan in raw form, so you can adjust parameters without reloading the original in the ADF.
Vuescan has a poor OCR capability ("SimpleOCR", noteably erring on anything but dictionary text, apparently it is dictionary based which sounds dangerous like auto spell correct in word processors).
>BR> Doing repeat work takes some learning. I have not yet figured out if it can save profiles. Actually, doing much takes learning and constant vigilance - changing one parameter like media type can cause settings on other tabs to change, and now it sets bw threshold to zero (that's a new "feature", introduced between 8.5.01 and 8.5.08).
An example of what you need to understand, and awkwardness, is that for multiple-page files in some versions you need to command LastPage to finish the file (you have to have the right boxes checked, otherwise you would need to SaveImage after each scan from the bed except LastPage for the last one). Otherwise you'll get get files of 0 size. There is a user interface defect in batch scanning from the ADF - you select "Batch ALL" but leave Multipage unchecked otherwise it only scans a few pages automatically (I don't know what Multipage on the Input tab is good for anymore, the scanner-software combination knows if there are more pages). In contrast HP software has an "add more pages to the file" command.

Defects
Occasionally a setting will persist, which I know believe is the fault of software not scanner.
(Appearance of blank stripes down the page is probably the scanner's fault.) VueScan seems more sensitive to ADF feed hangups than HP software - Vuescan hangs more quickly (the root problem is probably HP drivers and firmware, neither HP nor Vuescan application software handle the situation robustly). I suggest closing Vuescan before cycling scanner power, which seems to minimize the need to force shutdown of Vuescan with Windows' Task Manager capability.
The B/W Threshold setting changes when you change the source from feeder to flatbed.
Scanning some documents, such as magazine pages, may result in the end of the page being shifted sideways in the image thus unreadable.
Sometimes it is necessary to Save Image after each page from flatbed, despite PDF Multi being selected, sometimes not. I suspect the "Refreshing" activity you can see at bottom right is not being triggered reliably. For several reasons I suspect the user interface software code is poorly written - it seems unstable.

VueScan is a powerful program, available in standard and Pro versions. You can try it no-charge by downloading it - that version creates output with $ sign watermarks. Then you purchase a license code online to allow real use. (Clean ordering page with the usual security verifiers, but he needs to work on what he needs and ensure software is robust.)

VueScan is serious scanning software at reasonable price, far superior to what HP has spent much money producing. While it has defects, I anticipate that the time spent learning to use it and coping with its defects will be a better investment than with HP's software. (I do recommend that you try it with the scanner(s) you really need to use it with on the type of jobs you really need to get done, before purchasing a license.)

Xerox
The Documate 510R is a compact scanner with a relatively quiet ADF plus letter-size flatbed. Resolution only 600 dpi but that is ample for archiving paperwork, and for scanning photographs for Internet use (i.e. small file size). It is labelled model 510 but there are two p/ns that may require different software, Windows recognizes the -001 as a 501R.
Do not use drivers off the CD - get the latest for Windows XP/Vista/7 from Xerox' website. (OneTouch 4 is available there as well, see entry above under Visioneer.)
When scanning documents to black & white image, note that this scanner is quite sensitive to red but not to blue.
This scanner is superior to the HP scanners I've used, the 5200, 6350C, and 8250C (except the latter is much higher resolution but you cannot clear bits of paper out of the depths of the ADF without major dissassembly). The 510R's paper path is short enough that clearing is not a great problem, but it is not as good as the open path of the Fujitsu and Epson feeder-only models meant for high volume scanning. It is reasonably fast at 10ppm, later versions are faster. The paper exit tray geometry is not ideal as pages tend to catch on each other, a problem with some other scanners as well.

Xerox make fancier scanners, including sheet-feed-only ones for archiving papers. The first level of those may be a better investment than the 510R if your need is volume archiving.


OTHER TECHNICAL INFO

DRIVERS

Drivers for scanners come in at least two types, ISIS and TWAIN.

According to information from Adobe, TWAIN drivers work by opening the scanner's own software associated with the driver. (According to the TWAIN specification, an application can tell the scanner source driver to not launch its own software - apparently Adobe does not do that.) As later versions of Acrobat do not support ISIS you may not be able to bypass the scanner's own buggy software.

(The software in question is the user interface to set resolution, color and other image qualities.)

(Win98 has its own TWAIN user interface that can be used with some scanners, if the scanner's own scanning software is uninstalled. It is usable with HP scanners that have true SCSI interface, not those converted from SCSI to parallel interface such as the 51xx and 52xx series.

Windows will detect the presence of new hardware, but may ask you where the driver is - it wants the Windows CD, or the directory where the files are already located but not active (probably C:\WINDOWS\OPTIONS\CABS).)

Note that many scanners, including most of HP's, need software patches to cope with later versions of Windows. In some cases the patched software will not work with earlier versions of Windows.

Do not expect drivers and software specific to one model to work on other models from the same manufacturer, even where the model seems quite close.

FORMATS

At the risk of saying something that may be obvious, you need to generate file formats that the end user can read without excessive cost or effort. Whether that is yourself in later editing, friends, web pages, customers, or people reading archives years from now, the file is useless without ready ability to read it. Sticking to popular formats and mainstream compression methods is good practice.

File size depends on resolution, which depends on the end use. In general, web page, standard printer, professional printing, and blowup require increasing resolution in that order. Also note that some compression methods discard information that other methods do not. See REFERENCES for guides.

USB

While USB is a better interface than parallel, for scanners, it has traps including:
- device won't be recognized if it draws too little power (see Microsoft Knowlege Base articles)
- device draws too much power (needs a self-powered hub)
- hub does not correctly switch from powered to non-powered mode
- some hubs don't work well in certain situations
- some devices don't correctly use the hub
- Win95 had very limited support for USB, though SR2 and some patches from www.microsoft.com may give reasonable capability
- in some cases, especially with Win95, you need to enable USB support in CMOS Setup and/or Win 95. See the Microsoft KB articles.
- Win98 may not enable hub when laptop returns from Standby mode (Did I say that this stuff is still leading edge? :-)
- USB hubs may have non-USB ports, but they are not necessarily the same as standard computer ones. For example, the parallel port is commonly not usable for scanners but is usable for printers. So you may have to switch port assignments in your software, and switch them back if you take your laptop on the road without the hub. (Is something wrong with that product picture?)

NEGATIVES and SLIDES

Scanning them requires special techniques and equipment, due to their high resolution, color correction, and high reflectivity.

Recent models from Microtek and HP, especially those over $500., have adapters, features in their software, and high optical resolution. Keep in mind that with common slides and negatives, such as 35mm, you are scanning a small item so need high resolution for blowups.

Back-lighting adapters are commonly used to avoid the reflectivity problem - that requires supporting software that turns off the normal light. Some models have the backlight built into the lid, with convenient holders for standard slides and 35mm negatives, but probably cannot handle larger transparencies (may be able to handle smaller by making a carrier oneself).

RESOLUTION

"Optical" resolution is the actual image capture, whereas processing software can create the appearance of higher resolution. If you want to blow up the image, or get good prints, you want high resolution. If you are doing fancy things or serious publishing you want high optical resolution because there is nothing better than a good basic image. If you are just displaying the image on a computer or web site you probably don't need high resolution.

Resolution is not the only parameter of interest - "bit depth" being another that I won't attempt to explain here.

For general document scanning you don't need high resolution, thus the sheet-feed-only models and some multi-purpose one like Xerox models may not have more than 600 dpi optical resolution. (For monochrome printing 300dpi to TIFF or PDF is a reasonable resolution, 600dpi quite good if you can handle the file size - four times that of 300 dpi. But test first - for example the Planon wand scanner does not produce output that matches other scanners at the same claimed resolution.)

OCR

Optical Character Recognition is tricky.

It requires crisp originals, good type fonts of reasonable size, and good scanning software (note my earlier remarks about default to gray scale). If error rate exceeds a few per page it will be quicker to retype the information.

Either way proof-reading takes time, especially where the content does not suit computer spell-checking.

This technology may continue to mature, so someday.......


REPAIRS

Do use the transportation lock on scanners that have it (be very careful moving ones that do not). HP's bed scanners have a lock interlocked with the power cord location so you have to unlock before inserting the cord, but make sure it is fully released.

Refer to http://www.keithsketchley.com/hpscan.htm for advice on polishing plastic windows such as that in one of HP's ADF design.

Check to see how easy it is to open the ADF to clear out pieces of paper from a bad jam. Epson's GT-S50 should be very easy, but you'll eventually have to stop using the ADF on HP's 8250C because you will not be able to open the ADF to get all pieces of paper out.

If paper is skewing badly, there may be a small piece of paper in the feed path. One way to try to clear it is to push a piece of stiff paper, say "card stock" thickness, into the feed path then pull it out the other side. (First try scanning the stiff paper, and do that after manual insertion as well.))


REFERENCES

These sites have good information:

- http://www.scantips.com/ has much advice, and information on some specific software such as the Precisionscan series bundled with many HP scanners and VueScan. It is not up to date in some aspects such as Vuescan.
http://www.scantips.com/basics4f.html has insight into the background whiteness problem that HP software has.

- www.scansoft.com (Caere corporation who make OCR and page management software)

- HP produce a book on scanning, with medium technical content (available through book stores like Chapters and from HPl's web site). It includes information on specific scanners, particularly HP's for which it summarizes features of their older models. Look for "scanner handbook", by Busch, Krzywicki, and Burden, now in a 2nd edition. HP product number IDGSNCB2. I suggest it for beginner and intermediate users, given it's price.

- MicroTek have some information on their web site www.microtekusa.com, including recommended books at http://www.microtekusa.com/readings.html

- www.scantips.com has much good understandable advice, and information for particular scanners.

- http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/134461155_ptscanners25.html has information on film/slide scanners and ways of scanning photographs. (Seattle Times May 25, 2002)

- HP's web site has much product support information and general advice. You should do at least two different searches with different keywords (relating to your problem or topic) to find all relevant documents, plus a search on your model number. This page gives advice on image problems:
http://www.hp.com/cposupport/scanners/support_doc/bps03820.html

- http://www.usbworkshop.com may have information.

- http://www.usbman.com has information on specific deficencies with specific computers and devices, and troublehsooting help.

- the program USBREADY.EXE from the USB standard organization can be run to identify a computer's USB capability.

- I am advised that http://www.hplearningcenter.com has tutorials.
(Sounds like a good approach - but I have not looked at them so cannot comment on their quality.)

- The Seattle Times newspaper is running a series on scanners. The first article at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/134511504_btsoho12.html
is clearly written for understanding of the big picture.


LATER NOTE

Another "oh, we didn't think of that" for page length was seen on a relatively new copier design at a business service bureau.

I wanted to copy an old drawing of about 12x18 size (reducing to available paper size of 11x17) but from the bed the copier would not image much beyond 11x17 inches. I noticed that the automatic feeder scanned in a wider slot off the end of the bed, so I tried it. The ADF imaged the full width of my sheet - i.e. significantly more than the normal 11 inches - but unnecessarily cut it off at the 17 inch length of standard paper even though reduction was selected.

Do designers use this stuff themselves?


© Keith Sketchley Page version 2014.11.27

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