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Scanner Hardware & Software

Hardware:

Scanners are inexpensive but they do take up space on your desktop and you need room for opening the cover to place or remove an object.

1) Before you buy a scanner, decide what you want it for: all materials, including text from most sources, photos, slides, negatives, filmstrips -- or for specialized use only, such as a slide scanner or a handheld scanner for books or magazines, to be used with a very steady hand or a guide rail.

Flatbed scanners are multi-purpose: all can do text as well as graphics; some can handle slides, negatives and filmstrips in addition.
 
2) Many scanners work with both PCs and Macs but you must know what operating system and ports you have, e.g. USB or USB 2 or a SCSI card. Many scanners for PCs require Windows 98 SE (Second Edition) or later editions of Windows.

3) If true color is important to you, you also need to buy fairly expensive hardware for color calibration.

Scanner brands I like and buy, based on lab test results in PC Magazine: HP, Epson.


Software:

All scanners come with software for installation of their interface to the computer and for scanning; but the included scanning software is a simple "lite" package, capable up to a point for occasional use but not for serious or heavy-duty or professional work. You can link your scanner software to a professional package.

Text:

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software for TEXT: remember that the scanner produces a digitized image and that the software then needs to translate the image into readable text. Do you have trouble deciphering people's handwriting? Yes, so please have patience with the poor OCR software that needs to differentiate between i,l,1,!, or g and q. The first few pages you scan will be "training" sessions for the software; afterwards, spellcheck your text in your favorite word processor and watch out for possible problems especially with the letters shown above.

The Professional packages I use/own/recommend:
a. CAERE Omnipage Pro for many languages: select, e.g., US English or Spanish or French; the software will use the corresponding dictionary, recognize words or flag unrecognized ones.
b. XEROX Textbridge Pro: this is excellent and very accurate for English language texts.


Graphics:

A) Affordable packages (about $100), very good:
a. Ulead PhotoImpact -- search for this on the web and buy it online; newer and less expensive than PaintShopPro and with more capability (about $80)
b. Jasc PaintShopPro -- search for this on the web and buy it online: for downloading or as a boxed set CD and a manual (about $90)
c. Adobe Photo Elements, a lighter version of Photoshop.

B) Expensive packages, for heavy serious duty professional use, with a steep learning curve, overkill for most of us:
d. CorelDraw -- judged to be the best package on the market
e. Adobe Photoshop -- popular especially among Mac users, sort of coasting on its reputation. Talk to someone in the bookstore about the academic/educational version prices if you really need this.


Ursula Hoffmann, last revised Jan. 2006