What should I look for in a new scanner?

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on March 20, 2000


I want to buy a scanner but I don't know what features are important. Can

you give me some basic guidelines of what to look for?



This question was answered on March 20, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

When it comes to buying a new scanner, start by determining what it is you

plan to do with it and how often A business user's need would generally be

much different than a casual home user The two most common uses seem to be

for scanning photographs or using OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

software to scan and edit a document.

Many have assumed that scanning documents and storing them digitally would

allow them to create a paperless office While this is possible, most of us

are not willing to spend the time and money or have the technical skills to

make it happen Scanning documents as an image takes an enormous amount of

space and does not allow you to make any changes to the document Using OCR

software will allow you to scan the text, but, you must proof read every

scan for accuracy Even if you do have the space and time, sorting and

filing them is more difficult then it sounds For the time being, most of

us will just have to continue killing trees.

Scanning photographs, on the other hand, is very easy and useful for web

pages, electronic photo albums or for e-mail Start your shopping by

looking at "flatbed" scanners Some inexpensive scanners use the "fax

machine feed" system, which allows the unit to be smaller and save space,

but it does not allow you to scan books or anything that will not fit into

the slot If you have a newer computer that has Windows 98 or 2000, make

sure to get a USB interface USB allows for quick and hassle free

installations Older systems may need to connect using a parallel port,

which is what your printer is most likely plugged into at the moment.

Parallel port scanners use what is called "pass through" technology that

allows you to connect the printer through the scanner using the same port.

When this daisy chain method works, it's great; but when it doesn't, it can

cause sever software issues that can keep you from scanning and printing.

If you are forced to use a parallel-port scanner, be sure to stick with a

brand name such as Hewlett-Packard The lesser-known brands are cheaper,

but typically their software drivers and support are second rate Don't

make the mistake of buying the least expensive no-name model on the shelf.

This is generally a one-way ticket to computer hell Several of the

manufacturers are now putting buttons on the front of the unit that allows

you to perform one-button scans A button for scanning, copying, faxing and

even e-mailing the scanned image are included on many models Pressing the

button launches the appropriate software and starts the scanning process.

The technical specifications of a scanner can be very misleading; so don't

place too much importance on them The basic "geek speak" on scanners

includes DPI (Dots Per Inch), color-rate and PPM (Pages Per Minute) The

minimums in these areas are 600DPI, 24-bit color and who cares about the PPM

unless you are doing lots of scanning (Obviously the higher the better!)

Expect to spend from $100 to $200 dollars depending upon the added paper

handling options such as a document feeder, transparency or slide adapters

and included software.

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on March 20, 2000


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