Avoid Horrible Scanner Software

ScannerI don’t know what it is, but the software that comes with flatbed or all-in-one scanners is almost universally terrible.

Thankfully, there are usually ways around these monstrosities by using the scanning functions that are built-in to modern operating systems like Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and Windows 7.

Over at the consistently-excellent MacDrifter, Gabe has an excellent tutorial on using the Mac Scanner Interface.

I’m using a networked Canon MX880 Multifunction Printer and Scanner but this should work with any “modern” scanner. OS X automatically recognizes it as a scanner as well as a printer.

If you use Windows 7, there is something called Windows Fax and Scan that you can use.[1]

Windows Fax and Scan can scan documents or photos. All you need to do is attach a scanner to your computer.

The fact that they call it “Windows Fax and Scan” tells how you old this technology is, and it has one gaping hole: it doesn’t scan to PDF.[2]

According to this Answers thread, you can scan using Word and then save it to PDF that way, but still – come on now.

On Windows, you may be better off using a third party utility, but it is nice to know what the built-in options are.

(Photo by _sarchi)


  1. You might get prompted to install Silverlight on that page. Just ignore it and scroll down to the instructions.  ↩

  2. Say it with me: “What the …”.  ↩

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5 Responses to “Avoid Horrible Scanner Software”

  1. Ken September 13, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    What third-party options do you recommend for Windows 7?

    • Mark Freeman September 14, 2012 at 3:01 am #

      Ken -
      Windows is setup to show you Microsoft’s feelings about file formats they don’t control. Rather than easily adding the ability to print or scan to PDF they opt for TIF.

      The top third party scan software for Windows regardless of price is Adobe’s Acrobat. I tested it head to head with Abbyy FineReader Corporate last year and it won out for me. While Abbyy had nice automated OCR features (Adobe thinks crippling batch scan processing was an improvement. You can run large batch jobs without user interaction but the app has to be open and running and it can’t be run via commandline or at specific times.), speed, file size and OCR accuracy were superior in Acrobat.
      Some people swear by PaperPort but I really don’t understand that at all. Every year I see the new version come out and it still looks 5+ years old.

      There are a number of free third party PDF print utilities out there for Windows and they are your easiest path to free PDF creation. My favorite no-cost, lightweight and spam-free option is dopdf. It allows you to print to pdf without having to use any specific pdf reader. This won’t allow for editing though. (Word and Office can be pricey. If you’re a student or know someone in education you may be able to get a free Office2007 license via MSDNAA.) OpenOffice may be a good free option to pursue.
      I haven’t been on the lookout for good freeware PDF apps so maybe someone else will chime in with better alternatives.

      ———————–
      The makers of DEVONthink (Mac document management software) make a nice third party driver and scanner app called ExactScan. It supports a ton of Twain compatible scanners. I think it runs around $100 US alone but comes bundled with DEVONthink suite packages. It comes in handy with my Xerox DocuMate scanner since it has options for programming the functon buttons.

      I think Fujitsu really dominates the market with the best selection of hardware and bundled software. My DocuMate has great hardware and driver/interface software but crappy bundled software – PaperPort and OmniPage. My Brother MFC has decent fax server software and support for Linux/Mac/Windows but I’d have to dig up the CDs just to tell you what pathetic PDF software they included.
      I took my time planning my paperless switch and saved hundreds on top notch hardware which took the sting out of paying for Acrobat. I’d suggest using trial versions of apps whenever possible before buying them to make sure they meet your needs. You can try the same with scanners at a local office supply store.

      Good article Brooks. I’m sure there are tons of folks out there with horror stories about the trash that these folks have the nerve to include.

  2. Chris Doig September 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    A few years ago I bought what I thought was a perpetual license to VueScan. It worked well for scanning slides, and it has a lot of other features. Then one day, my so called "perpetual licence expired. The worst thing was that the author totally ignored any emails about it, and refused to talk about it. After that I didn't feel like supporting him at all. I don't mind paying for something, but really don't like bait and switch. The whole affair left a rather unpleasant taste.

    • DRiech March 30, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      I just had the same problem. No customer support number must email him. “If it’s over three or four lines, I’ll probably ignore it.” Incredible! I tried to buy the Premium version, it display and when I moved my mouse, the page disappeared. He doesn’t email you a copy…too much work. When I emailed him complaining about the problem he replies, “I cancelled the order, I don’t want to work with someone as rude.”

  3. TS230 October 19, 2012 at 12:05 am #

    What is a better option for windows then…???

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