Why is Scanning So Crappy?

Lileks recounts the fun of getting a new scanner for Christmas. There’s really nothing new or novel about it though (except that he took time to make screen captures of all the dialog boxes, so he could mock them). The fact is, all scanners suck.

I have ready access to scanners (all-in-ones, actually) made by HP, Epson, Brother, and, at work, a monster Konica-Minolta printer-copier that also scans. Every one of them is a disaster. The printing software is good and the scanning software stinks.

The hardware may be awesome, but the software is horrible. And bad as it is on Windows, it’s worse on a Mac. (Objectively worse; subjectively it’s worse by far, because the majority of software on a Mac is beautiful.) My personal theory, which I developed while working for one of the companies I just named, is that scanner software is written by electrical engineers instead of computer scientists. EE’s may be great with resistors and capacitors, but I haven’t met one in years who was a more than passable programmer. (But these are rants for another day.)

Anyway, my advice to Lileks and anyone else is twofold:

  1. Where possible, don’t use a scanner. Just take a picture of the document with your digital camera. It’s a lot quicker. (Consider this DIY book scanner the end-result of this line of thought, but you can start with something more practical.)
  2. If you must use a scanner: use one that will write to a USB drive. Do all your scanning to the USB drive, then use sneaker-net to move the resulting files onto your computer, where you can use photo-editing software to crop, etc.
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