So Santa brought you a scanner this year and now you are wondering what to do with it. Having a scanner can be incredibly useful. You can copy images, photos, and even input text if your scanner came with an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program. But where do you start?
After you have the scanner installed, how you scan depends on your scanner. The most popular type of scanner is a flatbed scanner. You place the item you want to scan on the glass and close the lid. At this point, one of several things may happen. Some scanners start automatically. After you put the document on the scanner, it starts scanning and runs the scanning software. Some scanners work the opposite way; you must tell the scanner to scan using the scanning software. Still other scanners begin scanning when you press a Start or Scan button.
No matter what type of scanner you have, pretty much all of them work the same way (even my old scanner). So, here are few things that are common to pretty much all scanning software. First, is a preview function. The scanner does a quickie scan to show you the position of the item. The area the scanner will scan is shown with a dotted line. You can click and drag to change the scan area if you only want part of the image.
Before you scan, you also usually have the option to change the resolution. The higher the resolution, the more detailed the image (i.e., the more dots in it). However, higher resolution also means a larger file. Don't scan at a higher resolution than you will need. If you plan to use the image on a Web site, scan at 72 or 96 dots per inch (dpi). If you plan to print out the image, try 200 dpi and see what it looks like (the result depends on your printer). Your goal is to scan the image at the lowest resolution that still prints out nicely.
You might also try playing with the brightness and contrast controls. Some images can be dramatically improved, so experiment and see how they print out. If your scanner came with OCR software, give that a try too. OCR does exactly what the name implies: it "recognizes" text as text, rather than just a picture. The next time you have to retype a document, try out OCR instead and you'll get a whole new appreciation for your scanner.