Fun With Your Scanner

In a previous article we looked at the many options and ways of having fun with your printer. This time I would like to look at using a scanner. It only makes sense that if you are purchasing a new printer it is a good idea to get a “combo” printer that includes a scanner.

Scanners have been around for a long time and their technology keeps improving. If you have a scanner, you can think of it as a digital camera – it is really taking a digital photo of what you are scanning and making a new file of that image on your computer. Anything you can do with a digital photo you can do with what you scan with your scanner – it creates a “.jpg” file, for example. Here are some basic tips for using a scanner (but read your scanner’s manual!).

When you install your scanner (i.e. combo printer) it will create an icon on your computer Windows desktop to control it. Whenever I scan something I first double-click on that icon to open it and use the controls there to control the scanner. Many combo printers have some controls and buttons to push on the control panel to make copies, print, or do a scan, but I always find that I see more options and get better results if I always use the controls on my computer window. When you do a scan you need to provide the scanner with some information – such as the following:

+ File type – do you want to save your scanned image as a “.jpg” photo file?  That is my usual choice. But other file types may be available too if you want or need them.

+ File name – give your new file a meaningful name.

+ Destination folder – into what folder would you like your new file to be placed?  My usual selection is “My documents”. I can move the file anywhere from there whenever I want. You should always be aware of where your scanner is putting the new files so that you can find them!

+ Scan resolution – the higher the density (of dots per inch) the higher the resolution and the more time it takes to scan and create the new file. Go with the suggested default resolution settings to start with and change them later if you need to. Usually 200 dpi (dots per inch) is fine, although most scanners are capable of much higher resolutions.

Scanners will have “default” settings for these and other options. Read your manual to understand how to change these default settings – or you can change them before each scan is performed.

Double-click (the right mouse button) on the printer/scanner icon on your desktop and follow the instructions. Place the object you would like to scan flat (and I mean totally flat) on the clean scanning bed – facedown, of course, the scanner is not an x-ray machine!  Then click on the “scan” control box on your computer window. The pop-ups should tell you what the settings will be for the scan or give you an opportunity to change them. I always give the file a good name, put it into the “My documents” folder, and use “.jpg” as the file type (scanning the object to create a photo file). When I hit the “scan” button on the screen, the scanner with do an “initial scan” of the object and display it in your window. Now you may be able to change the area scanned (that is, you can select only a portion of the image to scan, sort of like cropping a photo). So if you are scanning the page of a magazine, you can select only what you want on that page to be scanned for your final image. When you are ready, hit “scan” again and wait for the results. After a scan has completed, always view the file you created right away to make sure it worked!  Scanning your old family photos to create timeless digital images is always a good use for a scanner.

If you are scanning text (and this is really amazing) you can scan the text and put it directly into a Word file, for example. Do you understand what this means?  It means your scanner can actually “read” text and put the text right into a Word file (or another text file) just as if you typed the text in using your keyboard. You can then edit and change the text in the file all you want. So in this case, your scanner is not “taking a photo” of the text or creating a .jpg file -- it is interpreting the text and entering it into a word processor file for you – so you do not have to enter the text from the keyboard!  An example of this would be scanning a recipe from a document, letting your scanner create a text file with the words (you would select a text “file type” such as Word (.doc) or .txt or other text file type you know you can open and edit) and then opening the file and changing the recipe.

Don’t forget that Google is a great source of information. Even if you lost your scanner manual, just enter the make and model in Google and get all the information you need. But take some time to try your scanner and see what happens. You are not going to break it by trying it out. I am sure you will be impressed.

Finally, remember that it is illegal to scan (or copy) copyrighted material – you know, like books or money. Well, maybe you could scan a few coins but I don’t think they would work in a vending machine anyway.