Years ago, flatbed scanners reached a level of quality that made
them “keepers.” No matter how enticing marketing makes the new
models sound, the older scanners still produce good to excellent
quality images and text. The problem is that many of those scanners
are now little more than doorstops, because their manufacturers
didn’t update the scanners’ drivers for the newer operating
systems, such as Vista, Windows 7 or Mac OSX. Enter Hamrick
Software, and their VueScan program. Even if you don’t have an
updated driver for your old scanner, VueScan Standard can make it
work, and work well, on whatever operating system you have.
VueScan Standard offers two interfaces: “Guide Me” and Advanced.
Guide Me is a wizard that steps you through the choices you need to
make for a basic, unedited scan. The first window defines the
purpose of your scan: Scan to File or Copy to Printer. Then, you
choose between using the scanner as a Flatbed (for prints) or
Transparency (for slides). Media may be Color Photo, B&W Photo,
Line Art, Text, Magazine or Newspaper. And Scan Quality is defined
by output: E-mail, Web, Print, Edit, or Archive. The wizard then
instructs you to place the original on the scanner, and it creates
a preview, which you may rotate, crop manually or have the software
do an auto crop. The last step is the final scan, which you are
prompted to save to your computer.
Whereas “Guide Me” does a decent job with default settings, the
Advanced interface gives you all the tools for tweaking the scan to
your heart’s content. It’s broken up into six tabs–Input, Crop,
Filter, Color, Output and Preferences–each of which has a bevy of
controls. For instance, you can set precise scan and preview
resolutions and dimensions, edit color and brightness with a
variety of different sliders and checkmark options, choose among
four filters (Restore Colors, Restore Fading, Grain Reduction and
Sharpen), and select file format (JPEG, TIFF, PDF or OCR Text
File). If you’re scanning several originals at once, the Multi-Crop
function can define the number of separate files to create, using
manual or auto controls.
Unfortunately, the Advanced interface doesn’t always conform to
standards set by other scanner software over the years, and
understanding the nomenclature can be as much a challenge to
experienced users as novices. Still, VueScan offers an impressive
depth of features and controls, and the quality of the images or
text you can get with them is potentially quite high–once you gain
control over all the parameters and options.
For even more control over color accuracy and quality, you might
want to check out VueScan’s Professional Edition ($80), which
supports ICC profiles and color spaces, IT8 color calibration of
your scanner, as well as scanning to RAW files and unlimited free
upgrades to new versions. VueScan Standard Edition includes free
upgrades to new versions of the software for one year.
If you really like your venerable flatbed scanner, and have no
desire to discard it, VueScan can be your answer. But even if you
have a scanner driver for the most recent operating system, you
might want to check out VueScan; it could possibly improve the
quality of your scans.
–Sally Wiener Grotta & Daniel Grotta