Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

A Primer on Desktop Scanners

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

A Primer on Desktop Scanners

Article excerpt

A primer on desktop scanners

If you've ever used a desktop publishing system to compose page layouts, you've probably heard something about scanners. We don't mean the costly laser scanners used to create color separations, but the relatively inexpensive desktop scanners that have spurred a quiet revolution in microcomputer-based publishing.

These devices capture images on paper and convert them to the digital format of a computer system. Those digital images can then be incorporated into page layouts on an Apple Macintosh or an IBM PC-compatible computer. But beyond this basic function, there is tremendous variety in the design, cost and capabilities of desktop scanners.

For as little as $250 you can purchase a hand-held scanner that can capture logos, signatures and other small line-art images. For $2,000 or more you can have a device capable of converting photographs into digital halftones. Add some image-editing software and your system becomes a digital photo studio, allowing you to retouch photographs and create special darkroom effects. Combine your computer and scanner with a facsimile modem and you have a Group III fax machine, capable of communicating with other fax machines around the world. Add an optical character recognition (OCR) package and your computer becomes an ultra-fast typist, able to convert typewritten and typeset pages into text or database files that can be edited or retrieved with the appropriate software.

Magazine publishers who produce their books with microcomputer software have much to gain from the use of scanners. Charts, drawings and other illustrations that once had to be pasted or stripped manually into a page layout can now be incorporated electronically. Photographs can be converted to halftones, either for proofing purposes or as final output. Manuscripts submitted in type-written form can be entered into your system without retyping. Back issues of your magazine can be converted into on-line digital archives.

Not every scanner has all these capabilities, however. And in some cases, it may be faster, easier or more economical to do things the traditional way rather than by using your scanner. Such a decision may also be based on quality needs and hardware capacities (as in the case of creating halftones). Nonetheless, the technology is changing rapidly and worth taking a look at.

Scanner features

If you are thinking about purchasing a scanner, there are three general hardware features to look for: input mechanism, resolution, and gray-scale capability. Each of these features determines how useful your scanner will be for your particular needs. In addition, of course, you need to know which computers your scanner will work with. Some will work with Macintosh or IBM-compatible computers, but others are intended for one type of machine only. . Input mechanism refers to the way pages are fed into the scanner. The preferred type is the flatbed scanner, which uses a flat glass platen and resembles a tabletop photocopier. After a page is placed on the platen and covered, a scanning mechanism moves across the bed, illuminating the page and sensing any images contained within. These scanners are generally the most expensive, at $2,000 to $5,000 or more, but offer the greatest degree of flexibility. If a page is scanned crooked, it is an easy matter to straighten it out for a second scan. You can also scan odd shapes and sizes of paper, such as business or index cards.

Sheetfed scanners use rollers to move a sheet of paper past a stationary scanning mechanism, much like the operation of a fax machine. They are generally less expensive than flatbed scanners, but offer less flexibility. Pages can easily be misaligned, and odd sizes of paper often cannot be fed through the rollers. They are useful for scanning line art or text, but are less effective for scanning photographs.

Other types of scanners include hand-held, printhead-mounted and camera-based devices. …

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