Staples | Learn More About Scanners

Learn More About Scanners

What kind of scanner do you need?

Flatbed scanner

Ideal for: Home, home office, and business use. Also ideal for scanning documents, photos, and open books (or other three–dimensional objects) to a computer for editing, archiving, or printing.

Key features:

  • Scanned items rest on a flat, glass plate (much like a copier).
  • Bit depth of 36, 42, or 48, depending on the scanner model. Each bit–depth can distinguish among billions of colors. The higher the bit depth, the more accurate the scanning, especially for shadowy images, or images that have rapid changes in color.
  • Color richness and image sharpness also determined by resolution, which is measured in DPI (dots per inch). Resolution ranges from 300x600 DPI for low–end scanners, 1200x1220 for mid–range scanners, and 1600x3200 to 2400x4800 for high–end scanners. Opt for lower DPI if you only plan to scan documents, low– to mid–range if you want to scan photos and graphics without enlarging them, and high dpi to scan negatives or photos that you want to enlarge.
  • All models handle up to letter–sized images (8.5"x11"), but some can also scan legal–sized images (8.5"x14").
  • Some models come with an Auto Document Feeder (ADF), which holds (and feeds for scanning) multiple pages or photos at a time. Without an ADF, scanning must be done one–page at a time.
  • For rapid transfer of digital images. Some models accept removable media cards (SmartMedia, CompactFlash, or Memory Sticks) directly from digital cameras.
  • Connects to a computer via USB, SCSI, or parallel port. If the scanner uses a USB connection, it can also attach to a digital camera and accept digital images directly from it. A USB connection also offers the fastest rate of transfer.
  • All models come with basic version of image editing software. Advanced editing software can be purchased separately.

Tip: If a scanned image looks patchy or pixelated on your computer screen, it may be the fault of the monitor, not the scanner. This is especially true if you have an old monitor.

Film scanner

Ideal for: Scanning negatives, 35mm slides, and small photographs. Scanned images can then be transferred to a computer for editing or printing.

Key features:

  • Specially designed to scan 35mm slides and negatives (both color and black and white). Also capable of scanning small photographs (from 2"x2" to 5"x7").
  • Scans slides and negatives at a high resolution, from 2400 DPI to 2820 DPI (dots per inch) — strong enough for a high–quality, professional representation of graphics and photos.
  • Scans small photos at a lower resolution, at around 300 DPI. This is adequate for those who do not intend to enlarge the size of their photos or just want to archive them, or post them to the Web.
  • Capable of scanning one slide, negatives, or photo per minute.

Tip: If you plan to print high–resolution images from a computer, keep in mind that you'll need a high–quality photo printer, as well as glossy or matte printing paper.

Business card scanner

Ideal for: Scanning business cards and transmitting the contact information directly to your computer or handheld (PDA).

Key features:

  • Scans business cards, up to 3.5"x2" in size.
  • Compact size — typically 6.7" (l) x 4.1" (w) x 2.1" (h) — allows the scanner to easily fit on the corner of a desk.
  • Connects to a computer or a handheld (either a Pocket PC based handheld, or a Palm OS based handheld) via a USB cable. Comes with software that enables the scanner to immediately "synchronize" with a computer's electronic address book, or a handheld's contact manager, so new contact information is automatically stored and sorted.
  • Maximum resolution of 400 DPI (dots per inch) — plenty for text and business card logos.
  • Comes with software that allows users to access scanned contact information over the Web. When contact address is accessed over the Web, software also activates MapQuest™, which provides a map of the area. Both are useful features for road warriors and sales representatives.

Tip: You'll need a separate, flatbed scanner if you also want to scan documents, graphics, and photographs.

Barcode scanner

Ideal for: Managing inventory, auditing shelf prices, gathering purchase data for marketing surveys, and ringing up customers at the point of sale. Automating these business processes saves countless hours on data entry.

Key features:

  • Choose from scanner gun or scanner wand. Each detects bar code symbols.
  • Depending on the model, scanner connects directly to a computer's PC card expansion slot or to its keyboard (with a keyboard adapter that comes included). A model that connects to a PC card slot can also connect to a Pocket PC based handheld.
  • Scanned information immediately sent to host computer or Pocket PC screen.
  • Can read bar codes from 1.5 inches or 2 feet away. A scanner that reads from 2 feet away can be faster at reading large inventories and therefore are good for warehouse and industrial use.
  • Depending on the model, scanner powered by either with a rechargeable battery, or by the power of the host computer.

Tip: If you're concerned about buying barcode labels separately, opt for a scanner that comes with a barcode scanning and labeling package that's designed to work with business software and database applications.

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