Fantastic Scans

It's a new year; need a new scanner? The latest models prove better technology doesn't have to blow your budget.

Go to our Buyer's Guide List to see prices and descriptions

A scanner may already be part of your office equipment, but if you're thinking of upgrading to a more sophisticated model--or if you're buying your first one--you couldn't have picked a better time. Scanner prices keep dropping, technology continues to improve, and these low-profile machines are faster and easier to use than ever before.

Fortunately, low prices don't translate into outdated technology. The increasing demand for digitized images (capable of being transferred to computers for use on Web sites and in advertising and sales materials) is inspiring leading scanner manufacturers to develop highly productive business tools.

Manufacturers are designing scanners that are easier and less time-consuming for users to operate. Visioneer was the first to introduce a new scanner architecture, called one-touch button technology, which lets you automatically crop to the exact size of the image scanned. (Other scanners require you to scan the image first, then take it to an image editor and crop it there.) Visioneer's OneTouch 8600 offers seven one-touch buttons: Scan, Copy/Print, Fax, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), E-mail, Custom and Stop/Cancel. The buttons are preconfigured to scan items at various settings and send them to pre-selected software applications. Simply push the button (and go get a cup of coffee). The machine automatically does all the work, from starting up the editing software to sending the file to your e-mail program. The scanner comes bundled with PaperPort Deluxe, the industry's leading application.

Some scanners feature removable lids, so you can copy pictures from books and magazines; other models are able to copy slides and transparencies.

Hate the thought of trying to connect yet another peripheral to your computer? Or perhaps you've procrastinated in buying a CD-ROM drive (which is necessary for loading most scanning software into your computer)? Good news: Microtek Lab's ImageDeck doesn't need a computer, connectors or software to function as a full-scale color scanner. It operates totally independent of a PC or Mac; all you have to do is plug it in to an electrical outlet.

Jill Amado is a freelance writer in Newport Beach, California, who has covered technology for 10 years.

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fantastic Scans.

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