From the November 2000 issue of Startups

With e-mail being such an integral part of business communications, a scanner is almost more important to your business than a printer. Consider the possibilities: E-mail documents and scanned reports instead of paying for expensive printing, binding and postage. Update your company Web site on your own. Design your own invitations and greeting cards to send to customers. The possibilities are endless, and with decreasing costs, a scanner in the office just makes good sense.

All the scanners we looked at cost less than $300, some even less than $100, and all come bundled with software that allows you to do everything from editing scanned text to creating greeting cards. These scanners are all USB, though some offer dual connectivity with parallel interfaces; they're also flatbed, though a couple offer an ADF, allowing you to scan documents faster.

Microtek ScanMaker 3700

Microtek's ScanMaker 3700 joins the ease-of-use league, as it allows users to scan and attach photos to e-mail messages at the touch of a button. Dual Optimization Technology (DOT) on this machine automatically enhances color dpi, and its transparency adaptor can be used for film or slides. The ScanMaker 3700 supports most common image file formats. Scan Wizard 5 comes bundled.

Manufacturer: Microtek

Model: ScanMaker 3700

Resolution: 600 x 1,200 dpi

Color depth: 42-bit

Street Price: $120

Phone: (800) 654-4160

Website:www.microtek.usa.com

Artec Ultima 2000

The least expensive of the bunch, Artec's Ultima 2000 is powered through its USB connection, so you only need one cord. It also automatically installs itself when plugged in. Included software drivers will help you customize the scanner in both PC and Mac platforms. Advanced flatbed CIS scanning technology features built-in color correction and auto color-level control for image clarity. You won't even need to restart your computer when plugging in the Ultima 2000; it's hot-swappable.

Manufacturer: Artec

Model: Ultima 2000

Resolution: 600 x 1,200 dpi

Color Depth: 36-bit

Street Price: $59.95

Phone: (510) 739-0800

Web Site:www.artecusa.com

Canon CanoScan D 6604

You only need to plug in one cord to use the CanoScan D 6604 flatbed, which is powered through its USB connection to your system. The scanner can be programmed to link directly to the copy function or to launch a specified application, so images can be sent directly to the printer, to e-mail or to fax mode. Its Z-Lid Expansion Top makes it easier to scan magazines. The Canon Creative Image software suite comes bundled, as does Arcsoft PhotoStudio 2000 and Caere OmniPage.

Manufacturer: Canon

Model: CanoScan D 6604

Resolution: 600 x 1,200 dpi

Color Depth: 42-bit

Street Price: $149

Phone: (800) OK-CANON

Web Site:www.canoscan.com

UMAX Astra 3400

Speed is the most distinguishing feature on the Astra 3400, another low-cost option. Four buttons control the scanner, including the UMAX copy utility that turns your printer into a copier, allowing you to duplicate documents you're scanning. The software bundle includes VistaShuttle (PC only), which allows you to turn a photo into a greeting card in one step.

Manufacturer: UMAX

Model: Astra 3400

Resolution: 600 x 1,200 dpi

Color Depth: 42-bit

Street Price: $99

Phone: (800) 562-0311

Web Site:www.umax.com

Visioneer OneTouch 8650

The Visioneer OneTouch 8650 color flatbed scanner features a built-in 50-page automatic document feeder as well as Visioneer's document management software, which makes one-button fax, copy, e-mail and scanning possible. The 8650's JET compression engine (JPEG Enhancement Technology) speeds scanning by compressing images in the scanner before sending them to the computer. Bundled software includes ScanSoft's PaperPort Deluxe 6.5, TextBridge Pro OCR 8.0 and MGI PhotoSuite II SE.

Manufacturer: Visioneer

Model: OneTouch Scan 8650

Resolution: 600 x 1,200 dpi

Color Depth: 36-bit

Street Price: $300

Phone: (888) 229-4172

Web Site:www.visioneer.com

HP ScanJet 4300

Scan-to-Web technology on the ScanJet 4300 allows you to scan photos directly to select photo-sharing Web sites. Dual USB and parallel connectivity are included. Bundled software includes HP's PrecisionScan LTX software, which guides users through a simple scanning process to optimize images and convert scanned documents into editable files. Front-panel scan, e-mail buttons and a color-copy control panel allow you to send images directly from scanner to printer.

Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard

Model: ScanJet 4300

Resolution: 600 x 1,200 dpi

Color Depth: 42-bit

Street Price: $149

Web Site:www.scanjet.hp.com