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new life for an old scanner

About 3 or 4 years ago, I bought my mother a scanner for her iMac (G3). Now, my mother isn’t a photographer or particularly interested in scanning pictures or old photos. What she uses a scanner for is OCR. At the time, she was assembling a report for her church, and folks frequently gave her hard copies of things rather than emailing her the documents.

This wasn’t the absolute best solution, since the OCR software frequently introduced a fair number of errors, but it beat typing everything in. This scanner (which replaced an older, SCSI scanner that we couldn’t get to work with the new iMac) was a well-recommened (for the Mac, anyway) Canon scanner. I forget the model number, but it is essentially a LiDE 30. At the time, my mother was either running OS 9, or at least still largely relying on Classic to get stuff done. The scanner came with an OEM version of OmniPage SE for OS 9.

It worked, but it was largely unintuitive to use. It was then that I learned that scanners were the black-hole of usability on the Macintosh. Where the Mac had made many things very easy that had once been hard, scanner support was still largely left up to the vendors, who were only marginally interested in making their stuff work on the Mac. In short, it sucked.

Fast forward a few years: after one hard disk meltdown, one iMac replacement (to a new 17” iMac G5), and Tiger, Classic is gone, and with it, any ability to even use the scanner to do anything, let alone OCR. Fortunately, the burning need for this functionality had lessened, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I would occasionally look for ways to get that scanner back in business. What was frustrating is that it looked like the cheapest thing to do was to buy a new scanner! The only OCR software that I knew about was OmniPage Pro, which was $400. The scanner was only $150 new.

Enter VueScan. This weekend, I convinced my mother to download it (ok, actually I just downloaded it for her) and try it out. For the first time on the Mac, scanning was easy! It was straightforward. OCR worked. The scanner is back in business. Only time will tell if this $90 package is ultimately worth it, but I was impressed.

Written on Sep 6, 2005.

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