By Richard Heller


Recently, I received a phone call from a person who was having trouble getting their scanner to work with a piece of software. We thought that by re-installing the software that was provided by the scanner manufacturer, we could correct the problem. Unfortunately, the install disk was not available.

No problem, we would just go on the Internet and download the software. We went to the web site and found out that the scanner was no longer being manufactured, but drivers were available for download. We went ahead and got the files and installed them. That is where we ran into a new problem.

The original software that had been supplied with the scanner included a utility that allowed you to scan an image without using any additional software. The new version no longer had this option available. The new software was a TWAIN driver, not a stand-alone scanning application.

A few years ago, there were only a few companies making scanners, and they sold for $300 or more. Each manufacturer had software that only ran with their scanner. Today you can buy a scanner for $30. In order to have their scanners supported by the companies making the graphics and desktop publishing software, the scanner makers got together and created a group called “Technology Without An Interesting Name” or TWAIN. By writing a standard driver for their scanner, the hardware companies enabled the software companies to easily make their program work with more scanners, which meant they could sell more software, which meant that more scanners could be sold at a lower price.

One of the benefits of this was that now you could scan pictures into your publishing program without leaving the program. You could also scan a document into a word processor, run the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software and have the picture appear as text without having to retype it. A scanner can only create a picture; the OCR software looks at each character on the page that is scanned. matches it to a letter and converts the picture to text that you can edit.

If you have a scanner, you will find that in your word processor, publishing program or paint program, a menu item (usually under the File drop down) that says Acquire. If you click on this, you will find two options, Select Source and Acquire. By clicking on Select Source, you should see your scanner listed; by clicking on this, you will pick it as your TWAIN device. When you want to put a picture into your document, you would go to Acquire and then select Acquire, and the TWAIN program will run, allowing you to scan the picture into your document without having to run another program, saving the picture to disk and then importing it.

By using your scanner in this manner, you can reduce the amount of time it takes to create a document or newsletter complete with pictures.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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