Scanners have long been the PC peripheral that brought out the worst in PC usability.
Scanners have long been the PC peripheral that brought out the worst in
PC usability. They historically have been tricky to install and configure.
Also, because scanners are used to perform a variety of tasks—from scanning
and recognizing documents to bringing in images—they need numerous software
applications to be installed and configured correctly. Scanners also need
the cooperation of other peripherals and subsystems, such as printers and
modems, to work seamlessly.
Scanner manufacturers seek to minimize these obstacles through a variety
of solutions, but the OneTouch family of scanners by Visioneer, a wholly-owned
subsidiary of Primax Electronics Ltd., comes the closest to delivering the
simplicity that users want. The $289 OneTouch 8600 is the newest, most sophisticated
member of the OneTouch family. It scans at 600 by 1,200 dots per inch maximum
resolution, with 36-bit color depth. It scans items only up to letter size,
but that covers most documents. The scanner is very compact and takes up
little desk space.
Like previous models, the OneTouch 8600 features buttons on the front that
launch automated scanning tasks. The original five buttons on OneTouch scanners
were Scan, Copy/Print, Fax, Custom and Stop. The 8600 has buttons for e-mail
and optical character recognition.
When a button is pressed, the scanner scans the document or photo in the
resolution and color depth most appropriate for the task selected and forwards
the image to the correct application to continue the process. Visioneer's
automation software proved to be very effective for pushing the job through
A very useful Visioneer feature is its pre-scan process, during which the
scanner takes a quick look at the item to be scanned. After defining the
area it will scan, the OneTouch scans only that area, a big time saver.
An on-screen configuration utility enables users to tune each automated
task to their own needs, choosing the application that the scanner buttons
will launch, the color depth and resolution of scans for each task and any
other details relating to the specific job. The software chooses the settings
it thinks are best upon installation, but because the programmers don't
know customers' requirements, they made customizing the buttons as simple
as using them.
To launch a task and start scanning, users simply press the desired button.
The Copy/Print button works as simply as it should. Touch the button and
within seconds, a copy of the document churns out of the connected printer.
Black-and-white copies are much faster than color copies, but changing between
color and black-and-white modes is only a button press and a mouse click
The OCR button works more seamlessly than users might believe possible,
after years of this technology failing to live up to its billing. Slide
a laser-printed document into the scanner, press the OCR button and the
OneTouch 8600 quickly scans the paper, converts it to text and then consults
the user on converted words that don't pass the spell checker. In our tests,
the OCR made no mistakes reading laser-printed documents.
The e-mail button similarly is simple to use. Like the copy button, it is
important that it be configured for the item being scanned, but switching
between black-and-white documents and color photos is very simple. The fax
button works pretty much the same way, but instead of sending the image
as an e-mail attachment, the OneTouch 8600 sends it using fax software on
The Scan button launches Visioneer's PaperPort utility, which enables the
user to choose the type of document being scanned, the correct scanner settings
and the appropriate application to edit the image. A user-configurable Custom
button provides users with the ability to automate the use of an application
for some other task. In the world of custom-written software for federal
agencies, this button will enable agencies coordinate the scanner with forms-analysis
or other custom software.
Visioneer includes its PaperPort Deluxe document management software, ScanSoft
Inc.'s TextBridge Pro OCR 8.0 optical character recognition software, MGI
Software Corp.'s PhotoSuite II SE photo editing software and World Wide
Web publishing software with the OneTouch 8600. The company plans to offer
an optional automatic document feeder and a transparency adapter.
Carney is a free-lance writer based in Herndon, Va.
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