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A Truly GREAT Magic Wand
on 3 January 2012
This Low-cost hand scanner is one of the most useful bits of kit I possess. I always pack it into my netbook bag when I'm on a trip although if you need to travel light, you can pack just the scanner alone in a pocket, to perform your scanning - say at a library - and download the scans (in JPG format) to your PC later back at base. This supreme portability is just one of this scanner's really excellent features. Another is that it can be used with a PC running Windows or a MAC running MAC OS because its JPG files can be transferred via its Micro-SD card (a low cost SD adaptor card may be required) or via the included USB cable. This scanner is made in China and marketed under various brand names and for a wide range of prices. Use Google Image search to locate potential sources.
There are 3 Buttons and a small LCD.
1. POWER - A LONG Press of the POWER switch places the scanner in STANDBY Mode and activates the LCD. Thereafter, short presses of the same button puts the scanner in and out of SCAN Mode.
2. C/BW - Pressing one end of a rocker switch toggles the 'Effect' between COLOR and MONO (Greyscale). If in doubt, use COLOR although the resultant image file is much larger.
3. DPI - Pressing the opposite end of the rocker switch toggles the Resolution between LOW (300dpi) and HIGH (600dpi)
The LCD shows the current settings in use, battery status (using bars) and the number of images stored on the MicroSD Card. This card is inserted in a 'Push to Insert-Push to Eject' slot in the side of the scanner.
COPIOUS STORAGE CAPACITY
Images are stored on a MicroSD Card (not supplied). A 1GB MicroSD Card stores the following approximate number of images:
LOW Resolution Mono 1280 images
LOW Resolution Colour 780 images
HIGH Resolution Mono 290 images
HIGH Resolution Colour 220 images
Assuming the subject to be scanned is held flat on a smooth surface...
1. Press and hold the Power button to turn the scanner ON
2. Adjust the settings if necessary using the rocker switch alongside the small LCD screen.
3. Press the POWER button again to enter SCAN Mode. A GREEN LED is illuminated.
4. Roll the scanner slowly and in a parallel motion across the subject. If you scan too fast a RED ERROR LED illuminates and you will need to restart the action (return to 3 above)
5. Press the Power button after each SCAN to store the image on the MicroSD card and to place the scanner in STANDBY Mode.
6. Press and hold the Power button when scanning is completed to turn the scanner OFF. Alternatively, leave it for a few minutes and it will automatically turn itself OFF.
Looking at the bottom face of the scanner, the scanning window and the rollers that signal the Scanning Light ON and OFF are positioned at opposite sides. This mean that the rollers may run off the edge of the page (and signal the scanner to STOP) before it has scanned the full text width. This is especially noticeable when scanning a book with narrow margins.
To help overcome this issue, I always scan from RIGHT to LEFT when holding the scanner in a normal position. For example, when scanning the pages of a book I usually start with a LEFT HAND page and with the scanner at the extreme RIGHT side of the page (in the valley between the pages). To scan the RIGHT HAND page I rotate the book through 180 degrees and repeat the above process scanning from RIGHT to LEFT. Of course, you will later need to use your graphics software to rotate some of the scans to their normal orientation.
TRANSFERRING IMAGES TO A PC
There are two choices:
1. USB Cable - Use the supplied USB cable to connect the scanner to a PC (the scanner appears as a Storage Device)
2. Inserting the MicrosSD Card directly into a slot in the PC. For this you will probably need to buy a MicroSD to SD Card adaptor although many MicroSD cards are supplied with a free adapter. The adaptors are extremely low cost.
ABBYY SCREENSHOT READER - Your Flexible Friend
Abbyy's Screenshot Reader is truly brilliant software and is very simple to use. It is not MAC compatible but works with Windows XP onwards (I use it on my Windows 7 netbook). I was so impressed that I bought the full version that has some extra bells and whistles.
For a start you can use this software even without the scanner. For example it can capture ANYTHING displayed on your PC's screen - text, graphics or a mixture of both. Small or large. You can even use it to OCR the text of this review and place it straight into an editable WORD document!
But let's assume you're writing a disertation or thesis and want to quote some text from a rare and expensive book. You've scanned the book in a library and you've displayed the scanned image on the screen. Open ABBYY and put it into Text (OCR - Optical Character recognition) Mode. It recognises 40 different languages (including Japanese) with full dictionary support and a further 109 languages (including Welsh) but you do need to specify the language you want to read. Select the relevant text by clicking and dragging the mouse across the chosen part of the screen. On release of the mouse button, ABBYY immediately converts what it has read into MS Word-compatible TEXT. Let's say you've set ABBYY to transfer the 'Text to Clipboard' (you can also set it automatically to open a new WORD document and to insert the text). Next, open the MS Word document where you want to place the scanned text. Right Click the mouse and select PASTE and the text appears in your Word document as fully editable text.
You can read more about this ABBYY software here: [...]
1. Carry a couple of spare AA batteries though I wouldn't say the scanner was power hungry; two AAs last for well over 100 scans.
2. Keep an SD-Card adaptor in the bottom of the storage pouch for convenient PC transfer.
3. Take a couple of scans of each subject just in case.
4. For a more parallel scanning motion, try gripping the scanner with both hands and drawing it slowly towards you across the subject.
5. When using ABBYY Screenshot Reader to OCR text off the screen, I find it's best to zoom in until your chosen text is as big as possible on the screen. Although ABBYY very accurately reads text at small sizes, you can be assured of minimal OCR errors if you scan LARGE text in the first instance.
AREAS TO IMPROVE (I deducted ONE STAR for these)
To be frank, at this price, it would be unreasonable to demand too much but...
1. ... as an engineer, I just know the scanner's parallel action would be much easier to create if the rollers were larger - much larger (let's say 6mm diameter).
2. Even dodgy distorted scans could be usable if the scanner came with some simple software to 'straighten out' any distorted image scans.
3. The LCD is not illuminated and is difficult to read in ill-lit rooms.
But hey! It's incredible value and as a researcher, it's been doing the business for me reliably since November 2010.