1. Introduction

Scanning is the creation of an electronic digital image of material from a version on paper, photograph, slide etc. If the material being scanned contains text, a process called OCR (Optical Character Recognition) can be applied to the image to extract the text for subsequent use in a word-processing package etc.

Although this document is oriented to users of the Windows PC based scanning facilities in the Help Centre at OUCS, much of its content will be applicable to other similar systems. Further details of particular scanning applications are included in related guides:

2. Equipment Available

The Help Centre currently has three Epson flat-bed colour scanners - one attached to Apple Macintosh computers, two attached to Windows PCs. All will do basic text and image scanning have a transparency hood for dealing with slides. The special needs scanner has a automatic sheet feeder.

3. Access

The scanners are available for use Monday to Friday between 8:30 and 20:30.

To use the equipment, you also need a current Help Centre OPEN account. This can be obtained via a University Card from the self-registration terminal in the Help Centre.

4. Booking a Session

You are recommended to book a machine for the time that you plan to use it - this will ensure that a machine is available when you arrive. There is a booking diary near to each machine. The Help Centre staff can also make a booking for your (tel... (2)73200).

5. Is Scanning the Answer to Your Problem?

Although scanning can be very effective, getting the best results can often be quite time consuming and may not necessarily turn out to be the best solution. Situations where this might be the case are:

  • The material already exists in digital form. If the material was originally acquired from the internet or other online source, it may be possible to retrieve a copy. A search engine such as http://www.google.com can locate documents and even pictures, even if they no longer exist on the original site. The internet archive at http://www.archive.org has several years of archives of the whole internet. Literary texts are available from sources such as Project Gutenberg or the Oxford Text Archive.

  • Acceptable results could be obtained much more quickly by other means. For example, if an illustration from a book is to be incorporated into a word-processed document, it might be simpler to leave a gap in the text, paste in a photocopy of the illustration, and then re-photocopy the resulting page.

  • The amount of text to be scanned is small. The time taken to learn how to use the scanner and software would be more than it would take to retype the material by hand.

  • The text to be scanned is faint, of poor quality, on creased paper etc.. Poor quality text will give low accuracy of recognition and the time spent in correcting mistakes would be more than it would take to retype the material by hand. Poor quality text can sometimes be improved by first making a photocopy from which to do the scan.

6. Copyright

The laws of copyright are quite complex but essentially anything (text, pictures, sound) whether printed, online, or from any other source, is subject to copyright protection. This means for example, that you cannot scan a copyrighted photo from a book and use it on a web page without permission from the copyright holder. For written works, the copyright exists until 70 years after the death of the author. However, even if an original work is out of copyright, a transcription, translation, or photograph of the work may still be subject to copyright.

For some purposes, for example personal, private study use, it is permissible to make copies of copyright material. Use of material in a Ph.D. thesis, however, should generally be viewed as being a form of publication, as a copy of the thesis will probably be deposited in a University library for public access.

7. Storage Requirements

The scanning process will produce image or text files on the machine you are using. Image files, particularly ones scanned at high resolution, can occupy a lot of disk storage space, possibly running into several megabytes per image, which is much more than will fit on a floppy disk. The scanning machines have zip drives and, on one of the PCs, a CD-writer. You will need to provide suitable disks in order to use these drives, and be able to read the disks elsewhere. Smaller images may also be able to be transported by sending them to yourself as email attachments.

8. A Trial Run

If you have a lot of material that needs scanning, first do a trial run through all the steps that you need. This will ensure that the results will be acceptable, and also give you an idea of how long it may take to process all your material.

9. Switching On the Scanner

On all the machines, it is important that the scanner is switched on (via oblong power switch on front) before the computer is started up. If in doubt, or if the scanner seems not be working, close down the system, power everything off, power on the scanner, and restart the computer.

10. Placing Material on the Scanner

10.1. Books, Papers, Photos etc.

Place books, papers, photos etc. face down, as flat as possible against the glass. If possible, have the top of the material at the end of the scanner farthest from you - it will then be the right way up on the screen and easier to work with from the start. If this is not possible, don't worry as you will be able to rotate it at a later stage.

  • For creased or wrinkled material, pressing it against the glass, e.g. using the booking diary, may give better results.
  • For thin paper printed on both sides, placing a sheet of black paper on top while scanning will help stop the reverse side showing through.

10.2. Negatives and Slides

For negatives or slides, use one of the various slide holders that accompany the scanner. You will also need to remove the white padded sheet that is normally slotted in to the lower side of the scanner lid. This allows a light source to illuminate your material when being scanned.

11. What Next?

What follows next depends on which scanning application you plan to use - see the related guides: