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Scanners make the grade as a standard desktop tool.

Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but they're much easier to come by as scanners become indispensable tools for multimedia creators, Web authors, digital artists--and even office workers who crank out the company newsletter.

Thanks to better products and attractive prices, scanning has become far more accessible and practical. If you need to publish pictures for a small or home office, you can buy 30-bit and 36-bit color scanners for under $1,000.

At the same time, quality is turning sharply upward. Common scanner resolutions are now 600 dots per inch and 1200dpi, much better than the 175dpi or 300dpi levels that previously defined "affordable" scanners.

Specialty scanners have also carved out a slice of the market. At $200 or less, photo scanners are designed to accept smaller items (such as 3-by-5-inch photos). Page scanners provide single sheet scans that--in tandem with document management software--can turn reams of documents into more manageable digital files.

Until recently, few scanners supported Windows NT. But with NT's fast gains in status as the OS of choice in the desktop publishing, CAD and 3D graphic communities, NT-compatible scanners are more commonplace. Scanners now support a consistent set of TWAIN drivers on Windows 3.x, 95 and NT, and it's not unusual for midrange to high-end models to ship with NT drivers.

Scanning software has also greatly improved; high-end scanners ship with powerful programs aimed at professionals, while many entry-level scanners come with consumer-oriented art apps. Indeed, Visioneer has proved visionary with its excellent document management package. What's next for scanners? Prices will keep falling, and engineering advances will allow high-end features to find their way into under-$1,000 scanners. In fact, we might soon see 36-bit, dual-lens scanners in the $300 range.


Scanners: The Winners

Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.