Data Doctor: For PDFs, some scanners may need new software - East Valley Tribune: Business

Data Doctor: For PDFs, some scanners may need new software

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Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2008 5:30 pm | Updated: 10:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

 Q: I want to scan my documents and have them turned into PDF files for e-mail. Any suggestions? - Pat

A: When it comes to scanning anything, what you want to do with the resulting file will determine your best course of action.

Q: I want to scan my documents and have them turned into PDF files for e-mail. Any suggestions? - Pat

A: When it comes to scanning anything, what you want to do with the resulting file will determine your best course of action.

Older scanners generally came with software that had two options: scan the item as an image, which means that text was not editable, or scan the item as text (usually via an Optical Character Recognition program), which ignored many of the graphic elements such as lines and boxes.

Scanning items as an image is much like making an electronic photocopy, but the resulting file size can often be too large for sending via e-mail, especially in higher resolution modes.

Scanning items as editable text will make for a small file size, but you generally lose most of your formatting.

When you scan to the PDF file format, not only can you reduce the file size, you can retain the exact formatting of the document and make it very easy for any recipient to view because of the universal nature of the file format.

Newer scanners generally come with software that includes the PDF option, but that does not mean you need to go out and buy a new scanner.

Understanding that the scanning process is made up of two elements, the scanner and the scanning software, if you can't currently scan to PDF you probably only need to get new software.

Just to make sure your current scanner software isn't capable, look for menus such as "Output type" or "Settings" for a specific PDF option for the output file. If it doesn't exist, your next step is to search the Help section for "PDF" to see if product-specific information exists.

If nothing turns up in either area, the next step is to see if your current software has any updates or upgrade options.

This is best done by visiting the Support section of your scanner company's Web site or looking for an "Update" option in the Help menu of the program.

If you can't find any clear options from your current scanner software, your next option would be to install a third-party application that does offer the PDF alternative.

All scanners are simple devices that are capable of communicating with just about any program that recognizes scanners, including most graphics programs and word processors such as Microsoft Word.

If you have already installed software that allows you to save to the PDF format in Microsoft Word, you should be able to launch the scanner within Word (Insert/Picture/From Scanner or Camera) and save the resulting scanned image as a PDF file.

There are a host of free and low-cost programs that will let you create PDF files in a number of ways.

A free option for your scanner is called Scan2PDF, which works with Windows 2000, XP and Vista and can be downloaded at www.snapfiles.com (search for Scan2PDF).

If you want a little more flexibility creating PDFs, you can do so from any program that has a print option with PDF Printer (available at www.bullzip.com). This cool little program installs itself as a printer option for everything in Windows, so you simply choose it from the Print menu of any program to generate a PDF. If your existing scanner software has a Print option, instead of installing a new scanner program, install PDF Printer. That will take care of the scanning task and give you the additional option of creating PDFs from just about everything on your computer.

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the "Computer Corner" radio show, which can be heard at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com.

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