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Home > Scanners > Glossary




ADF - An Automatic Document Feeder, or ADF, allows you to set up your scanning project, then attend to other tasks without having to hand feed each sheet to the scanner. It attaches to the unit and feeds the sheets for you. ADFs can have a capacity between fifty to several hundreds of pages. (see also Automatic Document Feeder)

Automatic Document Feeder - An ADF allows you to set up your scanning project, then attend to other tasks without having to hand feed each sheet to the scanner. It attaches to the unit and feeds the sheets for you. ADFs can have a capacity between fifty to several hundreds of pages. (see also ADF)


Barcode Scanners - This type of scanner reads barcodes by measuring the amount of light that is reflected back, the pattern between light and dark, and bar width to determine product codes. What the scanner reads is compared against an encoding table to dermine what is being scanned. They are used in warehouses, retail, offices, and other environments where scanning large amounts of product are necessary.

Biometric Scanners - This scanner reads a user’s fingerprint, voice, or iris to determine access to a computer, system, or area. They can also be used to enter information, like clock-in and clock-out times, for payroll or data entry. Biometric scanners can be used in combination with an access card or password to help ensure security.


Color Bit Depth - Bit depth refers to the number of bits used to store information about each pixel of an image. The higher bit depth of a scanner means more information can be stored about a given pixel, producing clearer, color rich scans.


Document Weight - This determines, for certain types of paper with defined dimensions, the weight of 500 sheets. To illustrate, a pack of bond paper may be labeled as 20 lb. That means 500 sheets of this type of paper, based on defined dimensions (in this case, 17 x 22”), weighs 20 lbs. The measurement may also appear as grams/m2 (meters squared).

Duplex Scanner - A duplex scanner is capable of scanning both sides of a document automatically, so you don’t have to scan one side, then flip the sheet over and reload it to scan the other side.


Film / Slide Scanners - Scanners designed specifically for the scanning of film and slides, these scanners allow you to scan photographic film directly to your computer without needing to produce a print first. These are very useful if you want to remove scratches and improve the quality of old negatives or slides.

Flatbed Scanner - The most common type of scanner, a flatbed scanner uses a glass pane which has a bright light and scanning element under the glass. When initiated, the scanning element and bright light move from one end to the other, scanning whatever objects, documents or photos are on the glass.

Front Panel Controls - Some scanners have simple, easy to use buttons that allow you to not only scan, but make copies, e-mail your scanned images, or create a PDF file. This multifunctionality can help to streamline your workflow and increase productivity.


Grayscale Bit Depth - Similar to color bit depth, refers to the number of bits used to store information about levels of gray.


Handheld Scanners - These scanners operate with the same basic technology as a flatbed scanner, but with a reversal of roles. Rather than having the scanner (or scanner belt) move your documents through the machine, you must move the scanner yourself over the document. This generally does not provide the best image quality, but is speedy and effective.


Imprinter - A scan imprinter, whether it’s included in your scanner or bought as an accessory, helps you keep track of scanned documents, which makes it ideal for offices that scan a large number of important items. The imprinter provides a unique number or alpha-numeric code to each document scanned, printing the code on either the front or back of the document. Imprinters come in pre-scan or post-scan models.

Interface - Most of today's scanners will use the USB standard we've all become used to. Higher end scanners will sometimes use a SCSI interface. Typically, scanners don't include a network interface as it's not really practical to have a network attached scanner.

Interpolated Resolution - Manufacturers like to point to the interpolated resolution of their scanners because they can quote a really high number. Interpolated resolution refers to the ability of the scanner to estimate intermediate values in between known samples. Interpolated resolution is meaningless in terms of the quality of images you'll be able to scan!


Light Source - The scanner lamp is used to illuminate the document so that it can be scanned effectively. Most scanners use either a cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) or a xenon lamp. Older models may use a fluorescent lamp. Without a working lamp, the scanner will not be able to work properly.


Optical Resolution - This number is the best indicator of the overall image quality of any scanner. If the resolution is 2400 dpi it will be listed as either 2400 dpi or 2400 x 2400 dpi. When comparing scanners that have two numbers listed in the resolution, the lower of the two will be a more accurate representation of the scanners ability (for example, a 1200 x 2400 dpi scanner would be considered a 1200 dpi scanner).


Resolution - Resolution refers to the individual number of samples that are taken in the space of one inch. This is commonly referred to as dpi (dots per inch) or spi (samples per inch). Resolution is typically listed twice, as optical resolution and interpolated resolution.


Scanning Element - This refers to the technology that is used to read the document or photo you are scanning. Typically, home scanners use a CCD (Color Charge Coupled Device) or a CIS (Contact Type Image Sensor) for the scanning element.

Scanning Speed - Scanning speed will be listed one of two ways. If the scanner is a flatbed scanner, it will list the scanning speed in terms of Seconds per Page. If the model is a sheetfed scanner, with an automatic document feeder (ADF), it will list the scanning speed in terms of pages per minute. If you plan on scanning large documents, a sheetfed scanner with a high scanning speed will be ideal.

Sheetfed Scanner - Sheetfed scanners allow you to scan multiple sheets of letter or legal size paper at one time. The automatic document feeder (ADF) that is usually included with these types of scanners let you to start a job and leave to take care of other tasks while your project is scanned.


TWAIN - This type of driver defines a standard software protocol and program application interface, so that your scanner and software can communicate to work more efficiently. Many scanners come with TWAIN and ISIS (a similar type of driver) included.


Wide Format Scanners - A sheetfed scanner that allows for the scanning of any document that is larger than typical letter and legal sizes.

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