Cecilia's New Scanner
I'm in the market for a new scanner since my CanoScan 650U isn't really supported by Canon or Apple under OS X. At least not for the kind of one-off scanning jobs I usually do. I did a little research and put a Canon LiDE 50 on my Amazon.com wishlist. Cecilia has also been in the market for a scanner and today she rashly decided to go out and buy one. I went with her to the local Best Buy and she got a Canon LiDE 30, one step down from the LiDE 50. On the way home I asked her if she wouldn't mind setting it up on my computer. Partly this was so we could make sure the thing actually works, and partly it was so I could see how wise my own Canon choice is.
It's a fairly widely known fact that scanning solutions for OS X are really hit-or-miss. It's only been in the last year or so that Canon and Epson have come out with OS X native scanning applications. Apple's Image Capture application has been around since at least before 10.1 and I think Apple envisioned it as the one-stop scanning solution. The problem, though, is that there are too many different scanner models and, combined with the apparently low priority of getting scanning working fluently in OS X, has meant that Image Capture isn't all that useful (in fact it only works with about eight Epson scanners -- Apple System Profiler definitely recognized Cecilia's LiDE 30 as a Canon scanner but Image Capture couldn't do a darn thing with it. Nice.). With Canon's release of their CanoScan Toolbox software some months ago I figured I could seriously look into upgrading my 650U to a newer model. I therefore had a chance this afternoon to run it through its paces with a scanner that's relatively close to what I'm looking at.
I decided to stick with Canon because I happened to like the elegant simplicity of the OS 9 Toolbox application. I really liked the real-time Preview that could be stopped when you'd seen what you needed (no need for the whole Preview to load when all you want to scan is a CD cover...). I also liked that you could do some basic image touch up (one-click sharpen, resize, etc) immediately after the scan, all within the same Toolbox application. There was no significant configuration. There was no step 3, as Jeff Goldblum used to say. It just worked. The OS X version of the Toolbox seems to throw a lot of that directness out the window though. Perhaps because it's a newer application, the new Toolbox is missing the simple post-scan editing features and configuration is very difficult. The Toolbox has a "Scan" option which takes you to a dialog box to set up things like the resolution but it won't actually scan unless you specify a secondary application to open the scanned file in. Too bad if you don't want the file open after scanning. The machine will not proceed in the Scan mode until you specify an app. This is bad because OS X apps are much slower to load than their OS 9 counterparts. Fireworks, the only image app I have, takes forever to launch in OS X. After about 15 minutes of fiddling around we tried the "Save" button (right next to the Scan button in the Toolbox). Apparently this is what you choose when you want just to save the file. Too bad the interface design tells you that this is really a completely different task, in the same way that "Copy" is different from "Fax."
"Quirky" is too nice to describe this state of affairs. Moreover, to get the nice real-time preview you need to check a box labeled "Use scanner driver settings." Huh? What does that have to do with anything? When we checked that little box we did get a familiar preview window with the usual scanning options and things worked fine from there. The bottom line is that it shouldn't have taken us so long to figure it out. Oh yea, the "Install" application launched Classic and just installed OS 9 drivers. Brilliant. Had to poke around the folders on the CD to find the OS X installers. In the end, though, the scanner does work, and interface weirdness can be memorized, so I'll probably stick with my original option for the LiDE 50. Phew!
Posted: Thursday - December 11, 2003 at 03:02 PM