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Scanning

A scanner is like a copy machine, except that instead of producing a hard copy, it creates a computer file that you can view, edit, and print. Scanners are often rated by their color depth (for example, 42-bit color) and resolution in dots per inch (dpi). (Color depth, also called “bit depth,” refers to the number of colors that can be captured or displayed. Any device you buy will seem to handle all the colors you can see, but the higher the depth the richer the color.) Although the quality of the image has something to do with these ratings, it's also a matter of how well the scanner is made, the software that comes with the scanner, and your subjective judgement of how the image looks. You don't have to pay a lot to get a decent scanner. You can now get decent ones for under $100—even under $60. The Hewlett-Packard 2200c, which cost about $79 when I wrote this chapter, does a very good job of scanning color photos.

Scanners can also be used for optical character recognition (OCR), which turns printed or typed text into documents your computer can read. OCR software usually comes with your scanner. OCR used to be an important scanner function, but it's not all that popular now that a lot of information is already in digital form. It's much easier to get a newspaper online and copy the article you want than to clip a newspaper and scan it in.


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