I shouldn't have worried. The interface is surprisingly easy to decipher and use. There are generally several ways to do any one task. For example, if you want to resize the area you're scanning, you can enter numbers to resize it, pick from a standard selection of paper sizes (conveniently, you can define your own common document sizes) or click and drag the bars at the edges of the scan window.
Scanning is fast and the quality is high; XVScan can quickly and easily handle scanning all the way up to 600 dpi. You can precisely select the dpi to use for scanning and you can adjust the brightness, the contrast, the gamma correction—most anything you'd like to control.
Unlike a lot of scanners, XVScan doesn't give you a miniature of the image in the “pre-scan” mode. Instead, when the QuickScan option is selected, XVScan scans the image and adjusts the resolution so that the resultant image exactly fits the scanning window. This action might end up displaying the image at a lower resolution than you have in mind for your final image; it might just as easily be higher. (For me, it was often higher. I scan images to look good on a web page, not to be printed, so I don't need to scan at resolutions higher than 72 dpi.)
Once you have your QuickScan image on screen, you can adjust the appropriate settings as you wish to enhance it and, if necessary, set crop limits. Once you click on Apply Crop, the cropped image is displayed filling the scanning window. Now, click on Scan for your next pass, and XVScan scans only the area inside the crop limits—very convenient.
That's great, I can hear you say, but I don't always want to play around in a fancy X Windows' user interface—sometimes I'd like to be able to just scan an image using the command line. You can do that, too. Although their manual boasts that the GUI makes their product “more user friendly than hpscanpbm”, it's also distributed with sjscan, a command-line scanning utility.
By the way, while XVScan can read and write in several different image formats, their manual warns:
xv has a whopping grand total of two internal image formats: 8-bit color mapped and 24-bit RGB. Every image you load is converted to one of these two formats, as part of the image loading procedure, before you ever see the image.
In other words, you might occasionally get some minor artifacts creeping into the images as they're converted back and forth—but if this is a serious problem, I have yet to encounter it.
I did a search on DejaNews (http://www.dejanews.com/) while researching this review, to see if I could find any negative comments people had posted to Usenet about XVScan. I couldn't find any. The closest thing I found to a negative remark was a few die-hard free software fans grumbling about having to actually pay money for it. On the whole, everyone who had used the software seemed to recommend it. In fact, in response to a general question about scanning under Linux, one user suggested that the person asking should buy an HP ScanJet just so he could run XVScan.
Personally, I like having an environment that allows me to do high-quality scans and to manipulate the image within the same application. I'm far too used to programs that do just one thing well; XVScan appears to aim at doing everything well, and I think it succeeds.
Michael Montoure is the webmaster for Specialized Systems Consultants, the publishers of Linux Journal. He's been on the Internet for the better part of a decade now, used to wish everyone would use it, and now is sorry he said anything. As long as you don't want to tell him how to “Make Money Fast”, feel free to send him e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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