Scanning with SANE and Other Tools

Here's how to get started using a scanner from Linux, and a comparison of the features in available scanning software.

Each front end has its own unique benefits and drawbacks. XSane's support for scan quality is based on film media options, such as Agfa, Fuji and Kodak film negatives, which give it added ease of use.

Image Scan! is targeted more toward the casual desktop user. As an added bonus it provides a driver straight from Epson that supports commonly available scanners.

VueScan is much faster than the other tools for zooming in on the preview, because it keeps the scan in memory. This makes VueScan preferable to the SANE-based solutions for those who scan large numbers of images.

Only VueScan offers multiple color space support, including sRGB, PAL, NTSC, CIE, Apple, Adobe and others. It was, however, the only one to crash during testing.

QuiteInsane has numerous features that are missing from the other front ends. For example, menubars can be moved, which is a feature this front end inherited from the use of Qt. Other benefits of this tool include a user-modifiable curve graph, similar to The GIMP's Curves tool for adjusting red, green and blue channels; printing directly from the Viewer window with user-configurable scaling; margins; image resolution; and page size options.

However, there are no color-correction presets based on media types, and the available preset scan sizes are in millimeters and non-US standard sizes—no letter or legal options. Despite these few missing features, QuiteInsane has the edge.

Whether you are a professional artist or a casual photographer, there are plenty of Linux-based scanning options. Each front-end user interface offers something different, and back-end drivers are plentiful, with manufacturers such as Epson starting to offer their own versions supporting their specific models. These all combine to put scanning on Linux on par with any desktop.


Michael J. Hammel ( is an author, graphic artist and software developer current working for a storage startup in Houston, Texas. He has spoken at the ALS, LinuxWorld and SXSW conferences and chaired a conference on Linux in Colorado. His web site, The Graphics Muse (, is an important reference for graphics artists and developers on the Linux platform.