Choosing the right scanner

When converting your physical files to digital filing system, choosing the right scanner is an important step in the process. When selecting the right scanner, there are several key scanner attributes to take into account in addition to price:

Color Depth:

The number of bits captured per pixel, which is related to the number of possible colors. Higher color depth equals better image quality. This would matter to anyone converting graphics like art work or photos to digital files.

Optical Resolution:

A measure of how well a scanner can capture an image. It is the actual number of pixels that the scanner provides when scanning an image. The higher the optical resolution, the higher the quality of the image captured. This will also be important for anyone converting graphics and wants to clearly capture every small detail - it is also ideal for scanning hand written notes. Photographers, artists, designers, architects, engineers, doctors, pharmacists might want to consider this when selecting a scanner.

Interpolated resolution:

The ability of the scanner software to "fill-in" spaces between scanned dots. This is really only a factor if you plan on enlarging images. The higher the interpolated resolution, the smoother your enlarged images will look. This would be important for photographers, artists, designers, architects, engineers, doctors, pharmacists.

Flatbed vs. Sheetfed:

Flatbed scanners offer a flat, glass surface. The image to be scanned is placed on the glass surface and the lid is shut. This is typically used for environments where very limited scanning takes place or for "irregular" objects (i.e. a book or hard cased object). Sheetfed scanners are useful for environments that require frequent volume scanning. They allow you to scan large projects automatically. Simply place the sheets that need to be scanned in the automatic document feeder. The sheetfed scanner will automatically process the sheets and scan them automatically. Scanners offer various sizes of automatic document feeders. Larger capacity feeders allow for larger jobs to be completed with fewer interventions from the user. Some scanners offer both flatbed and sheetfed capabilities. This allows for more flexibility in a single unit.

Simplex or Duplex:

Simplex scanners have the ability to scan one side of a document. This is useful when a majority of your items that need to be scanned are single-sided. Duplex scanners allow for the scanning of both sides of a document in a single pass. A majority of duplex scanners have a feeder with a dual sided lens that reads both sides of a document as it passes through. Duplex scanners can be set to scan as simplex or duplex, depending on the job the user wishes to scan.

Scan Speed:

Scan speed is typically rated in pages per minute (ppm) for simplex scanning and images per minute (ipm) for duplex scanning. Pages per minute (ppm) measures the amount of pages scanned in a given minute. Images per minute (ipm) measures the amount of actual images (front and back) scanned in a minute. The higher the scan speed, the more scans a user can do in a set amount of time. Look for higher scan speeds if you plan on doing frequent or high-volume scanning. Scan speed decreases as you increase the scan resolution.

Daily Duty Cycle:

Measures the amount of scans that a scanner can handle in any given day. This is rated by the manufacturer as the maximum amount of scans that the machine can handle. You should not surpass this measurement as this can damage your scanner. Most manufacturers have an internal measuring device in the unit that they can look at if you have your scanner serviced. Scanning beyond the daily duty cycle typically voids the warranty on the scanner. Look for higher daily duty cycles for larger scanning jobs. Make sure that you choose a scanner that can "keep-up" with your needs on a daily basis.

Maximum supported media size:

The maximum document size that a scanner can handle. Typically measured in paper size such as letter (8.5" x 11") and legal (8.5" x 14"). Make sure that the scanner can support the document sizes you plan on scanning.


Scanners come with software that allow you to interact with the scanner on your computer. Different scanners have different software which offer different functionality and features. Visit Scan to Location and Scan to File Type to learn about these important features.


We recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap 1500 (or 1500M for Mac users). We have tested several scanners and this is by far the best scanner that we have encountered.

Product Features

  • One button searchable PDF creation
  • Intelligent paper feed detection
  • Blazing 20ppm color scanning
  • 50-page Automatic Document Feeder (ADF)
  • Comes with Adobe® Acrobat® 9 Standard
  • Scans front and back of pages
See this video for a demonstration by the Fujitsu product manager being interviewed by Terry Brock. Please note that there are newer scanners available that are more compatible with Windows 7  and 8. We continue to recommend Fujitsu scanners:

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