Lots of people have complained that XSane is too complicated for many
users, but little progress has been made towards creating a user-friendly
and stable replacement for the SANE GUI. Until now. Simple Scan is a GTK-based
front-end for SANE primarily
developed by Robert Ancell
and intended to replace XSane. Simple Scan will be landing on desktops in
Ubuntu Lucid (10.04) release, so now's a good time to take a look at the new kid on the scanning block.
Packages for Ubuntu are available via Ancell's PPA,
the most recent version as of this writing was 0.9.5. Source is
available for users on other distributions, and should build on most
current distributions. To test Simple Scan, I scanned in several color photos, a
handful of old black and white photos, line art, and a printed text document. The test system consisted of a dual Xeon 3.20GHz with 8GB of RAM, running Ubuntu 9.10 and using an Epson Perfection 1260 scanner. The scanner is a bit long in the tooth, and certainly not the fastest available, but has served well over the years and works well with Linux.
Simple Scan lives up to its name. The interface is uncluttered and offers only a few options. If no changes are made, Simple Scan will scan in photos at 300 DPI, or text documents at 150DPI. Photos and text are the only presets available. The DPI can be changed via the Preferences dialog. In fact, that's nearly all that can be changed, along with the scan source if more than one scanner is attached to the system. Once preferences are saved, you can choose to scan in a single page, or all pages if you happen to have a scanner with a document feeder. Unfortunately, the Epson is a flatbed scanner and I wasn't able to test the feeder feature.
Users familiar with other scanning applications will probably be used to doing a preview scan, followed by cropping a section of the document to get a full scan. Simple Scan does a one-shot process and simply scans in the entire area. After this, the user can crop the picture if desired. This is much easier if one wants to scan in something that takes up the entire tray, but can cause a scan to take much longer in practice if you're working at a high DPI and only wish to capture a small portion of it. If you're scanning in, say, several old family photos it makes more sense to just scan an entire tray and do the cropping in The GIMP or another application.
Simple Scan's performance leaves a bit to be desired when working at larger resolutions. Scanning a color photo in at 1200DPI nearly brought Simple Scan to its knees. It didn't crash, but the interface became laggy and slow to respond. Resizing the Simple Scan window would take 10 to 20 seconds. Even scanning in some black and white photos at 150DPI caused Simple Scan to become slow to respond.
Simple Scan makes it easy to scan in a document and send it as an email. Once a document is scanned in, just select Email from the File menu and Simple Scan will open a new email with the scan as an attachment. At least that's what will happen if you're using Evolution as the default mailer on GNOME. If you're using Thunderbird or another mailer, this doesn't work so well. Simple Scan will initiate a new email, but without the attachment. When selecting email, Simple Scan will always default to PDF. At the moment there appears to be no way to change this. That might be desirable for forms, but not so much for pictures.
Editing within Simple Scan is limited to cropping and rotation. When saving scans, users are limited to JPEG, PNG, and PDFs. Simple Scan is really a no-frills tool that just does the most basic scanning operations.
Some might wonder why a new application was developed from scratch,
rather than improving GNOME Scan. According to the comments on Ancell's blog following the introduction of Simple Scan, GNOME Scan suffered stability issues and did not work well as a stand-alone scanning application. For those unfamiliar with GNOME Scan, the project has been in the works for some time, and is not only meant to be a standalone scanning application, but also is meant to allow other GNOME applications to acquire images from a scanner.
All of the features for 1.0 are present in the 0.9.5 release of Simple Scan, and what remains are bugfixes and so on. According to the 0.9.0 announcement Ancell is interested in working on color management, OCR, integration with GNOME Scan and integration with photo management applications like F-Spot after the 1.0 release.
Naturally, Simple Scan doesn't hold a candle to XSane's bag of tricks, nor is it meant to. If a user wishes to do color correction, optical character recognition (OCR), scan in slide negatives, or any number of other more complex operations, then XSane is still a better choice. But, if all you need is a fast scan of a form or quick and dirty scan of a color document or photo, then Simple Scan is shaping up to be a good choice.
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