Scanners were once big beasts of machines that cost a fortune. Today, some are so sleek that they slide right in next to your keyboard. They can easily capture text, ditto snapshots. And the cost has come down, down, down. Today you can pick up a scanner for less than $200.
Professionals are putting the handy devices to good use. Some lawyers now scan legal documents into laptops, letting them dispense with heavy briefcases. Radio host Rush Limbaugh organizes his newspaper clippings with a sheetfeed model from Visioneer Inc. And Stephanie Jaskowski, operations manager for The Farmhouse Collection Inc., a Sun Valley, Idaho, furniture company, uses a Hewlett-Packard Co. flatbed scanner to instantly move design changes on paper into the computer.
Which scanner should you buy? It depends on your plans. Scanners come in two basic flavors: flatbed and sheetfeed. The former are big and clunky, resembling a foot-long shirt box, but boast high resolution. Cylindrical sheetfeed scanners take up less room than flatbeds and also cost as much as 35% less. If space is at a premium, then you might try a small sheetfeed like Visioneer's new PaperPort Strobe for $249. Logitech Inc.'s $199 PageScan Color Parallel sports a detachable head for scanning bulky images, plus a 10-page document feeder. Or for just playing with snapshots, Storm Technology Inc.'s EasyPhoto Reader is a no-brainer at $99.
For more demanding tasks--if you have room--try a flatbed scanner, such as UMAX Technologies Inc.'s new Astra 610S for $149 or Optic Pro 9630P from PlusTek, for $149. We also recommend HP's $299 ScanJet 5p. It offers great picture clarity and streamlined controls.
Give some thought to the software, too. Some manufacturers throw in good photo software from Adobe Systems Inc. Visioneer offers its own program, called PaperPort Deluxe, which HP bundles with its scanners. It will track down any scanned document with a word search. Tricks like this, and low-low prices, make scanners the peripheral of choice for 1997.