Dragging Analog into Your Digital World

For all the recent hype about Apple's new hardware and the new features (Solid State Drive, Retina Display, No DVD/CD Drive) the one constant is the need for something good to put on your shiny new Mac. Today I want to concentrate on how to get your data onto your Mac. 

When people think about data they usually think about text documents, old email, music, movies & photos. If you already have digital data moving it from an old computer to your new Mac, even one without a CD/DVD drive, is easy. Just use your WiFi network, drag and drop. But what about digitizing your old analog data?  What about documents that aren't in digital form or old photographs your parents or grandparents gave you? This is where scanners come in. 

Scanners may be something out of the 1990's (has it really been over 20 years?) but they work well and give you a high quality output. I own an Epson Perfection 3170. A great scanner for it's day and one that still works well. A quick trip to your local thrift store and you will see that a lot of people have dumped their scanner thinking they will never need it. But if you want to bridge the analog/digital divide then a scanner can come in handy. 

If you do own a scanner your next question is how to use it. Although most of the major manufactures have their own software most of that software is out of date junk. The rapid updates of Mac OSX often renders all those applications useless. Not to worry. Did you know Apple has a way to scan using Apple's own software that comes with every Mac? Today I want to show you how to use the ubiquitous Preview application with your scanner.

Scanning with Preview

1) Turn on the scanner and open up Preview

2) Under the "File" Menu select "Import from Scanner" and select your scanner

3) You will now see a blank page with less than basic scanner functions available. In order to really take advantage of the power of your scanner you need to select the "Show Details" button at the bottom.

 4) Now the fun starts. Selecting "Overview" will give you a preview scan of your photo. From this you can select the image and crop to the desired size. Once you have set the scan area you can now balance the color.

On the right side of the window are the controls to help color balance and correct the image. There aren't a lot of controls but tweaking the sliders can greatly improve your photo. If you are familiar with iPhoto you shouldn't have any issues figuring things out. If not, just experiment and with the sliders until the photo looks right to you. 

As a last step before scanning make sure to change the resolution to a value that suits how you are going to use your photo. If you just want to email it or post it on Facebook you only need to set it at 100 dpi or so. If you want to take your file to your local drug store to get a reprint or you want to edit it in Phtoshop then scan it at a higher resolution. 

5) Once you are done adjusting the color just select the "Scan" button at the bottom, save the file and you are done. 

There may be better scanning applications out there that give you greater control of your output but convenient and free sure is nice!