Saturday, September 22, 2007

Image Capture for Scanning: the 2nd most underestimated OS X application

Preview is probably the most underestimated OS X application, but Image Capture is close second. For years I've tinkered with a scanning workflow simple enough to outsource to my mother. I came close with Vuescan, but, really, it's still too tricksy.

Today I set my 8yo up with Image Capture, which I'd only recently realized is Apple's OS X scanning tool. He's keen to earn some Lego money, so I told him I'd pay 5 cents for each scan.

I plugged in my old Epson 1660* and Image Capture recognized it immediately. (Had I installed drivers years ago, honestly I don't recall. Most scanner manufacturer software is horrid, so I try to avoid it.)

The scanning worked like a charm. It was very fast at 300 dpi, a bit sluggish at 600 dpi (a new scanner would be faster, no doubt, with only a few bugs and missing features:
  1. Image Capture won't remember settings between sessions, but it does remember them during each session.
  2. If you keep the default name of "scan" it increments each scan with a number, but I don't think this works correctly if you change the default name. No matter, I used 'A Better Finder Rename' to embed date metadata in the file names. Keep the default.
  3. The "auto" image improvement setting produced poor results. Manual has quite a few settings (similar to Preview's image editing tools) but I chose None since I was going to edit the lossless scans in Aperture and export archival JPEGs.
  4. Don't use PNG. It works fine in Image Capture, but Aperture has trouble with PNG thumbnail creation. It's clearly a bug. I should have just used TIFF, I'm not keeping the TIFF anyway.
  5. I had IC set up to launch Preview to view each scan, but sometimes it fails to launch. A bug, so I just turned off Preview. It slowed things down anyway and the confirmation wasn't necessary.
Ben's not used to real work, so he started to lose interest after the first 25 scans. Unfortunately I chose a pack that had pictures of his brother in it pre-Ben, I'd have done better with one that starred Ben. I know he wants a Star Wars Lego, so I'm confident he'll be back to his slave labor, though I may have to go to 7 cents/scan.

Here's Apple's blurb on Image Capture, note the reference to Apple's abandoned (they abandon a lot of their tech, it's surprising nobody calls them on this) "Services". iPhoto doesn't even show the Services menu, and Aperture shows it but doesn't support Services ...
Apple - Mac OS X - Image Capture

... Just plug in your digital camera or scanner and you can now directly import your pictures from any application that supports Services and Rich Text Format. All you have to do is choose Services in the Application menu and select Import Image. Image Capture lets you download all or any portion of the contents of your digital camera, crop images to a variety of sizes and delete unwanted pictures from your camera. And you can be sure that your captured images remain true to their source, because Image Capture embeds ICC profiles in the images you download or scan.

Want to share the bounty of your digital images? No problem. Image Capture lets others access the contents of your digital camera or scanner over a Bonjour network. Or create an Automator workflow to send photos to the parents.
The Automator workflow sounds interesting, but really there's not much to improve on from my point of view. It would be amusing if Image Capture were able to pull images off my despised Motorola RAZR phone via Bluetooth, but I loathe the phone to much to bother testing.

*Scanners aren't improving all that much, these are print scans, for the serious work I co-own a semi-pro Nikon film scanner.)


Anonymous said...

I agree about Image Capture, but I have a problem. It used to work with my Epson CX5400. But I installed Epson OCR software, for scanning documents. From then on, Image Capture won't recognise my scanner. I've uninstalled all the Epson software, but still no luck. There doesn't seem to be anywhere on the Apple site to download a fresh copy of Image Capture. Any ideas? Thanks.

JGF said...

Login as a different user and try again. That will tell you if the problem is user specific or global.

Also try a Google search using Epson OCR and Image Capture and recognize as search terms.

Otherwise you may need a geek friend to look at this ...