Reviewed: VueScan 8.6.10


Can it be true: is this really a piece of scanning software that can recognise your scanner first time? On Linux? Read on for our verdict on this commercial scanning program that provides an impressive amount of control over the picture-grabbing process...

You would think that the basic rights of a human being would include getting their scanner to work properly on Linux, but alas, the world is not with you. Since specific kernel modules were thrown out before the 2.6 kernel series started, pretty much every instance of Linux now running uses the libusb driver to enable scanner support.

Scanning software has to scan the USB port, pick up devices and then (usually) offload the actual driver interface to firmware that may or may not be for your specific model. Although Sane (the main component of open source scanning software) does a commendable job of getting things to work, a huge number of scanners out in Linuxland still don't work fully, or at all.

VueScan is proprietary software that has been in development since 1997. Its aim is simple: to be the most complete scanning software you could ever want.

The program is supplied as a pre-built binary, targeted at Ubuntu and Red Hat 9. It should be possible to get it working on other distros (we tested using Fedora), but these are the supported platforms if you have any problems. Because it's fairly light in terms of dependencies, you should be able to get it to run on practically anything – and that includes the scanning hardware it supports.

VueScan interface

VueScan's interface let's you switch between advanced and simple modes using the 'Guide me' button at the bottom.

We tested using an Epson 3170 Photo scanner. This may theoretically be supported by Linux, but several months of fiddling with Sane had failed to get it doing more than emitting a few whines. VueScan detected it first time and was scanning happily two minutes later. There is a huge list of supported scanners on the website but bear in mind that the ones that are listed as requiring CyberView X won't work on Linux.

So, one of the reasons for using VueScan might just be to get no-hassle support for your hardware, but there's more. The amount of control over the scanning process this software gives you is simply mind-boggling. There are so many options that they're hidden by default, lest they confuse. In fact, this is a great help for everyone, because sometimes you just want to do a bunch of quick scans or copy a document without fiddling with every setting.

Pro-level features

Rest assured though, that for serious scanning, the options you want are there. VueScan supports ICE (a kind of dust-off for scanners) if your scanner does, has colour management and will autogenerate IT8 colour targets for you.

For transparency scanning, there are a few extra neat tricks, but the best is the exposure lock feature. Ingeniously, if you select a tiny area of the film leader, the software can adjust and set the exposure for the entire film, and in the case of colour negatives, also correct the colour. There's good OCR too.

Not everything is excellent. Sequential scanning takes a bit of fiddling. If you're scanning strips of film for instance, it takes a while to set up the offsets and gaps. Also, although descreening is a difficult operation, there are packages (admittedly for Mac and Windows) that do a better job.

Finally, it may go against your firmly held beliefs to pay for software, but this is a great deal. The Pro licence entitles users to free VueScan upgrades forever. It's probably the only scanning software you will ever need.

Our verdict: There simply isn't anything to compare with it on Linux, or possibly any other platform you may choose. 9/10

First published in Linux Format

First published in Linux Format magazine

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Your comments

Sounds great...if it's needed

Some time around '02 I got given an old Agfa scanner, it worked fine with SANE after some Googling and I was impressed by the level of control. Then a few years later I bought a newer Agfa and it worked out of the box. Last year I got a Lexmark print-scanner combo, and it worked first time using the manufacturer's driver (which required a download but was trivial to install). So all in all, I feel like the world _is_ with me - for scanning at least.

Having said that, it's great to see software that does such a good job of supporting the more recalcitrant hardware. I'd have no qualms about using it if I needed it, especially given the quality.

Looks good

Definitely going to try this out. Looks much nicer than XSane.

Sounds great anyhow

The trouble with SANE and tools based on it is that it panders to the lowest common denominator of scanning devices. In my opinion, it doesn't matter so much that Sane might support your scanner, but that VueScan lets you use the full capabilities of it (like DigitalICE, or changing the lamp settings).

Good stuff

Having bought Vuescan long ago when SANE was nowhere near as good as it is now, I have a fully paid up license. Not only is the hardware support good, I find it one of the best front-ends for scanning under Linux available (there was another, which was abandoned, its name escapes me just now).

It's great and breaths new life into my old Benq 500E

Up until now, the only reason I've kept an old copy of Windows about the place is that Linux just couldn't handle my Benq 5000E flatbed scanner. I had tried everything, not even Sane would work.

After reading this review and downloading it to my Linux Mint 8 64 bit box I found it just worked. Not only that but also up to the maximum resolution of 1200 ppi unlike Sane which, if it had worked, would only reach 300.

Anyone want to buy a second hand copy of Windows xp?

VueScan ripped off GPLed code

Yet another product and person that ripped off GPLed code.
VueScan is an illegal product with pirated content.
See mailing list for partial details.
The VueScan author behaved poorly after it came to light.
Editor, I think this warrants a reduced rating.

Troll Alert

Eizinoofe sounds like a troll!

Not really usable

I have a scanner that was working fine with Linux kernel 2.4, but support has been dropped in 2.6. VueScan does not support it either. I find this strange, because reverse engineering the protocol is surely not the problem - just look at 2.4 kernel and see which bytes are sent/received.

I should either buy another scanner or use some old machine with 2.4 kernel, just for scanning. VueScan does not solve the problem.

Minolta Dual Scan Film Scanner + UMAX 3400

I have two scanners,1 unsupported (UMAX 3400) and one classified as good (Minolta Film Scanner) VueScan supports both perfectly.

The Film Scanner is around 12 years ago and I started to use VueScan, rather then the original Windows software that was written for Windows 98/ME, because it was restrictive and unsupported for any other Windows Version.

Now as I run Linux now, I still run this Film Scanner using VueScan. Unlike Minolta, Ed Hamrick ensures Vuescan still supports these devices, after all these years.

It may not be open source, and may not be free. But it does what it says on the tin.

So well done Ed Hamrick.

VueScan does not work with Epson Stylus SX235

... it does not even "see" the scanner... nor does xsane, for that matter!

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