How to Scan Without a Scanner - But You Do Need A Camera

Recently I spent four and a half hours in our beautiful downtown library doing research related to a job I have. four and a half very cold hours. The book I needed costs $900 so there is only one in town. After about an hour I was joined at the next table by an older gentleman who proceeded to read out loud to himself in a language that I did not understand. He read quietly; it was sort of a constant rumble. Occasionally he laughed. I would have liked to have participated in the humor. It might have warmed me up.

I was not allowed to take the book to another area. The librarians already knew they could not tell the gentleman not to read out loud because he did not understand them. I was under a very tight deadline and could not leave.

I kept thinking about how handy the library's scanner would be. I could scan the pages I needed, get out of the cold library, and go home. And get warm. It was 75 degrees outside. Scanning was 75 cents a page. I kept working.

I tried taking pictures with my iPhone. They weren't clear enough for all the details I needed. I kept working.

I have to go back to the library in another week. This time my winter coat is going with me.

So why am I sharing this bit of misery with you? It was not three days after this experience that I got an email asking if I would be interested in reviewing a brand new application called Prizmo. Prizmo, it seems, lets you use your digital camera, along with their software, to scan anything, anywhere.

The TMO editors will be pleased to know that I did not embarrass them in any way. I simply said, very professionally, that I would be most happy to review it.

Prizmo has a free 30 day trial, so you can try it out and see if it works for you before spending any money. There is also a 19 page users guide available in download form in both English and French. The users guide is hyperlinked for ease of use and includes a section on calibrating your camera.

I worked with both my iPhone and my little HP Photosmart 5.2 megapixel camera. Both of them about as basic as you can get when it comes to cameras. For this review, I took a couple of pages from my own manual and snapped pictures. Like most Mac users, my pictures automatically download in iPhoto when I connect my camera or iPhone, which isn't a problem for Prizmo.

When I opened Prizmo I got a blank window, ready to receive whatever I wanted it to process.

When I drag in the first photo the work area enlarges to meet the needs of my photo.

I drag the corners of the green box until it covers the portion of the page I want to save in my scan. It can be the whole page. If the area is small enough I can zoom in. I can also zoom to "fit to grid" will will make sure the part I have selected stays enlarged, cutting off other portions of the page that I don't care about.

For this particular kind of scanning the quality is only important in that you need to be able to accurately read the material. However, there are other kinds of scanning and the developers of Prizmo emphasize that its primary purpose is to serve the needs of those who do not have scanners. Therefore there are options for changing brightness, contrast, height and width, and resolution. They are easily accessed from the buttons seen on the bottom of the windows in my images.

As I noted, I was able to use both my iPhone and an inexpensive digital camera. The better camera you have, and the higher resolution you obtain, the better quality scan you will achieve. And, of course, you are not limited to scanning text.

Prizmo requires Mac OS X 10.0 or greater. It is made by a company out of Belgium called Creaceed. Prizmo sells for US$39.95, and you can download it at the Creaceed Web site. It sells for $39.95.

The bottom line is that this software does what it says it will do and it does is easily and quickly. I like the fact that it works with my inexpensive camera and with my iPhone and still gives results that allow me to get the information I need. Not everyone will have need of it, but for those who do, it is a great addition to the lineup of specialized Mac software.

Now, as long as I have your attention, may I climb on my soapbox? I won't be here long, but I am short and you might wander away if I don't stand on something.

There are two things I frequently "remind" people. Use a stand for your notebook computer so it won't overheat. Backup your data. I haven't written a column recently because my computer crashed. We had to wipe my system clean and install the system software to get going again. My hard drive is going bad. (I say we like I was a part of this grand adventure. My part was wringing my hands in the corner, whimpering.)

Everything was gone. My book, all my photos, my music, all my software. But it really wasn't gone because I back up my stuff every night. I use SuperDuper. It doesn't matter what you use. I was able to get my stuff back and get back to work because I use a reliable backup software package with an external hard drive.

This coming week I am getting a new MacBook Pro. I will send this PowerBook G4 off to get the hard drive fixed because it is a Mac and that is what we do. Someone else will be able to continue to use it because that is what we do as well.

I mentioned my book. The entire Table of Contents and a sample page are available for free review for anyone who wishes to see them.

I am making this book available in three formats:.

The first is the more traditional printed book format, spiral bound. Cost is U.S. $17.15 each, plus shipping. All the illustrations have been printed in black and white to reduce the purchase price.
The second option is a PDF download version. This is the full version of the book available in the same format as that available in the free review The contents are hyperlinked from the Table of Contents for ease of location. This version is U.S. $9.85 After payment has been verified the purchaser will be sent a URL where they can download of the document.
The third option is a CD format. It is the PDF version saved to a CD and the contents are also hyperlinked from the Table of Contents for ease of location. This version is $10.85 plus shipping.

Payment for any version must be made using PayPal. Clicking on the Buy Now button next to the version you want to purchase will take you directly to PayPal where you can place your order and make your payment. Payment can be made through PayPal even if you are not a PayPal member.

Anyone wishing to pay with a money order or cashier check may contact me through TMO at