Hamrick Software VueScan 8.6 review
Hamrick Software's VueScan Professional is our favourite cross-platform scanner interface, supporting over 1500 USB, SCSI and FireWire scanners, from budget flatbeds to professional 35mm negative scanners and sheet-feeders. Versions are available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. The Windows version has a generic driver that allows you to use almost all the supported devices. This makes VueScan perfect if your scanner is no longer supported with driver releases for your current operating system, although some scanners will still require their original drivers.
It's available in Standard and Professional versions. VueScan Standard is cheaper at $40 (£26), but it can't save unprocessed raw scans and doesn't support IT8 colour calibration or ICC colour profiles - which ensure that your scans match your monitor and printing hardware. You also only get free updates for a year, as opposed to the unlimited updates provided by the Professional version. The extra features are useful if you intend to do high-quality image editing and archiving, so we prefer VueScan Professional.
VueScan places more emphasis on functionality than having a glossy interface, and we found it considerably easier to use and configure than most manufacturers' scanner interfaces. For quick and easy scanning, a step-by-step mode guides you through the process with a series of simple pull-down options. One of our favourite features is the ability to simultaneously save files in multiple formats. This means you can, for example, export your scan as text, a searchable PDF, a TIFF image and a JPEG in a single operation. This makes it easy to create files suitable for different purposes from a single scan.
If you want fine control over your scans, the VueScan's Advanced settings provide a flexible and powerful range of options, with various colour restoration and sharpening filters, white balancing and colour profile selection. Transparency and negative scanning modes add menus to the colour configuration tab that allow you to select the exact brand and type of film you're using. This produced some of the most accurate colour-negative scans we've ever seen. We've only seen this feature before in more expensive programs, such as LaserSoft's SilverFast. If your scanner supports infrared cleaning, you'll be able to choose between saving either clean or uncleaned versions.
Since we reviewed VueScan 8.4 back in Shopper 248, several new features have been added. These include Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which allows you to create searchable PDFs or export RTF text documents. Most of our OCR scans and searchable PDFs were completely accurate, from bills to paperback books. The only problem we encountered was when we scanned a page of 1/3 page columns from an issue of Shopper. The columns were correctly identified and text was scanned in the right order, but a combination of narrow magazine spacing and a small font size meant that the OCR was unable to reproduce the spaces in between words. However, this issue is common to many OCR suites, so isn't a major point against the program.
VueScan Professional is a high-quality imaging tool that can produce stunning photo and negative scans. Its new OCR and searchable PDF features also make it a brilliant tool for creating document archives for home or for business. It's a major improvement on the software that comes with most scanners and, for just over £50, it's an essential program for anyone who's serious about imaging.