I have a love-hate relationship with all-in-one printers. I like that I can print documents when I need to, and I’ve found that document scanners save a lot of time. However, most of these printers come with software and drivers that can be infuriatingly bad. Fortunately, Apple provides a macOS app that works with most all-in-one printers: Image Capture.
Why use Image Capture instead of my printer/scanner apps?
With my past two all-in-one printers, I’ve found that the software and drivers that come with them are problematic. For example, last year I purchased an Epson ET-4760 EcoTank printer because I was constantly changing print cartridges in an HP laser printer I owned. I decided to try the Epson software with the new device, and that was a mistake.
The drivers included often kept me from printing unless I reloaded them each and every time! The scanner software was usable, but required hand-cropping of images smaller than a full page in size. Frustrated, I deleted all of the Epson apps. Instead, I let macOS find my printer and supply its own internal driver. That driver works each and every time with no issues.
For scanning, I started using the macOS Image Capture app and quickly found it was more functional than the Epson software. It also didn’t load up my Mac with bloated software.
Using Image Capture
When your Mac identifies your all-in-one printer over Bonjour (Apple’s implementation of zero-configuration networking), it recognizes that the device not only prints, but has other functions like scanning and fax send/receive. When you launch Image Capture the first time, it discovers applicable devices. Those devices may appear on the Image Capture app sidebar under Devices, Shared, or both.
There are three areas of the app window visible in the image above. The sidebar lists the devices, the center pane shows a thumbnail of the page being scanned, and the right pane displays setting details. Let’s go through those details.
Scan Mode usually has two settings for most all-in-one printers. Flatbed is used to scan items that are placed on the glass surface of a scanner, while Document Feeder allows multiple pages to be stacked in a feeder and scanned all at once. While Document Feeder works well when feeding in a large number of pages that are all identical in size, thickness, and texture, it fumbles when scanning different sized pages or “slippery” paper like receipts.
The next setting, Kind, describes how the item is scanned: in color, black and white, or text. Color and black and white are pretty self-explanatory—it’s like taking a color or black and white image of your original document in a standard image format like JPEG or PNG. Text scans the document in the TIFF, PNG or PDF format (your choice). When scanned in TIFF, the text is recognized and may be copied and pasted.
Resolution describes how fine the scan detail is, ranging from 75 dots per inch (dpi) to 9,600 dpi. For scans you’re sharing on the internet, 75 dpi is fine. If you want a high-resolution scan of a photo or painting, 9,600 dpi will grab all the details, but create a very large file. Choosing 300 dpi, industry-standard for most print publishing, will give you a good balance of fine detail and manageable file size.
Use Custom Size / Size
The next two settings are used to define the size of the page(s) you’re scanning. When scanning regular documents in US Letter or Legal sizes (or their metric equivalents), deselect the Use Custom Size check box, then select the proper page size. For my all-in-one, the choices were A4, B5, US Letter, A5, A6, and A8. I’m in the U.S., so I chose US Letter (8.5″ x 11″). Your scanner may handle US Legal (8.5″ x 14″)—mine doesn’t.
Use Custom Size is helpful when scanning smaller items like checks, driver’s licenses, and the like. Check this and a dialog with size, rotation, and auto selection options will appear:
Auto Selection’s Detect Separate Items is very useful. For example, when scanning checks, I can place them on the flatbed, do an overview scan (which scans the entire glass area), and it automatically selects and scans each individual check as a separate item.
The other choice under auto selection is Detect Enclosing Box. When an overview scan has been done, it’s possible to drag out a box over items you wish to scan. When you click the Scan button, Image Capture ignores all scanned content with the exception of the boxed area.
Every scan needs to be saved somewhere on your Mac. Scan To displays the folder currently selected for saving your file and provides a way to change to another folder.
It’s nice to be able to name your scans something descriptive. By default, Image Capture provides “Scan” as the name. Multiple scans are named Scan 1, Scan 2, etc… Let’s say you’re scanning receipts from 2021 for tax purposes. Type “Receipt” into the Name field to prefix your scans with that word:
Image Capture has a lot of different file formats for you to save your scans in. For images, choices include JPEG, HEIC, TIFF, PNG, JPEG 2000, GIF, BMP, and PDF.
Selecting Text under Kind (described earlier) limits your choices to TIFF (which is then run through optical character recognition to allow copying the text), PNG, and PDF.
Just after the Format selector is a check box labeled “Combine into single document.” I’ve found this useful in scanning documents that have text in columns or rows that I want to capture. When using “Detect Enclosing Box,” surround the text with dragged boxes, then click Scan.
Here I selected a callout and two paragraphs of a document. When scanned, a single TIFF document was saved with three pages, one for each piece of text. Then I opened the TIFF document in Preview, selected the text, copied it, and pasted it into another document.
Image Correction is an Image Capture setting used to make scanned images look better. There are two major settings: Manual and None. Select Manual to see a choice of tools that varies based on whether the image is black and white or color. For black and white images, you can manually adjust brightness and contrast while viewing the results in the thumbnail.
Color images get a few more control sliders:
With this scan of a print, the brightness was acceptable, the tint was slightly reddish, and I made the colors somewhat “warmer” and more saturated. When your manual corrections seem off, use the Restore Defaults button to bring things back to how your original scan appeared.
Have an image scan that appears slightly “soft” or unfocused? Unsharp Mask uses a technique that creates a blurred negative image that makes a mask of the original image. That mask is then combined with the original image to create an image less blurry than the original.
Image Capture provides three levels of Unsharp Mask: low, medium, and high. Applying Unsharp Mask is a good method of bringing out details in a photo, although overdoing the masking can produce “fake”-looking results.
Halftone images are used in many printed materials like newspapers and magazines. In a halftone, dots of varying size and color are printed on a background material to simulate the appearance of a continuous-tone image. When halftones are scanned, Moiré (interference) pattern artifacts can appear and distort the scanned image.
Descreening is a digital method of removing those artifacts from scanned halftones. Like Unsharp Mask, this tool has low, medium, and high levels that you can apply to a scanned image.
If the scanner in your all-in-one printer is causing you frustration, dump the software that came with it and give Image Capture a try. You may find, as I have, that it resolves a lot of issues.
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