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Book Reviews

Submission + - The VueScan Bible

Muad writes: This is somewhat of an unusual title for me to review, far from my usual Linux or TCP technology pastures. But when I saw that Sascha Steinhoff had penned an entire book on VueScan, I felt I had to take a good hard look at it — not least because of the quality of the program being covered, and the reputation for good publishing work I have come to associate with Rockynook publications.

VueScan, for the uninitiated, is simply an incredibly complete program that enables configuring of every tunable value of almost every scanner ever made. There is nothing else out there quite like it, and most advanced users who ever try the program become instant converts, despite its low marketing profile. My first experience with it came as I tried to use my vintage 2001 Canon scanner with a 2008 MacBook Pro — No Macintosh drivers for this scanner were ever made, but sure enough, VueScan was able to drive it, and to expose settings that I was previously unaware even existed. This is perhaps one of the fundamental reasons for the program's success: even for current scanners with good drivers, options not directly exposed by the manufacturer are made accessible. An incredible degree of direct control of the device then becomes possible.

With great power most often comes complexity management — to paraphrase famed book reviewer Spiderman. Operating Vuescan is not all that simple, which is where this book comes in. The myriad options offered could dazzle anybody, and Sascha's guide is a great source of help for those who want to understand the meaning and potential of all options that VueScan makes available to the end user.

The book opens with a detailed GUI introduction, which is convenient in establishing an even playground as VueScan ships in versions spanning Windows releases starting with 2000, as well as any OS-X version since 10.3.9. It further has 32 bit and 64 bit builds, and (ta-daaah!), it supports Linux too — via Adobe Air I am told, so most major distros are inherently covered. The book then provides a color management in a nutshell tutorial, a nice introduction for those like myself who have never quite gone deep enough into in this very useful subject. A similar primer is provided on image resolution, and covered is not merely the most commonplace flatbed scanning of prints or other "positives", negative scanning also gets its fair share of attention. Very nice coverage of the properties and procedures applicable to different media types, including slides (E6, Kodachrome K14) Color (C41) and black and white negatives, as well as different types of paper is included, most of this material being of great interest to any scanner user, not just those who are VueScan adepts. File format and their advantages as well as the drawbacks of every choice are also reviewed.

Advanced techniques like multiscanning and multi-exposure (had no idea you could do that with a scanner), and specific options like descreening (a blurring algorithm to compensate for printing raster artifacts) are covered in gory detail. Workflows for newspaper, text-to-OCR, magazines, color prints, slides, negatives, and more media originals are included. This level of detail is very appreciated, providing a set of meaningful settings for every relevant option is a great way to get started with a high-quality result despite the multitude of settings, and fine-tune your way from there — all too often exposing every lever and knob can throw off a new user with disappointing initial results. An extensive program reference section is included, spanning about a third of the book and covering every nook and cranny of the menu options, ideal to clarify the specific meaning of a mysterious menu entry.

In closing, this book is a great complement to a great program, richly illustrated, as it behooves a Rocky Nook title, and providing useful knowledge beyond the immediate boundaries of what is strictly related to VueScan but also teaching the reader what else is necessary to produce a great scan. User's manuals are seldom enjoyable, but Sascha's work flows well and reads quickly, getting us where we need to be to achieve productivity quickly and in an almosts enjoyable manner.

Federico Lucifredi is the maintainer of man (1) and a Product Manager for the SUSE Linux Enterprise and openSUSE distributions. He can be reached as @Federico_II on Twitter.
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The VueScan Bible

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