Ask Lifehacker: What's The Best Scanning Software?

Dear Lifehacker, I recently bought a $69 HP Deskjet F4480 in an effort to go paperless (it was cheaper to get a scanner/printer combo) and was wondering if there are any programs that let me scan from paper -> PDF? The device came with HP software, but I’d rather not install it (I want something that doesn’t take over my system).

Also, do stores take "digital" receipts when doing refunds? I have a nasty habit of storing receipts in a box, in case I need to take stuff back later, but if I could scan a receipt in and throw it away, I would, but I’m not sure how stores (and other businesses) feel about presenting a digital document. Any advice? Cheers, David

Dear David,

I wouldn't automatically dismiss the software that comes with your machine; for my own scanning purposes, I've used the scanning software that came with my Canon scanner, and it works very well. The ease of integration is often worth the risk of crapware (you can always uninstall the bits you don't want later).

If you do want a separate solution, the software featured in our Hive Five roundup of text recognition tools is potentially useful. At a very basic level, once the scanner driver is installed, Lifehacker favourite and ultra-slimline image viewer InfranView can also handle scanning tasks. We've run lots of scanner-related tips here at Lifehacker, and I'm sure readers will offer other recommendations in the comments here.

As for the "digital" receipts issue, you shouldn't encounter any problems. If you do end up having to go back to a store, just tell them that you photocopied the receipt because you wanted to be sure you'd have a long-lasting copy. Digital documents are entirely acceptable for legal purposes, and that includes refunds if you need them.

Cheers Lifehacker


    Picasa does the job for me.

      I use Picasa for the basics, and print any multi-page documents from there to PDF with CutePDF.

    I have like the canon software. After scanning to pdf straight into drop box.

    Were would I be without you life hacker. (Back in the paper age no dough)

    It's the Canon scanner software for me. I've used other scanners, but still find the Canon the best.

    I scan all my documents into PNG files, at 150 DPI & colour. I could go a lower DPI but I found that the text starts to blur.
    ( )

    My last purchase from Dick Smith's, the salesperson said "make sure you photocopy that receipt." So I guess DSE accept digital receipts as well.

    I use Acrobat for docs - has full OCR so searching is a breeze.

    Dale: thats because DSE and others use heat printing for their receipts - they fade really quickly. You will find you won't have any text on your receipt in about 4 weeks.

    The best scanning software Ive used is Vuescan. Its a stand-alone commercial product.

    I think the need and usefullness of a third party solution really depends on what your specific useage needs are. If its just the occasional PDF for Jpeg scan, then the software packaged with the scanner will do usually the job quickly and easily.

    If you need features like multiple scanning profiles (for different tasks/jobs), multiple file output (for example each scan gets dispatched to jpeg, PDF, OCR file, etc), multi page PDF, etc, then it may be useful to look at adding a third party solution.

    I would recommend Vuescan for anyone looking for a comprehensive solution, but it has features that would not be required for many home users.

      Vuescan sucks!

      It doesn't have an uninstall option.
      It installs itself in a directory called 'Vuescan' in the ROOT directory, instead of the proper location in the 'Program Files' directory.
      Whenever you start the program, it takes FOREVER to initate! Even on a i7 system with 12G of memory!

      Vuescan SUCKS! Stay away from this POS!

    Why waste time messing around with software and/or scanners?

    I use and just pull receipts and business cards (you can mix them up) out of the car door or top drawer and put them all in the envelope provided.

    A few days they're all available in my online account, downloadable in CSV, MYOB, Outlook ... whatever.

    Vuescan is one the best outthere

    Does anyone know if there is anyway to keep the scanner software from controlling your box?

    I mean, like the Canon software MP Naavigator will take over the computer when you are scanning something. And if you are multi-tasking.. change screens, programs and even lock some task preventing you from moving around too much?

    Is there anyway to isolate the control of this program?

    You all are missing the boat on this question. Try a program called "Paper Valet". simple, elegant, inexpensive. It will scan and organized your bills and receipts. Saves as .pdf or .tiff

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