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- This Week's Free Computer Tip -

123 - So You Always Wanted a Color Copy Machine

These days, your computer is used to do lots of things that used to be harder to do. We've virtually replaced the typewriter, the mailman, the fax machine, and the stereo. We watch movies and pay bills on it. We download documents, shop, do research, capture and print our photos, scan documents, and much more. We even make phone calls over the Internet. Why do we use a computer to do these things? Simple. In virtually every case, the computer is better, faster, cheaper, and more convenient.

So, you always wanted to own a copy machine?
Now your computer can do that too AND make those expensive color copies to boot!

We all know that scanners have been around for a while. Some of you own them already. If you don't, don't stop reading just yet.

First, I want you to know that scanners have come down in price. Way down! Name brand quality scanners can be purchased for a low as $70. I spent $160 for a fancy one which copies color slides as well as photos. Really though, if you don't need to scan slides, the machines under $100 are just fine.

Second, at the same time the prices have been dropping, we have seen the uses for scanners expand. These days, scanners generally come with "OCR" software (Optical Character Recognition), allowing you to capture printed documents by scanning the pages and converting them directly to text. You saw a great article in your knitting magazine and now you can capture it and send it to Aunt Meg. This will, of course, elevate you to the status of "family computer guru" (there's always a down side). Just to round out the feature list, you can crop and resize images, or scan them straight into application programs like Word or Outlook.

Why can a scanner do these things?
These features are software dependent. Your scanner has to come with software written to do each of these functions. No software, no function. My fancy new Epson scanner came with software to do all of that. Unfortunately, the software didn't work (a problem I later learned was well documented on Internet postings). In particular, the "copy" software simply did not talk to my Hewlett-Packard printer. Big disappointment, but it got me to look around for a solution.

Here's the good news -
I found one. Now I know some of you are annoyed with the French these days, but bite your lip. A Frenchman has written a great little piece of software to make any brand of scanner (see note at the bottom) send its image to any brand of printer. The program is called "Simple Copier" and it's very well done. It makes black-and-white copies just fine but, if your computer printer is a color printer, your system can now double as a color copier! Very kool, huh. You place the document on the scanner bed and tell it to copy and the image goes right to the printer. Want to make multiple copies, adjust the brightness or contrast? No problem. This software comes with all the usual copy machine settings. Going the copy machine one better, you don't have to print several copies to "get it just right". You can preview the image on screen, adjust the settings and even crop it if you want. This is a nice little program.

Here's the best news -
The author charges NOTHING for the software. No kidding. Check out his web site and you will see for yourself.


This is known as "freeware". If you try it and like it and think he's done a great service, you can send him a franc or two, but you don't have to. There is no obligation to do so. In the business, we like to encourage folks to support the "good guys" out there, but I'll leave that to you to decide.

My scanner that came with copy software that never worked, is now making copies just fine, thanks to "Simple Copier". No more trips to Kinko's for that one copy I need. Life is good, yes?

Note at the bottom -
To use this software, the scanner must use what is known as a "Twain" driver. Virtually all scanners come with this nowadays, but do ask to be sure.

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