To TWAIN or not to TWAIN

Though most ScanSnap adopters appreciate how easy it is to use ScanSnap to scan their paperwork and become more organized, few throw up the hood to understand all the things working behind the scenes that make this scanner so easy to use.  And who can blame them when some of the best technologies in use today are those that simply work the way we expect them to, right from the very start.

Occasionally some people are curious about why these ScanSnap models do not use a TWAIN driver and it’s a valid question, and an important one, depending on how the scanner will be used. For starters, Fujitsu provides a wide array of document scanners that use a TWAIN or ISIS driver but the ScanSnap models were designed with an entirely different concept in mind.

Perhaps the best way to explain all this is to step back a decade before ScanSnap started rolling off the assembly line. In those days, as is still the case, Fujitsu provided large and small businesses with professional grade scanners needed to digitise paperwork across a wide variety of corporate  settings, from high-volume service bureaus to distributed front and back office scanning environments. To this day, businesses continue to capitalize on the increased security, accessibility, and cost savings made possible by converting vast quantities of documents into a much more manageable electronic format using Fujitsu scanners.

Naturally, increased business adoption allowed more and more software companies to provide their own specialized and sophisticated processes for capturing and managing scanned content and the TWAIN driver provided the standard API (application programming interface)  needed to allow the various software companies a way to link the scanner and its features with the application. Though TWAIN isn’t necessarily the most friendly to understand from an end-user perspective, its very purpose provides software developers’ wide interpretation in controlling the scanning experience for the end-user and it’s a fine tool for achieving the open configurability necessary to specialize the scanning process even to this day. This is how traditional Fujitsu scanners are commonly used to scan pharmacy prescriptions, supplier invoices, and healthcare admission forms to name just a few.

“So if it’s so fine, why doesn’t ScanSnap use a TWAIN driver like other Fujitsu scanners?”

While large businesses were garnering the benefits of document scanning, consumers and small offices were relegated to using simple flat-bed scanners and multi-function printers. While these devices were useful for scanning that occasional photograph or document, they simply didn’t posses the muscle or features needed to scan paperwork fast enough and people simply gave up using them seriously as a means to manage even small quantities of paper on a routine basis.

It was during this time that Fujitsu took a careful look at the world of imaging outside the industry and began to conceptualise a consumer level scanner that would provide the features necessary to bring the virtues of scanning, already realized by businesses, into the home or small-office. Fundamental to this ambition, ScanSnap would need to have an easy to learn and no nonsense bundle and interface software to keep the scanning process painless. Though TWAIN was considered, it simply didn’t provide the ease-of-use needed for this new type of user, hence, ScanSnap Manager was conceived.

ScanSnap Manager continues to be the interface that controls ScanSnap in place of TWAIN and affords the scanner several advantages:

–       First, it allows ScanSnap to be a point and shoot device- meaning; users simply place the paper into the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) and push the button.

–       Second, scans are sent directly into a ScanSnap application rather than A) opening the application, B) selecting the scanner source, C) selecting the driver settings, and D) scanning from inside the application.

–       Third, ScanSnap Manager pays attention to which ScanSnap applications are running, and if the user shifts from one application to another, ScanSnap automatically configures itself so the user doesn’t have to think about it.

–       Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, ScanSnap Manager makes the scanning experience not only painless but actually enjoyable for a community of users that choose simplicity over complexity, dependable results over unnecessary configurability, and productivity over a learning curve.

In short, ScanSnap is designed to provide users a refreshing alternative to the traditional scanning methodology, offering an easier way to transform paper that is as uncluttered and unfettered as the results themselves.

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