The 11 Types of Scanners Every Pro Needs to Know
Learn more about key scanner types for professional settings and which may be right for you.
Learn more about key scanner types for professional settings and which may be right for you.
Keeping pace in the professional world means having all the right data when and where you need it. As businesses move further into the cloud, it’s become more important to have document digitization tools you can rely on to connect your work on paper with your business online.
But how do you know which of the many types of specialized scanners will be right for your business? This guide will help you become familiar with the 11 types of scanners best suited for professionals across industries and office sizes. It will also bring you up to speed on key features to keep in mind for each kind of scanner and leave you with one handy, recommended product to get started across each category.
Desktop scanners are built to fit seamlessly into all types of common working spaces, rather than cluttering them. They offer utility and versatility in a compact footprint and are well suited for use by individuals or small teams.
For scanning larger batches, an automated document feeder (ADF) is ideal. However, a secondary manual feed option is also handy for digitizing thicker documents such as ID cards or pamphlets.
Look for a desktop scanner that can digitize anywhere from 40 to 80 pages per minute, depending on your needs, with reliable hardware that requires minimal human intervention.
Multi-feed errors result when an automated document feeder erroneously pulls in two sheets at once, potentially spoiling the scan or damaging the document. An effective scanner should use sensors to prevent these problems.
Bundled software should make naming, sorting, and storing digitized documents just as quick and easy as scanning them in the first place.
Flatbed scanners were the norm for many years, and their flexible scanning capabilities still make them a great choice for many applications. You can even get the best of both worlds with scanners that combine automated document feeding with flatbed hardware.
Image quality is a foremost concern for all types of scanners, but it’s especially important for digitizing old or fragile documents which may have faded print.
While monochrome scans are fine for most business documents, good color quality is essential for accurately digitizing documents such as magazines.
Depending on the type of documents you need to scan, a standard letter-sized flatbed may suffice, but larger models can offer more versatile scanning options.
A flatbed scanner with an attached ADF allows you to quickly work through stacks of documents that don’t require the precision or flexibility of a flatbed.
While flatbed scanning will always require a certain amount of manual intervention, picking a model capable of speedier scans will cut down on overall time investment.
Being able to run the scanner without its cover down allows you to scan large quantities of documents faster and also digitize the surfaces of more irregularly shaped objects.
Legal size scanners support documents measuring 8.5 inches wide by 14 inches high. This is a common size for writing pads and other paper intended for legal use, as well as any other profession that uses long documents.
The extra length of legal-size paper means you should look for a scanner with additional support on its feeding chute, to prevent pages from falling out of place while processing.
The papers may be larger, but that doesn’t mean there’s any fewer of them: look for a scanner that can effectively process large numbers of documents in a single batch.
Legible text and accurate capture can make the difference between a legal document being useful or useless, so clear scans of relatively high resolution are essential.
It’s essential to keep legal documents in good condition both before and after digitization, and built-in jam detecting features can head off issues before problems arise.
Sheetfed document scanners are also known as automatic document feed (ADF) scanners. These document digitization devices are purpose-built for digitizing up to hundreds of documents in a single batch, and tens of thousands in a day.
The most essential metric for any sheetfed scanner is how many pages it can work through in a day — after that, larger batch sizes mean less human intervention is required.
Speed and time efficiency is only worthwhile if the end result meets your needs. A sheetfed document scanner should reliably produce accurate, clear scans for every single page.
As a device with numerous moving parts that may operate for hours at a time, reliability and durability are also essential concerns. Look for devices with strong urethane rollers and easily replaceable consumable parts.
If you’re looking to both print and scan documents but don’t have the space or budget for dedicated hardware, you may wish to consider an integrated printer scanner. However, there are some potential drawbacks to keep in mind.
There’s no doubt that it’s easier to fit a single device into a working environment that may already be crowded, and it’s also one less device to keep synced with your productivity setup.
Being jacks-of-all-trades, printer scanners typically lack the quality and feature sets present in dedicated scanners — if you scan documents regularly, it may not be worth the tradeoff.
Not every important document is letter-sized, or even legal-sized. If your business will regularly need to digitize documents up to ANSI B (double letter 11x17 inches) in size, it needs a scanner that’s up to the task.
Larger documents can be a headache to keep in order. Your scanner should help, not aggravate, this issue by feeding in documents reliably and stacking them up when it’s done.
Larger documents tend to vary in more dimensions than just width and height. A manual scan mode should allow for easily scanning a range of document types, making the most of that greater size.
Your scanner should be able to process both sides of a document at once, whether it’s letter sized or double letter or anything in between.
It’s essential to keep your documents in good condition both before and after digitization, and built-in jam detecting features can head off issues before problems arise.
Naturally, an 11x17 scanner will be bigger than a counterpart made for letter sheets. However, practical design considerations can minimize this impact on your office space.
As a versatile piece of office equipment, your 11x17 scanner will likely see a lot of use. Consumable parts should be easy to replace to make sure any downtime is minimized.
Business documents often have printing on both sides which introduces some extra logistical concerns. A duplex scanner skips the hassle by digitizing both sides of a document at once, speeding up your process and making sure nothing is missed.
If you need to scan irregularly shaped, two-sided documents such as ID cards, passports, and brochures, make sure your scanner supports an adaptable manual mode.
For settings where you may need to scan hundreds or even thousands of pages in a day, prioritize a duplex scan with an automated document feeder to speed up the process.
Your duplex scanner should fit in with your working space, so make sure you start by measuring where you intend to place it then compare that to the manufacturer’s specifications.
If you need to digitize documents that regularly exceed the dimensions of letter sized paper, you need a large-format scanner. These devices are purpose built to scan newspapers, blueprints, maps, and any number of other large, detailed documents.
Make sure your scanner supports the size of documents frequently used by your business — the American National Standards Institute maintains a list of document sizes which will be helpful here.
By their nature, large-format scanners will take up more space than scanners made for smaller documents. Make sure you choose a model that fits in your workspace.
If you need to scan unique and potentially fragile documents, you’ll likely be best served by a flatbed scanner. Otherwise, an automated document feeder will speed up your workflow.
Receipt scanners are an essential tool for businesses that want to keep centralized and efficient expenditure records, whether their employees work from an office or remotely. They include special features to handle the range of shapes and paper quality represented across receipts.
Receipts are often made with thermal paper or other thin paper, and they don’t have a single standardized size. Your scanner should be well equipped to handle any kind of receipt in its normal workload.
Adjustable guides allow scanners to handle a range of receipt sizes along with standard documents, leading to a more efficient workflow.
Digitizing a receipt is just half the battle: you also need to categorize and store the records, and a useful scanner should come with software that makes this second half of the task just as quick and easy as the first.
Identification cards are essential in the modern day world, whether they are proof of identity or provide insurance billing information. The smaller and thicker dimensions of these cards necessitate some special consideration before scanner purchase.
Given the booths and windows many ID card and insurance card scanners will likely be used in, it’s important to keep a compact and ergonomic form factor in mind.
Included scanning software should make it easy to sort and even extract relevant text from cards, cutting down on time spent organizing and transcribing.
If ID cards aren’t the only form of document you need to digitize, choose a scanner that offers ADF for batch scanning and a manual mode for digitizing thicker documents.