Think of a typical office computer and you're likely to imagine a system that runs certain types of programs, such as word processors and spreadsheets. A prototypical desktop office system has a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse for human interaction, and it is connected to a printer for output. One component is missing from this stereotypical office desktop computer, though: a scanner. Not every computer has or needs a scanner; however, for many applications, scanners are indispensable. With a scanner, you can load printed photographs into files you can manipulate with graphics programs, convert textual documents into word processing files, and even (with the help of a printer and a modem) turn a computer into a photocopier and fax machine.
Scanners require two main types of support in Linux: support for the underlying interface, such as SCSI or USB; and drivers for the specific scanner model. Linux's main scanner package is Scanner Access Now Easy (SANE), which includes drivers for many scanners. You can configure and use SANE as a stand-alone program or call it from other software. You can even configure SANE to operate over a network, enabling many computers to share a scanner much as computers can share a printer.
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