Although xsane is commonly used as a GIMP plug-in, it can also be used as a standalone program. Another useful program is Joerg Schulenburg's gocr client, used for optical character recognition (OCR). Although not a standalone application, it is included in the Kooka scanning application. This program works best with 300 dots per inch (dpi) scans in several different graphics formats. OCR is a resource-intensive task and can require hundreds of megabytes of disk storage!
A list of currently supported scanners can be found at http://www.sane-project.org/ sane-supported-devices.html. Unfortunately, if your scanner doesn't appear on the list, you should not expect it to work with the SANE software. There is also a list on that same page for drivers not yet included, but you must be able to compile the application from source to use them.
Supported USB scanners are automatically detected and the appropriate driver is loaded automatically. The USB devices tell the USB system several pieces of information when they are connectedthe most important of which are the vendor ID and the device ID. This identification is used to look up the device in a table and load the appropriate driver.
Many scanners are supported in Linux. If yours is not, it still might be possible to use it. The Kooka and Xsane scanner applications are included with Ubuntu and are fairly straightforward to use. They can both be found in the Graphics menu as the Scanning and Scan & OCR Program menu items.
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