I’ll be honest.  I hardly ever use my scanner.  Back in the days before digital cameras were affordable and print photos had to be scanned, I might have.  Scanners were a separate piece of technology then, and they had to be plugged into the wall, then plugged into the computer.  As a child, those awful screw-in cables were horrible to manipulate, and I really wasn’t supposed to hook things up to the family PC anyway.  Needless to say, when I got my first all-in-one printer/scanner/copier, I was very excited–until I realized I already had a digital camera and no longer needed to scan in those photos.

So, I had to find other ways to make use of the scanner.  Here are a few suggestions for when you’re next debating whether you really need a scanner built into your home printer.

1.  You can scan more than just documents.

If you’re a graphic designer and you haven’t tried this, go try it.  Right now.  Well, maybe after you finish reading and leave me an awesome comment.  But seriously folks, try it!  It can be anything–a pen, a flower, or even water droplets.  Be careful with that last one though–it can be tricky to get the desired results, and you don’t want to electrocute yourself.  Also keep in mind that you are working on a very thin layer of very breakable glass, so be cautious if you are scanning heavy objects.

2.  Your scanner can save you typing time.

Let’s say your client just handed you an enormous stack of papers that need to be typed and posted online.  On one hand, you’re enthusiastic because it means a large paycheck, but on the other hand, you really don’t want to have to type all of that up.  Having a good scanner on your hands will allow you to scan the document in a high enough quality that third party software can recognize and convert each character into a letter, just as though you had typed it.  Then, all you have to do is proofread that text in your favorite word processing program.  You will be pleased because you get to eat that steak dinner with your family instead of living in front of your computer, and your client will appreciate the reduction in cost.  A win-win.

3.  Your scanner can help you save on postage.

We live in a digital age, and people want things instantly.  How do you manage that when you’re mailing off contracts and agreements to clients on the other side of the country?  Say someone needs your signature to run an ad RIGHT NOW.  They sent it to you in email and expect you to return the signed copy immediately.  With your all-in-one scanner/printer/copier, you can print the form out, sign it, scan it, and send it back–immediately.  (Or you could use Photoshop and your shiny new drawing tablet and achieve the same results without the middleman.)

4.  It makes a very convenient file folder or paper flattener.

When I travel for my event photography, my all-in-one printer comes with me.  Because regular folders, binders, or portfolios have more freedom to shuffle around during travel, I find that the safest place in my vehicle for papers I don’t want to get bent is in the scanner.  The printer can sit on the floor and fits snugly under the seats.  It also works quite well for straightening out pre-bent papers without the need for a stack of books on the kitchen table.

5.  It might make you rich.

Last but not least, when you finally decide you don’t want it anymore–keep it in the attic and wait fifty years until it becomes an antique piece of outdated technology and is worth $20k.

Ever scanned a prism?  Neither have I, nor do I have one to experiment with.  But, if you happen to have one and are willing to give it a go, post a comment with a link to your results!

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