In my office we have plenty of Macs, plenty of printers and more than our share of scanners.
What’s the best Mac software for scanning? Is it what comes with the scanner? Nope. It’s Silverfast Ai Studio.
Scanners have become something like printers. These days they’re fast and cheap. While a very good scanner can cost hundreds of dollars, very cheap scanners do credible scans.
For those of us involved in high volume, good quality scans, our software of choice is usually NOT the software that came with the scanner, unless it’s SilverFast, which is becoming the defacto standard.
The Mac has a handful of scanner software, usually the stuff that came with the scanner, whether it be HP, Epson, Canon or something else. Depending on your needs and how much money you’re willing to devote to software, SilverFast seems to have something for everyone.
Scanners are really precision instruments so you need software that’s equally precision oriented.
SilverFast is published by LaserSoft Imaging in Germany. Very expensive scanners usually ship with their own scanner software.
For low-end to mid-range use, SilverFast is the choice. Why? Precision. Features. Ease of use. Dependability. SilverFast comes in a variety of versions starting with SilverFast SE 6.5, which we use on most of the scanners in our office, though not all. It costs $49 and is available by download online.
SE is the entry-level scanner software which features a number of automatic functions to make complicated scanning seem easy. SE comes with a preview feature and works with scanners than handle negatives.
It also works as simple standalone software, or as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop. What do you get for less? A simple interface. Tools on the left, scanner image on the right. The Mode lets you choose between Standard and other settings.
SE has real-time color correction, grain and noise reduction, dust and scratch removal, color restoration for old photos, auto sharpening, negative optimization, and an exposure slider. SE outputs TIFF and JPEG images and has some color correction.
Up the list a couple of notches is the SilverFast Ai version which we use on a couple of scanners in the office. At $120 you get all the features of SE, plus 48-bit real-time correction, an Expert interface, an Unsharp Masking Preview, color correction of six or 12 colors with masking capability built-in?
Wait. There’s more. The Ai version also comes with grain and noise elimination, CMYK preview, and more file formats. The feature we use the most is batch processing.
Double the price again and you get SiilverFast Ai Studio, with even more features, including multi-sampling, auto-alignment the ability to increase dynamic range, handy to pull detail from shadows without damaging highlights.
Wait. There’s more. My biggest complaint with SilverFast is the bewildering array of software options. There’s SE, SE Plus, Ai, Ai Studio. In between are various Calibration versions known as IT8 for ultra high quality paper targets; higher dynamic range, higher cost.
There’s even an x-ray version of SilverFast for the medical community. That’s right. Your doctor can use a scanner to digitize an x-ray of whatever you have that needs x-raying.
SilverFast SE is what ships with many low-end and mid-range scanners these days, but LaserSoft lets you upgrade from one version to another.
For example, move from SE to SE Plus for as low as $30.
The basic user interface tools are straightforward at every level. For Basic and SE, select Mode, select the type of image, for example, a photograph, add a filter, and select the quality (dots per inch). A slider moves left or right to zoom out and in.
Brightness, contrast and saturation can be controlled prior to the scan. Once the settings are in place, scanning is a simple matter of selecting pre-scan, then click the Scan button. Once an image is scanned, save it to your Mac in the desired file format.
The LaserSoft web site has plenty of documentation, including movies which you can download to view how to use high end features and functions. Mac users have limited choices when it comes to scanners these days. Fortunately, SilverFast, in whatever version, is a perfect complement to most low-end and mid-range requirements.