VueScan Scanning Software:

VueScan is a powerful, easy to use program that:
* works with 750 flatbed and film scanners
* runs on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux
* has been downloaded more than 5 million times

Well, I've got a Canon CanoScan FB 620U scanner, which, as far as I'm aware, has never had Mac OS X drivers. It was given to me as a gift by someone who knew I, at that point, used Macs almost exclusively at home. Yes, I got the message. Thuh-ainks, buddy.

Recently, I noticed that my Mac compatible scanner went to storage and never made it back out. Nor could I find it easily when I rolled back the door to the storage garage. *sigh* We were able to put a finger on the CanoScan, and I've been happily using it with my Vista Vostro, even though the scanner didn't, I don't believe, have Vista-specific drivers.

Of course I recently left my laptop when returning from an out of town trip. *sigh again* Having seen the VueScan site before and Googling it up again, I finally bit.

That's a long intro to say that not only is VueScan a fine, functional piece of software that made my scanner work, no problem, with my Macs, it's also precisely the kind of software I'd like to write. That is, this guy has a niche market covered, at times, better than the hardware's own manufacturers. Other similar niche-happy applications are GraphicConverter, Transmit, and Ultra-Edit, all three of which I really enjoy and two of which I've registered (more on that later).

One large difference for VueScan is how well it pushes you towards registration. Instead of a self-promoting watermark on the scans' output, for my 8.5"x11" scan, it put four rows of 2-3 dollar signs ($) in a decently large font on the page, a snippet I've included, above (Note: This image was created by downsampling a cutting from VueScan in GraphicCoverter). Imagining what my recipients might think when I send a copy of my bill along with my payment but with giant dollar signs all over it, I went ahead and registered. If the watermark said, "Please register VueScan" or "This was created with an unregistered version of VueScan" or the like, I couldn't care less. I'm cheap enough I would have lived with that. But why did I put dollar signs all over a copy of my bill? That causes too many questions for me to feel comfortable. And from Hamrick's point of view, what's the real advantage? How many people who read scans are serious customers? Better to force someone who is already trying the app to fork over dough than to get three more nonpaying customers. At least I'm over the edge and my $40 (dang!) is on the way.

Another thing that these four apps have in common is that they all cost a heck of a lot in fields where there are cheap or F/free alternatives performing the same functions. $40 for a scanner driver is nearly enough to be half of the way to purchasing a Mac compatible new scanner. Filezilla is a decent, cross-platform ftp client. Still, the shareware apps are all written well, and VueScan in particular worked for me without a single hitch, no installation needed past copying an application into my Applications folder. I enjoy supporting something so well written -- not fancy, not beautifully intuitive like iLife, but perfectly solid at what it does. These four shareware applications, in the end, are solid enough to be worth the cash. It's as simple as that; as much as I might want to resist, the apps are enough better than their cheaper or free competition that they're worth their prices.

So one final comment before closing: Why haven't I registered one of these apps, namely GraphicCoverter? It's the one I've used the longest, and I've used it for years. Two reasons: First, there's nothing about an unregistered version of GraphicConverter that's annoying enough to make me register, not even a watermark on the files it creates or a feature I need that's disabled, ever. Secondly, it begs me not to register, with a quote from what's ostensibly a user on its site saying that she liked GraphicConverter because she didn't register for years, iirc. I'm getting close to breaking down and finally paying Mr. Lemke for his fine work, work good enough I find that I've never quite made the switch to The Gimp. But he makes it just a touch too easy not to, and that should be a lesson for programmers. I'm of the opinion that the nearly complete lack of registration motivation might have helped GraphicConverter be so ubiquitous on Macs that its sheer popularity has created some registrations (think WinZip in the 90s), but not sure that that necessarily produced more profit.

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