Scanning documents

Flatbed scannerSlightly old-fashioned as it may seem, scanning documents still is part of the usual office jobs. You need it to email an official document to someone else, or simply to keep your own digital copy. So how to do that? As we know there must fifty ways to leave your lover – and probably more to tackle this wee desktop issue. Let me just share my way. That way is Linux/KDE based (naturally).


First you need to scan of course. Scanners and Linux have not been good friends for quite a while, but in recent years the SANE Project has resolved most problems. Still it is wise to check their list of supported devices before buying a new scanner. Since scanning is not a daily job I am very happy with my small & simple Canon CanoScan LiDE 110 flatbed scanner. The ‘easy buttons’ will not work since the MP Navigator application only runs on Windows platforms, but och, people report that software to be user unfriendly anyway. The SANE drivers make it work fine with a variety of Linux frontends.

BTW: my wife’s Canon PIXMA MG6350 All-in-One comes with drivers plus software for Linux, and the ScanGear MP application makes all printing and scanning features easy to use.

Scanning documents is straighforward with Skanlite, the default KDE application for this purpose. Although you may want to adjust brightness or gamma a bit after scanning, the application basically offers the options you need. Whoever wants more control over the scanning process itself could have a go with XSane. Do not forget to check their documentation. On my computer Skanlite tends to make images a bit too dark. So after scanning I open them in Kolourpaint, go to the ‘More Effects’ menu (Ctrl+M) and on the ‘Balance’ submenu set ‘Brightness’ +10 and ‘Gamma ‘-10’. There are more sophisticated image editors of course, e.g. GIMP or Krita, but I like to keep it simple.

Making a PDF

PDF logoOnce the document has been scanned, the image needs to be converted to PDF. Different applications have different capabilities.

First I tried Gwenview, KDE’s default image viewer. Images can be printed to PDF. Alas, the application did not resize the image properly, so the PDF was useless. Also, the resolution was too low to get a decent quality. Exit Gwenview.

Next try was Kolourpaint. Now printing to PDF resulted in a correctly resized image at an appropriate resolution. However, it left small margins around the image and in this case (I was scanning a letter on coloured paper) that did not fit me.

So I ended up as usual: opening a new document in LibreOffice and adding the image. For the occasion I set the margins to ‘0’ and stretched the image to fill the whole of the text area. Thus a full A4 scan would fill a full A4 document. After clicking ‘Export Directly as PDF’ the job was done as required.

In short

  • scan the A4 document with Skanlite and save as image
  • if necessary adjust brightness and gamma with Kolourpaint
  • open a new LibreOffice document, add the image making it fill the whole page
  • export the file as PDF