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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Scanning with your new MacBook Air and a very old Epson flatbed scanner

Some of us can spend what we like on computer equipment. We get the latest and shiniest, with all the cords, all the manuals, all the drivers on CDs.

Then again, the rest of us have to scrounge from time to time. Maybe it’s the furniture. A child’s desk becomes the perfect printer table. 

The printer or scanner that goes on that table may not come from a freshly opened box. It may come from a garage sale or just someone cleaning out their closets. The stuff you get from those sources may still work, but it lacks the driver CDs and printed manuals.

Case in point is my old Epson Perfection 1200U Scanner. I got this thing in 2000, which USB was in its infancy and flat-bed scanners for the home were a hot item. Nowadays, USB is just the way we connect things and stand-alone flat-bed scanners are a speciality item. Most of the time I use my OfficeJet 8600’s scanner. 


So for those of you who just acquired a vintage scanner I have some tips and tricks for you.

First, the manuals. Search on-line for the manual for your scanner. In Safari or Chrome, just type in “manual for Perfection 1200U” and you’ll get a bunch of web sites. If you read this at work and only have Internet Explorer, go to or and enter the request for the manual for your particular scanner.

Second, the drivers.  With a Mac, you usually don’t need to download drivers from the manufacturer’s Web site. Epson, for example, doesn’t offer scanner drivers for the Perfection 1200U for Windows 7 or beyond. No software specifically for OS X 10.9

With OS X, it worked just fine. Apple provided the necessary backend software for it to work automatically.

So download and read the manual. Follow its instructions for cleaning the glass platen.

Now go back and read them again. I know you and you just skipped over that section on cleaning the platen.  Read it AGAIN.


Setting up the Scanner

Now I’ll take you through setting up this particular scanner, the Epson Perfection 1200U. 


The 1200U in all its glory


1. Get a USB 2.0 cable. The square end will fit into the back of the scanner. The rectangular end will fit into your Mac’s USB ports. in the case of a MacBook Air, you’ll find them on either side. 

Now note the size of the plugs. You will see a lot of mini USB cables for sale that cellphones and other devices use to connect to PCs and Macs. Check to make sure you have the right size of cable on both ends.


USB 2 0 A  B cable


2. Unlock the scanner.


The Lock on the side of the 1200U

The lock for the scanner mechanism is on the left-hand side of the Perfection 1200U. It’s a simple circular piece of plastic with a groove in the center that a quarter or nickels fits into. 

The icons stamped into the plastic make it clear which position locks the scanner and which position unlocks the scanner. In the case of the Perfection 1200U, you want to UNLOCK THE SCANNER BEFORE POWERING UP. You could damage the scanner otherwise. Again, read the manual!

3. Having acquired the proper USB cable and unlocked the scanner, the next steps.

4. Plug the USB cable between the Mac and the scanner.

5. Plug the scanner’s power cord into an AC socket.  Don’t turn it on right away, though. 

6. Turn on the Mac computer, if it wasn’t turned on previously.

7. When the Mac finishes, go to your System Preferences. This is roughly equivalent to the Window’s XP/Vista/7 Control Panel. You will find the System Preferences either in your Dock as the box with gears in it. OR

System Prefernces in the Dock

Go to the Apple Menu at the very left-hand end of your Mac’s Menu Bar.


Click on the Apple icon and the Apple Menu drops down. System Preferences … is one of the selections.


Apple Menu with System Preferences



8. In System Preferences, you will see a windows  populated with System Preferences for various aspects of your Mac.

This show all my system preferences. The first 4 rows will show the default preference panes that come with OS X. The bottom row shows the preference panes you installed. 

I’ve highlighted in red the Printers & Scanners preference pane. So click on it.

System Preferences Window


9.  This is what my Printer & Scanner preference pane in my MacBook Air shows before I turned on the Perfection 1200U.


Printers and Scanners Preference Pane before turning on old Perfection 1200u


This shows my own Office Jet 8600 and a client’s Epson Workforce 645. I’ve installed the necessary software for these two multifunction printers.


Now press the scanner’s power switch. A new scanner appears!




Printer and Scanner Preference Pane and setting up scanner

OS X installs the software and you’re ready to go. 

You can tweak the settings. Under Scan Button, you can change which OS X app to open when you press the Scan Button. The default is the Image Capture program, but you can change it by clicking on the double-headed arrows to the right of “Open Image Capture”.


Printer and Scanner Preference Pane setting up the Scanner s Scan button


I changed my setting to open the Preview app instead of Image Capture. 


So let’s press the Scan Button!


10. I’ve pressed the Scan Button and Preview for 10.9 came up. What do I see?


Preview File Dialog Box that opens when you start Preview just click done right now


Instead of a box to start scanning, I get a Dialog Box that lets me pick a preexisting file from either iCloud or on My Mac. I don’t want either option right now, so I clicked on the Done box that I’ve highlighted in Red.


11. Now I’m back at the desktop. Preview is the program displayed on the Menu Bar. So how do I start scanning?


Click on the File menu and go down to Import from Scanner

Preview File and import from scanner

Click on the right facing arrow next to Import from Scanner.  I’ve got two options. Epson Perfection 1200 is what I’ll go with. 

12. You picked the Epson Perfection 1200 and you got this mess below. No, your scanner is not worthless. This is just an Overview Scan, a hasty glance over the material you put on the platen (this week’s Rite-Aid ad).  The software will do a quick job, but you can restore color to it in the next. So relax, everything works just fine.

Preview It s an overview scan and it looks dreadful we ll fix it


13. Note the three red arrows on the screenshot. The first one is for the kind of image you want. You get three choices: text (useful for OCR), black and white grayscale, and then color.

You can change the resolution of the scan, too. This affects how big the image file is. Lower the resolution, you lower the size of the file. 

Finally, the image format. Above, the software picked TIFF, a very high resolution format. TIFF pictures are used for printing pictures in slick magazines and books. For just keeping a scan of your check to LADWP (as I do), 150 dpi is fine. As long as I can read it, that’s good enough. JPEG pictures are fine.



Preview overview scan restored to looking better


14. Now how to just scan the part of the overview scan that  you want? For instance, how about that Tide bottle for $11.94?

A very important check box determines that. 


Look at the two red arrows. The top one points at the box marked “Use Custom Size.” 

The bottom one points at the available size selections. Click on the double-headed arrows at the far right-hand side. 

Right now, it’s set at “US Letter”. The other selection is the A4 paper size. Neither one lets you focus on just the part of the picture you want. 

Preview Scan at set size or custom size


Now look at this screenshot:


Preview scan set to custom size


I’ve checked the custom size box. The size boxes now read “8.5” and “11” inches. You can use your pointing device cursor to focus on that bottle of Tide at the bottom.


15. Now I’ve brought down the focus down to the Tide bottle. Preview uses a border of what is known as “marching ants” to signify the border of the final scan. 


Preview the marching ants around a selection


So let me take the final scan.


16. The final scan.


Preview the bottle of Tide in its glory


Final Notes

Which way does the material to be scanned go in the scanner?

You want to look for the orientation marks around the glass platen. 

Scanner Orientation marks next to platen



What about Optical Character Recognition? Preview can’t do Optical Character Recognition. I have used the Vuescan app with this scanner to produce searchable PDFs. 

Apple, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Rite-Aid and Tide and all the other products in the Rite-Aid ad are copyrighted, trademarked, and guarded by lawyers. All rights reserved.  

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog




1 comment:

  1. Some of us can spend what we like on computer equipment. We get the latest and shiniest, with all the cords, all the manuals, all the drivers on ...




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