Simple Scan Hardware Issues

Hi there,

why did you come here? Let us guess: you wanted to scan something and "it just does not work". You filed a Bug Report in Launchpad and someone helpful sent you over here...

You want to get your scanner to work, or to get all features (such as an automatic document feeder) to work. We want to improve Simple Scan and make it an even greater application. Let me explain why your original Bug Report does not help either of us and what you can do to get your scanner to work:

Why does your original Bug Report not help us?

To understand why, you need to know something about Simple Scan: Simple Scan is a simple program -- that is what it makes so great -- that does not do the hard work itself. No, all the hard work is done by libsane, which is sometimes called sane-backends.

Quote of the day: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." (Famously used by Isaac Newton).

Whenever you use Simple Scan and instruct it to look for scanners, Simple Scan in turn instructs libsane to look for Scanners. Whenever you use Simple Scan and instruct it to scan a page, Simple Scan in turn instructs libsane to scan the page. So if something fails, there are two possible reasons:

  1. the instructions sent by Simple Scan sent are incorrect
  2. the instructions are correct but libsane just messes up

From experience we know that b) is way more likely than a).

Note: when we blame libsane we have to add that they are doing awesome work over there and they could (rightfully) blame the manufacturers for making their work excruciatingly difficult.

So, bottom line: this probably is not a problem with Simple Scan itself and Simple Scan and its developers cannot make your scanner work. HOWEVER -- we are nice people and really want to help you and support the developers of libsane. So read on...

"Is this true?" and xsane

Another famous saying: "Trust, but verify." (Famously used by Ronald Reagan)

You should verify that what we told above is indeed correct. Luckily this is easy because the awesome developers of libsane also created xsane. xsane is an (a little bit) ugly and overloaded scanning program -- that is why we created Simple Scan -- but it is mighty powerful. And moreover, just as Simple Scan it uses libsane to do the hard work. There are again two possible outcomes:

  1. if everything works with xsane, the problem is within Simple Scan and we will look into it
  2. if things are broken with xsane, the problem most certainly is in libsane

In either case: read on to find out what you can do!

What can you do to get your scanner working?

While we do not believe that Bug Reports saying no more than "Scan-Comp Scantist does not work" will lead to any improvement of the situation, we do believe this information is highly valuable. The information that a scanner does work -- and with what settings -- is even more useful. That is why there are "databases" collecting this information. There is one Ubuntu-specific and one generic storing that information in a structured manner that is much more useful than a Launchpad Bug Report.

Things everyone can do

So, first of all: check those databases for instructions on how to get your very scanner working. Often just one package has to be installed or one line in a configuration file has to be changed and you are good to go! If your scanner is not listed, or the information is outdated or incorrect, please, please update it!

Then, there is a work-in-progress page ScanningHowTo about scanning in general, you might have a look at it, but last time we checked it was not that comprehensive.

Also, if your scanner worked with previous Ubuntu releases and stopped working after an “upgrade”, that is pretty bad and should not happen. From a developers point of view this is a clear regression in sane-backends and friends, but from a users point of view, you should reconsider sticking with the old release because we feel obliged to tell you that it might take a long time until it gets fixed! Also see the next section about filing bugs against sane-backends.

If your scanner is listed as "not working" there and you cannot program and/or cannot devote some time/effort/money into the issue, our sad-but-honest advice is to accept that it does not work and/or buy another scanner that is known to work. Pick a scanner that is explicitly listed and maybe pick a scanner from some manufacturer where most of the scanners work and not just a few.


If you kept reading up until here you obviously are serious about investing some time/effort in the issue! Great! Here are some more things that you can do, that cost time/effort but greatly increase your chances of getting your scanner to actually scan.

Your scanner does not work with xsane

If your scanner does not work with xsane, report a Bug against sane-backends in Launchpad. Be sure to include all relevant information (make model, detailed explanation of the situation) and be prepared for further inquiry. The questions will be fairly technical and require to do time-consuming things that generally require some patience and skill.

And then it will only result in your problem being presented to the SANE developers. They have a fairly active mailing list sane-devel but have a look at this to get an impression what they are talking about!

We do not want you to stop from creating a Bug Report, but you should know what awaits you and decide if you are prepared for that. Otherwise you will be wasting your time, and other people's time who could otherwise be working on making your scanner work!

Your scanner works with xsane

If your scanner works with xsane, but does not work with Simple Scan: Wow! But we believe you! It might really be that Simple Scan sends stupid instructions to your scanner. In that case:

Please report a Bug Report against Simple Scan!

Simple Scan Bug Report Tutorial

Here is a tutorial on how to make your Bug Report the best Simple Scan Bug Report ever:

  1. If you use Ubuntu, run ubuntu-bug simple-scan from command line to get a big head start. If you use another distribution skip this step and start with 2)

  2. Include the debug output of simple scan by running it from the command line: simple-scan --debug > simple-scan.log 2>&1

  3. If it is in any way related to the user interface (the user interface is what you see on your screen) include a screen-shot. It takes 10 seconds to create a screen-shot and might save us hours of trying to understand. One hour is 3600 seconds, so 359 useless screen-shot still pay out.

  4. If your scanner scans something at all (but e.g. suffers from line creep) include an example scan. Same argument as in 2) applies here.

  5. Always explicitly mention the full make and model of your scanner, e.g. "HP Deskjet F4580".

  6. Always provide the id, that might be determined by running lsusb and pasting the corresponding line, that might look like "Bus 001 Device 004: ID 062a:900d Creative Labs". Do not paste the full list of all other USB devices. Adapt for SCSI scanners.

  7. Include a statement of the following: "I have a good faith belief that this is a bug in Simple Scan and not in sane-backends because I actually tried with xsane and it worked there."

Info: 7. is not really a requirement, but you get the idea. You really should check if it is a bug in sane-backends before filing the Bug Report. And while Simple Scan aims to be an improvement over xsane, xsane is to be considered the gold standard regarding hardware support and we are not going to investigate cases where xsane fails. This of course is not true for usability issues/the user interface/etc but only for hardware support.

Final Words

  • Thanks for using Simple Scan!
  • Thanks for reading this wall of text!
  • We really hope this helped you scanning your documents!
  • You are very welcome to help us improve Simple Scan! -- See our project page for more information, like mailing lists or IRC.


(too long -- did not read)

SimpleScanHardwareIssues (last edited 2011-12-11 20:56:38 by nailor)