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Using Snow Leopard's Image Capture app, or how to clean up a room


One of the lesser-known changes in Snow Leopard is the update to the Image Capture application. This little gem of the Mac has always been available to grab photos from devices such as digital cameras and scanners, but with Mac OS X 10.6, Image Capture has turned into my personal hero.

In 2007 and 2008, my in-laws both passed away and in the process of closing out their estate, we inherited many family photos. When I mean many, I'm talking about boxes and albums filled with them, enough to fill a spare bedroom in our house! Rather than just tossing the photos, we wanted to keep them because many of them were cherished family pictures, and others (taken by my father-in-law) were spectacularly good travel photographs.

I've had an Epson Perfection 4490 Photo scanner for a few years, and the software that came with it was adequate. However, I just didn't feel like I wanted to spend the time and effort to scan a bunch of photo prints, and was considering sending them off to be digitized professionally. Then, in a fortuitous experiment, I tried Image Capture 6.0.

This latest version has made it possible for me to slap down a bunch of photos on my scanner without regard for orientation, and have the scanner digitize them individually for placement in a folder. All it takes is making sure to check the Detect Separate Items checkbox, and Image Capture analyzes the overview scan to pick out the individual photos, straighten them out, and save them to a folder, auto-numbering them in the process. Once I've digitized a large batch, I drop them into a folder on my wife's MacBook Pro, where they're dragged into iPhoto, tagged, edited, and organized. The originals? They go into the trash.

Image Capture is faster than the Epson software that came with the scanner, it allows me to scan a lot of photos very quickly while working on other things on my Mac (like writing TUAW posts), and it's making it possible for me to burn through digitizing thousands of prints without spending thousands of dollars using commercial scanning services. The best part of this entire project is that in the process of converting atoms to bits, we're going to recapture some space in our home. Your mileage may vary depending on the scanner model you're using, but if you haven't given the Snow Leopard edition of Image Capture a try, check it out.

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