Scanning in Linux with iscan and XSane

Jack Wallen
Nov 1, 2009
Updated • Feb 13, 2018

If you are one of those that depends upon a scanner for your daily work, and you want to handle this task using the Linux operating system, you are in luck.

In the past, Linux has had some serious issues with scanning tools. When USB scanners replaced the old parallel port scanners it seemed nothing would work. But, as usual, Linux caught up and USB scanner support started appearing. Now many scanners are supported under Linux and the tools available for scanning have improved greatly. The improvements in scanner support have been made possible by the Sane Project.

The first thing you will want to do is check the Sane supported scanner listing on the Sane Project site. But don't let your scanner not being on that list stop you. My Epson Perfection V30 was not on the list and I still managed to get it working with the help of iscan. The iscan package is a simple scanning tool for Epson scanners.  You can find the iscan tool within Synaptic. The iscan tool also integrates perfectly into The GIMP, so all your image needs can be met within one tool. But iscan is not the only option. There is also the Xsane tool, which is far more powerful than iscan. Let's take a look at both of these scanning utilities to see how scanning is handled under the Linux operating system.

NOTE: This article is not going to cover getting your scanner to work under Linux. If your scanner is not listed in the Sane hardware listing, your best bet is to google your model numer and your distribution. For example, in my case I would google epson perfection v30 ubuntu 9.10. You should come up with results that will tell you what approximate drivers to use to get your scanner working.


Figure 1
Figure 1

We'll first look at iscan. This tool is, by far, the easier of the two tools to use. And, like its bigger brother XSane, it integrates perfectly with The GIMP. That doesn't mean you have to use iscan from within The GIMP. Once installed you will find iscan within the Graphics sub menu of the Applications menu. The entry will be called "Image Scan!" (No quotes). Or, if you'd rather, you can start iscan from within The Gimp by going to the File menu, then to the Create sub menu, and selecting the "Scanning (iscan)" entry. Both will start the iscan interface.

When you fire up iscan you will notice how simple the interface is (see Figure 1). This scanner utility is just as easy to use as any Windows or Mac utility. The only configuration option for iscan is your print command. That is how simple this tool is.

With your picture in your scanner hit the Preview button to first get a preview of your image. Once the image is up you can then select the portion of the image you want to scan, select the Destination (either file or printer), and click the Scan button. When you click the Scan button you will be asked to give the file a name. The scanner will then do it's job and save the file for you. It's that simple.


Figure 2
Figure 2

XSane can be found in your distributions repositories. So whether you use Ubuntu or Fedoar (or anything in between), you should be able to open up your distributions Add/Remove Software tool and find XSane easily. XSane, like iscan, is a graphical frontend for the Sane project. But XSane is a bit more serious of a tool. You can see (in Figure 2) there is much more to XSane than your average scanning tool. In Figure 2 you see the standard windows that open along with the Main window. Pictured are the  Main windows (far left), Preview window (center), Standard Options window (top right), and Histogram (lower right). You can also include an Advanced Options window, and a Batch Scan window.

But even with all of the extra options, acquiring a scan with XSane is just as simple as with iscan. Follow these directions:

  1. Place your photo on the scanner.
  2. Open XSane.
  3. Click the Aquire preview button in the Preview window.
  4. Adjust the size, rotation, and scale at the bottom of the Preview window.
  5. Adjust the color in the Main window.
  6. Select the file type in the Main window.
  7. Adjust the scan resultion in the Main window.
  8. Click the Scan button in the Main window.

When the scan is complete a new window will open that allows you to further adjust your image. In this window you can apply a despeckle or blur filter, adjust the geometry, rotate the image, clone image, do optical character  recognition, and save the image.

And what about the Histogram window? This window allows you to fine-tune the color of your image. You use this tool after you preview and before you scan. You will be suprised at how well you can perfect the color of your scans with this tool.

Final thoughts

For my preferences, I lean toward XSane to handle my scanning tasks. But iscan does the job quite well. Either tool will allow you to take advantage of that flatbed scanner you have in your office while using Linux. One less excuse to continue using Windows. ;-)

Scanning in Linux with iscan and XSane
Article Name
Scanning in Linux with iscan and XSane
Now many scanners are supported under Linux and the tools available for scanning have improved greatly. The improvements in scanner support have been made possible by the Sane Project.
Ghacks Technology News

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Janet Bagg said on January 4, 2014 at 9:36 am

    I’ve had a great deal of trouble scanning old slides with xsane. They come out magenta and it is very tedious to get them into a semblence of real colour. It is painful. I tried scanning directly into GIMP but that was no better – worse if anything. I have not tried iscan which may be an improvement. I’ll see if we can get it via yum as we use Fedora.

    So I’m getting a new slide scanner as I have hundreds of the things dating back to my teens.

  2. Thomas Altfather Good said on February 24, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Hi, I’ve used both GUIs – iscan and xsane – and the results are acceptable. But I am wondering if there is an alternative for those of us who scan transparencies and 35mm negatives? Iscan will scan one frame at a time whereas the windows version does the entire strip – this is not optimal. And vuescan is not much use to me because it supports (in theory anyway) Kodak Tri-X Pan but not Ilford HP5 and so iscan actually looks better in the end. I also object, philosophically, to paying for software that uses Free Software for the heavy lifting – without the Epson drivers/software vuescan can’t access my Perfection 370. With really great programs like kdenlive (for video editing), which surpasses its windows competitors, I’m hoping there is / will be Linux scanning software for professional photographers who use black and white film. TIA

  3. Sergio said on March 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I read this article some years later. For OCR, I use now Cuneiform (in official Debian and Ubuntu repositories) .

    Very performant for my language (I’m french, excuse my English…) and it was created by russian people, so no problem with Russian…

  4. Raymond said on November 3, 2009 at 2:26 am

    Oups, sorry, you are right, hourra! I was waiting for so long for a 64 bits version
    (and in .DEB too!). I was looking for Epson 1250 photo instead of 1650 photo,
    my mistake :-(

    Thank you Doug B!

  5. Raymond said on November 3, 2009 at 2:21 am

    > Yes there is iscan 64 bit software:

    Well, I owne a Epson Perfection 1250 Photo and the only iscan version is
    iscan-2.10.0-1.c2.i386.rpm; no DEB and no 64 bits :-(

  6. Raymond said on November 2, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    iscan doesn’t exist for 64 bits Linux system; iscan is not a free software.

    OCR is still very poor in Linux, especially for non english scanned pages…

    1. JTemple said on September 26, 2020 at 1:51 am

      iscan / image scan is an epson product and can be found here:

    2. Rex Bachmann said on November 3, 2009 at 12:12 am

      Yes. That is my question, as well. OCR (optical character recognition) is my main concern in scanning. How to do it in Linux?


    3. Doug B said on November 2, 2009 at 8:04 pm

      >iscan doesn’t exist for 64 bits Linux system; iscan is not a free software

      Yes there is iscan 64 bit software:

      Available in .deb and .rpm packages.

      Note: Iscan is for Epson scanners ONLY.

  7. David Legg said on November 2, 2009 at 10:54 am

    If some-one gives you an old scanner, xsane just works with it.
    You don’t have to bother installing drivers; just plug and play.
    The only thing to be careful about is to make sure that you have a newish version so that almost all scanners are supported; it’s much easier than faffing around “trying to get your scanner to work”: Just get the latest version.

  8. major_bloodnok said on November 2, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Xsane works fine with the HP5590 scanner, I then like to output to the efficient DJVU file format.

  9. Jack said on November 2, 2009 at 5:41 am

    @Charles: Go to this page: and scroll down. you’ll answer a few questions and then you can get iscan (and the esci-interpreter in either deb or rpm format).

  10. Charles Graham said on November 2, 2009 at 3:15 am

    Where can I get iscan? I’ve tried googling it and can’t find it. Also it’s not in the Karmic


    1. JTemple said on September 26, 2020 at 1:52 am
  11. Jack Wallen said on November 2, 2009 at 1:19 am

    I completely agree. Ubuntu should switch over to iscan since their modus operandi is user-friendliness.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.