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Understanding the Proper Terminology Behind Document Imaging & Scanning

Regardless of the type of business you're running, it's clear that document imaging and scanning brings with it a wide range of different benefits that can't be ignored. But at the same time, evaluating the hardware you need to take full advantage of this can often feel like an uphill battle — with so many different options available, it's hard to even know where to begin.

With that in mind, what follows is an overview of all the proper terms behind document imaging and scanning that you should absolutely keep in mind when picking the hardware to meet your needs.

ADF, or Auto Document Feeder

An Auto Document Feeder is a term that refers to the tray holding the stack of documents that you want to scan. Rather than being forced to load everything into your scanner one page at a time, you can simply indicate how many documents you're working with and feed everything into the machine all at once.

Of course, this process is not without its caveats. Much like a printer, you still shouldn't overload the Auto Document Feeder beyond its capacity, or you will more than likely cause a jam. Always make sure you know exactly how many documents you're working with at a time so that you can choose a model with the Auto Document Feeder capacity to meet your needs.


This is a term that refers to any edits, updates or even to the removal of content from a particular document. Annotations are always laid out on top of the document and are written in a different font, all in an effort to make it easy for people to see that changes have been made from its original form. 

Bar Code

A Bar Code is a unique combination of lines (or even pixels) that are designed to be read not by humans, but by an optical scanner. This enables documents to be indexed far faster, thus supporting your existing workflows and retrieval methods. 

DPI, or Dots Per Inch

This is a measure of the resolution that you can expect when converting paper-based records into electronic images. Generally speaking, the more dots per inch of your scanner, the higher the resolution (and the better the image clarity).

More often than not, scanning falls between 200 by 200 and 300 by 300 Dots Per Inch. Many scanners can scan at a much higher resolution, but that isn't always necessary depending on the quality of the original source document. You could easily scan in 500 by 500 Dots Per Inch, but it will only increase your file size without giving you much in the way to show for it. This could also cause you to require more storage space to house all of these images, which may not be possible given your circumstances. 

Document Management

Document Management is a system or a piece of software that makes storing, searching for, and routing various types of documents more efficient than ever. 


This is a feature on most commercial scanners that lets you automatically scan a paper-based record on both sides. If your scanner doesn't have a duplex, it can only scan one side of a sheet a time — meaning that at some point you'll have to manually flip it over.


This refers to scanning only one side of a sheet of paper, as opposed to the Duplex method outlined above. 

OCR, or Optical Character Recognition

Optical Character Recognition is a technology that allows you to effortlessly convert non-digital records or analog text into a digital format for searching, retrieving and storage.

PPM, or Pages Per Minute

This is a metric used to measure the total scanning speed of a scanner. Most scanners include specific (and different) Pages Per Minute ratings for both black-and-white and color images. You'll usually find this metric listed in the technical specifications document that came with your scanner. Keep in mind, however, that the fastest scanning mode usually also comes with a lower image quality, so make sure you evaluate any settings choices that you're making based on your needs. 


A Flatbed is very similar in concept to a photocopier in that it offers a flat, glass-based surface to hold objects for scanning. The scan head moves back and forth under the glass and across the surface of the page. These are very helpful if you're trying to scan odd-sized documents or even damaged paper-based records that themselves are not suitable for your Auto Document Feeder.