Difference Between Flatbed Scanners & Document Scanners

by Ashley Poland

Both document and flatbed scanners are types of optical scanners; the task they complete (turning printed image or text into a digital file) is identical. The difference between these two scanners is the ideal type of document they handle, and the general quality of the images. The right scanner for an office may not be the right scanner for an artist's studio. Choose a scanner based on which meets your specific needs and budget.

Characteristics of Document Scanners

Document scanners are also known as sheet-fed scanners; they pick up documents with rollers and run them past the scan head. These scanners work to digitize loose papers; they're geared toward businesses for managing receipts, business cards and other work-related documents. Neat is one of the biggest names in document scanning and sells a desktop and mobile document scanner called NeatReceipts. Doxie Go, from Apparent, is another mobile document scanner. PC Magazine lists the Canon imageFormula DR-C125 as their Editor's Choice document scanner.

Characteristics of Flatbed Scanners

A flatbed scanner lives up to its name; it looks like a flat box, with a lid that you lift to reveal a glass pane. When scanning documents with a flatbed scanner, you lay documents face down and close the lid before initiating the scan. This type of scanner is found on many multifunction printers, though you can also purchase a standalone flatbed scanner. Some of the best-reviewed flatbed scanners include the Canon CanoScan LiDE110, the Flip-Pal mobile scanner and the Canon CanoScan 9000F.

Types of Documents

Document scanners tend to work faster than flatbed scanners. This makes them ideal for text and business documents; you can get a business card onto your computer in under a minute with the right scanner. They also tend to make quick work of loose multi-page documents. However, this speed comes with a loss of quality. Flatbed scanners work slower, and often offer higher dots-per-inch scanning than document scanners. This attention to detail makes flatbed scanners better for photos and artwork. Flatbed scanners can also scan bound books without damaging the pages.

Bundled Software

When you buy some scanners, you aren't just buying the hardware -- you're also purchasing proprietary software. Neat comes with software that reads text from documents with optical character recognition; it also categorizes documents and generates reports. The Flip-Pal includes EasyStitch software for combining several small scans into one large image. You do not, however, necessarily need the software; Windows comes with a basic scanning utility, though it doesn't have the advanced tools that come with dedicated scanning software.

About the Author

Ashley Poland has been writing since 2009. She has worked with local online businesses, supplying print and web content, and pursues an active interest in the computer, technology and gaming industries. In addition to content writing, Poland is also a fiction writer. She studied creative writing at Kansas State University.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images