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What file format should I use when scanning documents?

Answer: When you scan a document, your scanner software may offer multiple file format options. Below are some tips for choosing the best one.

  1. .PNG - The PNG format is good for images, especially those containing text or a high level of detail. Since PNG images are lossless, you won't lose any image data when scanning the image.
  2. .JPG - JPEG is a good choice for digital photos and other colorful images. Since the JPEG format uses lossy compression, the resulting file size will be significantly smaller than a comparable PNG image. If you are given the choice to select a JPEG compression level, 60% provides a good balance between compression and image quality.
  3. .PDF - PDF files are the best choice for text documents, forms, or other images containing text. Some programs, like Adobe Acrobat, use OCR technology to scan the actual characters of the text so you can edit the text later and search for words or phrases in the document. Since the PDF format includes automatic image compression, it is a decent choice for scanning images as well.

Regardless of what format you choose, make sure you also choose the appropriate scanner settings for the image. Typically, 300 dpi is a good resolution for most images. When scanning text documents, a grayscale setting will produce a much smaller file size. However, when scanning digital photos, the highest color setting, such as 32-bit, or millions of colors, will give you the best result.

Published: November 23, 2011 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center