Ten months after the release of Mac OS X there remains little support for scanners on Apple's next-generation operating system.

Agfa is one of the few scanner makers to provide OS X support.

Apple has taken significant steps toward developing image-acquisition support for digital cameras, releasing iPhoto at Macworld Expo. iPhoto supports most major brands of digital cameras, offering its own built-in image acquisition tools. However, industry insiders believe Apple has no plans to develop similar support for scanners, leaving the task to the manufacturers.

Scanners are essential to the work of many in the creative industries, which remains Apple's strongest market. The TWAIN Working Group – a not-for-profit organization tasked with developing a standard to link applications and image-acquisition devices – is working on such a standard. However, the Group needs more assistance from manufacturers in order to furnish a final specification, revealed spokesperson, Tara Brown.

"We've experienced a bit of a chicken and egg problem," she explained. "Applications vendors need hardware to test, hardware manufacturers require applications to test.

'We've done our best to put all the scanner vendors with an OS X data source in touch with applications vendors with an OS X application. Both groups are trying to get their software/Data sources compatible with Mac OS X, but they lack a large choice of components to test with.

"This is compounded by the typical non-disclosure procedures of both sets of parties. The fact is that data sources, applications and our standard need to be tested in a number of combinations, and its been difficult to find compatible applications and data sources, and then harder to find parties willing to allow someone from outside their organization to test them."

In May 2001, the TWAIN Working Group produced a developer pre-release of the Data Source Manager (DSM) to provide OS X support. This has all the functionality that the Windows version of the DSM carries. The DSM is a piece of software that sits between the Data Source (a scanner driver, for example), and the application.

Without the TWAIN Working Group's Specification, each application vendor would have to write special support for each image acquisition device that it wished to support. Image capture device vendors would have to write support modules for each application they wished to support.

Despite the evident need for companies to work together to establish a standard, and the equally evident demand from creative professionals to use their scanners on Mac OS X, problems remain.

"We would like to have definitive test results from about twice as many vendors and partners as we already have before we formally release the DSM", said Brown.

She expressed some confidence in the testing so far: "Testing is proceeding well, all the application and data source testing that's been done to date has been very successful."

"Progress towards release will be driven by the number of OS X applications and data sources that support TWAIN, so that the full system can be tested from top to bottom."

It remains to be seen whether progress will be accelerated when Adobe eventually releases Photoshop for Mac OS X.

The industry-standard imaging application has offered TWAIN support for many years now, and it's possible that only Adobe is truly in a position to test its application against a multitude of hardware using TWAIN's DSM.

Mac OS X users do have a solution available, the VueScan utility from Hamrick Software is OS X-compliant. It acquires images from many different types of scanners, both flatbed and film scanners. $40, it's available for download from the company's Web site.