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Scanner Access Now Easy (SANE) enables the use of scanners on Linux. It provides drivers for many different scanners, a daemon to manage access to all scanners attached to the system, and a command-line frontend application scanimage which implements basic scanning functionality.



SANE backends (a.k.a. drivers) are provided by the media-gfx/sane-backends package.

The SANE project maintains a searchable list of supported (and some unsupported) devices. Find your scanner on that list, and note the values provided for Backend and (if it's a USB scanner) USB id, which will be needed for configuration.

In /etc/portage/make.conf, set SANE_BACKENDS to a space-separated list of the backends that need to be installed, as obtained from the list on the SANE project website.

FILE /etc/portage/make.conf

To see all supported backends, run:

user $emerge -pv sane-backends
[ebuild   R   ] media-gfx/sane-backends-1.0.25-r1  USE="ipv6 nls threads usb -doc -gphoto2 -snmp -systemd -v4l -xinetd -zeroconf" ABI_X86="(64) -32 (-x32)" SANE_BACKENDS="abaton agfafocus apple artec artec_eplus48u as6e avision bh canon canon630u canon_dr cardscan coolscan coolscan2 coolscan3 dc210 dc240 dc25 dell1600n_net dmc epjitsu epson epson2 fujitsu genesys gt68xx hp hp3500 hp3900 hp4200 hp5400 hp5590 hpljm1005 hs2p ibm kodak kodakaio kvs1025 kvs20xx leo lexmark ma1509 magicolor matsushita microtek microtek2 mustek mustek_usb nec net niash p5 pie pixma plustek plustek_pp qcam ricoh rts8891 s9036 sceptre sharp sm3600 sm3840 snapscan sp15c st400 stv680 tamarack teco1 teco2 teco3 {test} u12 umax umax1220u umax_pp xerox_mfp -canon_pp -hpsj5s -kvs40xx -mustek_pp -mustek_usb2 -pnm"

or look on the SANE project's website.

USE flags

Ensure that the proper USE flags are set to support your scanner's features, e.g. if it is a USB scanner, set the usb USE flag.

USE flags for media-gfx/sane-backends Scanner Access Now Easy - Backends

gphoto2 Add digital camera support global
ipv6 Add support for IP version 6 global
snmp Add support for the Simple Network Management Protocol if available global
systemd Enable use of systemd-specific libraries and features like socket activation or session tracking global
threads Add threads support for various packages. Usually pthreads global
usb Add USB support to applications that have optional USB support (e.g. cups) global
v4l Enable support for video4linux (using linux-headers or userspace libv4l libraries) global
xinetd Add support for the xinetd super-server global
zeroconf Support for DNS Service Discovery (DNS-SD) global

It may also be necessary to change the kernel configuration to allow it to detect the scanner, e.g. for a USB scanner, USB support needs to be enabled in the kernel.

There is usually no need to explicitly install the backend package since it will be pulled in as a dependency of the frontend, but those who would like to do so anyway can run:

root #emerge -a media-gfx/sane-backends


The media-gfx/sane-backends package provides one frontend application, scanimage. Most users will want to install another one. The SANE project maintains a list of frontends, many of which are available in Portage.

USE flags

XSane is a capable default option. To install XSane or any frontend, check their USE flags. For example:

USE flags for media-gfx/xsane graphical scanning frontend

gimp Build a plugin for the GIMP global
jpeg Add JPEG image support global
lcms Add lcms support (color management engine) global
nls Add Native Language Support (using gettext - GNU locale utilities) global
ocr Enable support for Optical Character Recognition reader local
png Add support for libpng (PNG images) global
tiff Add support for the TIFF image format global


Install the package:

root #emerge -a media-gfx/xsane


Installing SANE creates the scanner group. Any user account that is to access the scanner needs to get added to this group.

root #usermod -aG scanner <username>

After changing the group membership, the affected user(s) will need to log out and into the system again.

Users of systemd might not need to add users to the scanner group. See ArchWiki for more.

In many cases, SANE simply works without any further configuration needed. To test this, ensure that the scanner is connected and powered on, and run:

user $scanimage -L
device `epson2:libusb:001:009' is a Epson CX3800 flatbed scanner

If the scanner is identified, as in the example above, everything is fine.

Scanning over the network

SANE includes a daemon, saned, which allows other computers to use attached scanners over the network. To enable this feature, some configuration has to be done on both the server and client.

Server settings

There are two possible ways to configure your SANE server. The saned approach is the simplest of the two.


Update /etc/sane.d/saned.conf to include the IP address or subnet of the clients that will be accessing this scanner server.

FILE /etc/sane.d/saned.conf

Add saned to the default runlevel and start it:

root #rc-update add saned default
root #/etc/init.d/saned start

The scanner daemon is called saned, by default, it listens to port 6566.

When using xinetd instead of starting the server directly, remember to enable saned by setting disable to No and allow your network to access the daemon (only_from =

FILE /etc/xinetd.d/saned
1=service sane-port
  socket_type = stream
  server = /usr/sbin/saned
  protocol = tcp
  user = saned
  group = scanner
  only_from =  # Added
  wait = no
  disable = no                # Changed

If you want to access the server locally, also add localhost to the allowed clients.

Don't forget to (re)start xinetd:

root #systemctl restart xinetd.service

Client settings

Make sure to add the respective USE flag to be able to find scanners on the network:

FILE /etc/portage/make.conf
Keep in mind that the client does not need any scanner drivers at all, if a server handles scanners.

Recompile the media-gfx/sane-backends package:

root #emerge --ask --changed-use media-gfx/sane-backends

These are the packages that would be merged, in order:

Calculating dependencies... done!
[ebuild   R    ] media-gfx/sane-backends-1.0.27  SANE_BACKENDS="net*"

Would you like to merge these packages? [Yes/No]

This will generate the file /etc/sane.d/net.conf:

FILE /etc/sane.d/net.conf/
# This is the net backend config file.

## net backend options
# Timeout for the initial connection to saned. This will prevent the backend
# from blocking for several minutes trying to connect to an unresponsive
# saned host (network outage, host down, ...). Value in seconds.
# connect_timeout = 60

## saned hosts
# Each line names a host to attach to.
# If you list "localhost" then your backends can be accessed either
# directly or through the net backend.  Going through the net backend
# may be necessary to access devices that need special privileges.
# localhost

Uncomment connect_timeout = 60 and replace the line # localhost with either the hostname or the IP address of the sane server.

Check, if the server can be found now:

user $scanimage -L


scanimage unable to identify scanner

If scanimage -L is unable to identify the scanner, it will look like this:

user $scanimage -L
No scanners were identified. If you were expecting something different,
check that the scanner is plugged in, turned on and detected by the
sane-find-scanner tool (if appropriate). Please read the documentation
which came with this software (README, FAQ, manpages).

In most cases, the first step to take in resolving this issue is to run sane-find-scanner as root.

root #sane-find-scanner
  # sane-find-scanner will now attempt to detect your scanner. If the
  # result is different from what you expected, first make sure your
  # scanner is powered up and properly connected to your computer.

  # No SCSI scanners found. If you expected something different, make sure that
  # you have loaded a kernel SCSI driver for your SCSI adapter.

could not fetch string descriptor: Pipe error
found USB scanner (vendor=0x04b8 [EPSON], product=0x0818 [USB MFP]) at libusb:001:008
could not fetch string descriptor: Pipe error
could not fetch string descriptor: Pipe error
could not fetch string descriptor: Pipe error
  # Your USB scanner was (probably) detected. It may or may not be supported by
  # SANE. Try scanimage -L and read the backend's manpage.

  # Not checking for parallel port scanners.

  # Most Scanners connected to the parallel port or other proprietary ports
  # can't be detected by this program.

If the output does not contain a line saying that the scanner was detected, it probably will not work with SANE.

Assuming sane-find-scanner does find the scanner, as in the example above, there are a few things to check. First, try running sane-find-scanner as a non-root user. If it fails to detect the scanner when run this way, that means the problem is most likely permissions on the device node. The man page for the device type will have more information on how to handle this. For USB scanners:

user $man sane-usb

For SCSI scanners:

user $man sane-scsi

Make sure that the correct device was identified, e.g. in the example above, check that the USB vendor and product numbers listed in the output match the USB id obtained from the SANE website. If not, it means that SANE is detecting something other than the scanner.

If the correct device is detected, it may be necessary to edit the configuration file for the corresponding SANE backend. These configuration files are located in /etc/sane.d/. Each backend that gets installed has an associated configuration file with the same name, for example /etc/sane.d/epson2.conf. The man page for the backend will have more information on what edits may be necessary, for example:

user $man sane-epson2

See also

  • CUPS — covers the installation and maintenance of printers using CUPS and Samba.