Single-button scan-to-email

Networked scanners are another one of those things that are simply incomprehensibly pricey; a quick search just turned up tens of devices which are selling for more than £900. And you don’t buy ease of use with that money: if you’re working in an office with people who aren’t very comfortable around computers, these machines can be intimidating and difficult to get to grips with.

So Eduardo Luis has come up with a cheap, and incredibly simple (single-button-simple) alternative to the brain-crampingly expensive off-the-shelf networked scanner, and has built a device using a Pi, a couple of LEDs, a resistor, a push button and an old scanner. Pop a document in the tray, push the button, and your document is scanned and sent to email automatically, with no further interaction from you. Here’s some explanatory video: Eduardo goes into more detail on his website.

We love watching you guys come up with ingenious ways of replacing expensive specialist equipment (see baby monitors, time lapse camera rigs, virtual analogue synthesisers – and, of course, the ubiquitous media centres) with the Raspberry Pi. Give us a shout via the Contacts page if you’ve got something similar you think we’d like to feature on this blog.


Jim Manley avatar

… and it can stream your playlist to your entertainment system while you wait for your document to be scanned and e-mailed, which is literally music to your ears (unless it’s an audiobook) – it can also do so even when it’s not scanning! :)

Jongoleur avatar


There, I said it. :-)

Seriously, there was a news item on Slashdot a week or so (maybe more…) about an patent troll company who are using some sort of insane patent that claims to protect the idea of “One button scan to email” and attempting to rip off end users for “licencing fees” to use the idea….

Yes, I know, but the little toads are always trying to find new ways to run protection rackets. Hope the heads-up isn’t needed!!!

Stu avatar

That’s worrying, Jongoleur.

They can take away our patents, but they won’t take away my £150 HP AIO and (hoots) they won’t take away my freedom!

liz avatar

Yeah – I saw that. We have insurance for that sort of thing. (Sad world where you have to spend money on insuring against trolls, isn’t it?)

Nobody avatar

Can this be modified so the “scan to email” button on the scanner itself starts the operation?

Matt avatar

Try the scanbuttond or scanbd packages.

John S avatar

Scanbuttond looks like it will do what you want.

Tim avatar

Cool, would be cooler still if it could upload it to dropbox (which presumably wouldn’t actually be hard at all).

Bobby Smith avatar

Well, it would be considering that Dropbox isn’t yet supporting on the ARM processor architecture. But….you can vote to support it.

vanjikumaran avatar

Great and awesome; I created the same kind of functionality for scanner and printer :)
Keep on working on Open source hardware :)

Karl avatar

Just use email to dropbox. There are loads of free email to dropbox services.

Vince avatar


These projects really show just what the Pi can really do. This is the best
approach i have seen when people use the Pi to make low cost solutions
to normally High cost devices…..excellent

Also, usually the Pi solution is also better….



Eduardo Luís avatar

Thank you folks for all your comments. Raspberry Pi is a powerfull “toy”. If linux itself is allready a real swiss army knife, with raspberry it is really powerfull. The impossible turns possible.

Rowland avatar

the two links to Eduardo Luis’s website do not seem to work!!

biagio avatar

Is possible to have the wiring diagram to replicate it?

sky99 avatar

I am not the author of the post, nor the maker of the device presented, but if you want to read the value of a button on the GPIO pins, i have a diagram here : (code is also present).
It’s in french but the diagram and code are self explainatory.

Brian avatar

Very nice work and a very elegant solution. I don’t mean to belittle your work at all here but I’m sort of confused as to why one would really want this?

Nearly all big printer/copier/scanner manufacturers have AIO devices that are ethernet (or even WiFi) ready and already do this, quite well I might add. They aren’t even that expensive. $50 buys you a decent scanner/printer combo with WiFi.

I realize you want to make use of stuff you have laying around (ie. the old USB scanner), but why would you go through all the trouble. Just be cause you can?
Did I miss something?

sky99 avatar

Hi Brian.
I think that you are right about the fact that multi function printers do come cheap.
However the point here is:
-you can use whatever scanner you have. Say you have an A3 scanner with no network support, you can use it.
-Making such a device is in fact quite simple. Reading a button from GPIO is super easy, the rest is just coding.
-you can expand the possibilities. granted that we have a few GPIO pins, we could add a few more buttons for more options : scan to drive, scan to printer, but we could think of more “exotic” uses , such as scan to OCR to web, or even simple things like scan to mail1 for button1, scan to mail2 for button2, scan black and white then scan grayscale then scan full color…
What about scan then process with OpenCV to detect something, crop the interesting part, and save it, or simply scan a picture, extract faces, save separate pictures of each face…

There are tons of uses of the GPIO on the RPI :)
Commercial devices often comes with handy functions, but little to no configuration possible…

ladidaaa avatar

Have you ever tried “scan-to-email” on such a cheap all-in-one device?
Only very few of the 150$ and up can truly scan-to-email without a pc!
The cheap ones just open a program-window although they have a wifi or ethernet connection!
The only ones i could find that support true stand-alone Scan-To-Email are the HP 8600a+ and HP Photosmart 5520 e-All-in-One.

So this project is truly great i was looking out for something like that!
I suppose i will try to use it in combination with ScanbuttonD which John S. posted.
This way i have more buttons for different emails or SW/Color Setting, and i could hide the RPI and just have the scanner lying around.

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