Today’s Tech Tip: Help For Scanned Microfilm Images That Won’t Open


Its BOGO day for tech tips (Not really – it’s just one tip with two parts, but I want you to feel like you are really getting a deal.) I was at the library today making microfilm scans using the library’s microfilm scanner. I normally like having a paper copy, but the images I was working with were simply unreadable using the printer, forcing me to head to the scanner. Not that I try to avoid the scanner, but until I know that I have something I definitely want to scan, I try not to tie it up in case other people want to use it.

In order to give myself the most flexibility later, I jacked up the settings. I was scanning images in 256 grayscale, at 600dpi,  and saving the images as uncompressed TIF files. This worked great, but was horrendously slow with the library’s computer. Rather than lower the dpi, I changed the options when saving to use JPG compression to speed things up.  I was then able to clip right along scanning and saving page after microfilm page this way. I excitedly stuck the thumb drive in my computer when I got home, and to my horror, none of the scans I had made after the compression change would open – and that was all of the scans after the first two! Surely I had not just wasted an hour or more of my time? Which brings us to the tips:

Today’s Tech Tip #1:

DON’T save TIF images using JPG compression. You won’t be able to open it using the programs you would normally use (i.e. Windows Photo Viewer, MS Word, Adobe Photoshop, etc)

Tech Tip#2:

If you happen to forget Tech Tip #1, download and install a free photo viewer called Ifranview to open up the file. Once you’ve opened the file and are able to breathe again because you have not wasted hours creating scans of images that don’t work, you can then save it as a regular JPG file that you can open with whatever program you would normally use!

UPDATE: Since initially posting this, I began playing around with IfranView a little bit. I’ve discovered that you don’t have to open each individual file and save it in a different format. IfranView offers a batch conversion option that allows you to convert all of the files in a given directory. Pretty handy tool. ALl I had to do was set the options I wanted, add the files to convert, and let it loose! To check out what it can do, open IfranView, go to File>Batch Conversion/Rename. Very cool!

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7 Responses to Today’s Tech Tip: Help For Scanned Microfilm Images That Won’t Open

  1. Chris,
    Excellent points! Who would’ve thought it wouldn’t do what you wanted it to do plus giving you a heart attack in the process!

  2. avatar Nancy says:

    A microfilm scanner is a new piece of equipment to me. None of our local libraries (that I know of) has them. Do they come out clearer than the print versions? I ask because the microfilm printers at our state archives library always seem to have dust, lint, strands, and flecks on the screen which show up on the printed copies. Oh, for clear microfilm images! Thanks for the tip. I’ll remember if it I ever have the opportunity to use a microfilm scanner.

    Aside from converting tiff files to jpg, what do you think of Irfanview?

    • avatar Chris Staats says:

      Hi Nancy,

      As I’m sure you’ve experienced, microfilm readers rarely print with the quality that we see on the screen. Some printers are better than others, but all in all, unless the film is very crisp and clear, the printed version of that image may not be of the best, most readable quality.
      The microfilm scanner software, on the other hand, captures the image almost exactly as you see it on the screen. If the filmed image is not the greatest, scanning gives you some more options. Once you have the image in the computer, you can see what it looks like and then manipulate brightness, contrast, and other parameters to make it more readable. Even if you only want a printed copy, this saves you the trouble of dropping another 25 cents each time you would have played with the darker/lighter button on a regular printer — and ultimately, you have more control and get a much better image. And you don’t even need a single coin (unless you are also printing it)!

      Of course, you also have the option to just save that image to a flash drive, and you have a permanent digital image that you can them edit using Photoshop or whatever other software you would normally use.

  3. avatar Jean says:

    Chris, are you saying that you saved jpg files with tif names? If that is the case, you could just rename them individually. It’d take longer, but not require an extra program. Of course you’d need to know that. ;)

  4. avatar Chris Staats says:

    Hi Jean,

    The scanning software (CapturePerfect) gave you the choice of file formats (tif, jpg, pdf, and a few others). I didn’t look at all of them, but with tif selected as the format, you had a choice of saving it with no compression or with jpg compression. Starting off, I was saving it without compression, but it took so long to process that I changed it to use the jpg compression (but it was still a tif file).

    I did try renaming the files to jpg, but it wouldn’t open them that way, either.

    In retrospect, I think I should have been scanning at a lower dpi (300 instead of 600) and saving as uncompressed tifs. (Side note: scanning at 600 dpi also required the reader to actually scan it twice. 300 dpi was done in one pass.)

    And an update about deed platting is forthcoming ;)

  5. Pingback: Staats Place » Blog Archive » Microfilm Image Comparison: Scanned vs. Printed -

  6. avatar GrannyPam says:

    Irfanview is my favorite batch conversion utility. It has saved me tons of time throughout the months I have used it. Please, anyone who tries it to convert files, save the results in a new folder. Certain errors choosing settingscan cause pain, don’t let this happen to you.