I have long insisted that scanners had to be tethered to a computer because it wasn’t feasible to control a scanner across a network.

That began to be eroded by the floor-standing copiers that could scan sheet-fed documents at the speed of light and deposit PDFs onto a server, into a folder on a workstation, or into a hard drive built into the copier. I saw an Imagistics copier recently that had reworked its control panel to make it easy to stand at the copier and send PDF files flying all over.

Today I set up an HP OfficeJet 7410 all-in-one printer that was plugged into the network with a single Cat 5 cable. The HP software performed as advertised – it found the printer and installed drivers so each workstation can initiate a scan and either save the scan directly into a file, or dump it into a program – Acrobat to create a PDF, or an image program to create a JPG, for example. I didn’t get to test it, but with luck Acrobat 8 Professional can take over the scanning process and bypass the HP software completely.

A few years ago I worked with software intended to scan across a network that failed miserably, but it looks like that’s old news. I can’t vouch for the printer – I still don’t like HP’s all-in-one software (confusing and misleading choices during installation, too many services running on the computer), and some of the reviews are critical of print quality and slow scanning speeds. Technically, though, this was a pretty impressive installation.