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Howto Digitise Gurbani Books

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Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa

Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh Guru Roop Sangat Jeo,

A few singhs have asked me to explain the method I use to scan Gurbani books. It is a fairly straightforward process; all you need is a digital camera with 5 megapixels or above resolution and a combination of freely available software. I do not use flatbed scanners to import pictures; somehow I do not find appropriate to turn Gurbani books upside down and then press them from top as one would normally do when scanning generic books. Digital camera, on the other hand, prevents this beadbi. It is just my opinion of course; the main thing is to give respect to Gurbani as much as we can.

Ok, so the first part is to take pictures of the book you want to digitise. There is nothing technical about the simple process I follow but, following steps can be helpful in taking good, crisp pictures:

1. First of all, make sure you have a nice Rumaalla or clean white cloth spread on the table/surface where the book is going to be when you take pictures.

2. Your digital camera should be able to take pictures of about 3072 x 1728 resolution. I find this resolution quite appropriate for my work.

3. Set your camera to Macro Mode; just look for an icon similar to this Macro-icon.jpg on your camera. This setting is important as it will help us to take crisp, sharp pictures of the text which otherwise will not be possible.

4. If your camera has a ‘grid’ option on the LCD screen, turn that on. The idea is to focus center of the page right in the middle of the reference grid.

5. It is always best to use natural lighting when taking pictures. But since that is not always possible, we can use a table lamp, but make sure that the light is not too powerful for the book and that it spreads out evenly on the whole page. I normally cover my table lamp with a thin piece of white paper to diffuse the light since the light is bit too bright otherwise. Avoid the use of camera flash. This is especially important for glossy, shiny pages as we are going to physically place the camera quite close to the page and it will end up flooding the center of the page with bright light which will ruin the output.

6. Place the book on the table in a direction you are comfortable with, and make sure you do not change it whilst flipping the pages. I normally use a ruler parallel to the book as a reference point so that the book can be place back to its original position in case it has to be moved for some reason.

7. We have to make sure our hands are steady when we click pictures otherwise output text will be blurry and difficult to read. So, hold the camera firmly with both hands and take your time to compose the shot. Also, do not forget to use the reference grid. These are simple things but sometimes hard to follow as patience starts running thin when digitising huge volumes of text!

8. Do a quick review after clicking a picture. If the text is blurry, underexposed, or the orientation is not right, then delete and retake the picture straightway. It will be very painful to redo the images after having transferred them onto the computer.

Most of the above tips are fairly simple but it is still good to keep them in mind when taking pictures!


I use Scan Tailor for post processing. It is a great little piece of software that helps to fix orientation, deskewing, trimming contents, etc. in batch mode and is farily easy to use as well. Still, follow the walkthrough below if you have any difficulties.

1. Click New project..


2. Import the images..


3. Set DPI to 300x300


4. Fix the orientation..


5. If you capture two pages in one image, use the split pages option although I find capturing one page at a time more accurate.

6. Keep following the other options, till you reach the Output option. Use 400x400 DPI for output resolution, colour for the cover page, black and white for the rest:


That’s it really. Once you are satisfied with the output, use PrimoPDF [http://www.primopdf.com] to join all the TIFF images into one PDF!

Sorry if this post hasn’t been of any help but whatever method you use please take some time out to digitise Gurbani books so that whole panth can benefit!

Bhull Chukk Di Maafi Jeo

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