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.NET TWAIN image scanner

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12 May 2002Public Domain
Using TWAIN API to scan images

Sample Screenshot


In Windows imaging applications, the most used API for scanning is TWAIN Unfortunately, the new .NET Framework has no built-in support for TWAIN. So we have to work with the interop methods of .NET to access this API. This article doesn't explain this interop techniques, and good knowledge of the TWAIN 1.9 specifications is assumed! The sample code included doesn't present a finished library, only some essential steps for a minimal TWAIN adaption to .NET applications.


First step was to port the most important parts of TWAIN.H, these are found in TwainDefs.cs. The real logic for calling TWAIN is coded in the class Twain, in file TwainLib.cs.. As the TWAIN API is exposed by the Windows DLL, twain_32.dll, we have to use the .NET DllImport mechanism for interop with legacy code. This DLL has the central DSM_Entry(), ordinal #1 function exported as the entry point to TWAIN. This call has numerous parameters, and the last one is of variable type! It was found to be best if we declare multiple variants of the call like:

[DllImport("twain_32.dll", EntryPoint="#1")]
private static extern TwRC DSMparent(
    [In, Out] TwIdentity origin,
    IntPtr zeroptr,
    TwDG dg, TwDAT dat, TwMSG msg,
    ref IntPtr refptr );

The Twain class has a simple 5-step interface:

class Twain

For some sort of 'callbacks', TWAIN uses special Windows messages, and these must be caught from the application-message-loop. In .NET, the only way found was IMessageFilter.PreFilterMessage(), and this filter has to be activated with a call like Application.AddMessageFilter(). Within the filter method, we have to forward each message to Twain.PassMessage(), and we get a hint (enum TwainCommand) back for how we have to react.

Sample App

The sample is a Windows Forms MDI-style application. It has the two TWAIN-related menu items Select Source... and Acquire... Once an image is scanned in, we can save it to a file in any of the GDI+ supported file formats (BMP, GIF, TIFF, JPEG...)


All code was only tested on Windows 2000SP2, with an Epson Perfection USB scanner and an Olympus digital photo camera. The scanned picture is (by TWAIN spec) a Windows DIB, and the sample code has VERY little checking against error return codes and bitmap formats. Unfortunately, no direct method is available in .NET to convert a DIB to the managed Bitmap class... Some known problems may show up with color palettes and menus.

Note, TWAIN has it's root in 16-Bit Windows! For a more modern API supported on Windows ME/XP, have a look at Windows Image Acquisition (WIA).


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under A Public Domain dedication


About the Author

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralRe: How I can select the active scanner Pin
MuzzyB20-Jul-16 2:26
MemberMuzzyB20-Jul-16 2:26 
QuestionTwRC rc = DSMparent(appid, IntPtr.Zero, TwDG.Control, TwDAT.Parent, TwMSG.OpenDSM, ref hwndp); Pin
Salahov23-Jun-16 13:04
MemberSalahov23-Jun-16 13:04 
QuestionGetting this error.An attempt was made to load a program with an incorrect format. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x8007000B) Pin
Nishant28521-Mar-16 2:29
MemberNishant28521-Mar-16 2:29 
AnswerRe: Getting this error.An attempt was made to load a program with an incorrect format. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x8007000B) Pin
An0nym0us User31-Mar-16 11:46
MemberAn0nym0us User31-Mar-16 11:46 
QuestionVery Nice Work. Pin
vinod bagale24-Feb-16 0:36
Membervinod bagale24-Feb-16 0:36 
AnswerRe: Very Nice Work. Pin
Nishant28521-Mar-16 2:30
MemberNishant28521-Mar-16 2:30 
Questionhow to add multiple images in picturebox in 1 (one) form Pin
gunduzcagri20-Jan-16 4:16
Membergunduzcagri20-Jan-16 4:16 
AnswerRe: how to add multiple images in picturebox in 1 (one) form Pin
Julian Rodriguez19-Apr-17 10:35
MemberJulian Rodriguez19-Apr-17 10:35 
QuestionScanner hangs Pin
Helen Goussarova1-Dec-15 10:46
MemberHelen Goussarova1-Dec-15 10:46 
AnswerRe: Scanner hangs Pin
smile86913-Dec-15 4:33
Membersmile86913-Dec-15 4:33 
GeneralRe: Scanner hangs Pin
Helen Goussarova4-Dec-15 4:36
MemberHelen Goussarova4-Dec-15 4:36 
QuestionSet Scanner settings Pin
Member 120525027-Nov-15 14:40
MemberMember 120525027-Nov-15 14:40 
AnswerRe: Set Scanner settings Pin
Member 1314204720-Apr-17 17:14
MemberMember 1314204720-Apr-17 17:14 
QuestionBadImageFormatException was unhandled Pin
m.tahsildari31-Aug-15 22:35
Memberm.tahsildari31-Aug-15 22:35 
AnswerRe: BadImageFormatException was unhandled Pin
icode_chan1-Sep-15 21:46
Membericode_chan1-Sep-15 21:46 
QuestionScanner Pin
Member 1186511026-Jul-15 20:51
MemberMember 1186511026-Jul-15 20:51 
ca04506519-Jul-15 18:00
Memberca04506519-Jul-15 18:00 
QuestionDsiable Feed Pin
Member 1029469617-Jun-15 0:26
MemberMember 1029469617-Jun-15 0:26 
QuestionScanner gets stuck "Scanning" Pin
eqiz16-Jun-15 13:55
Membereqiz16-Jun-15 13:55 
AnswerRe: Scanner gets stuck "Scanning" Pin
eqiz17-Jun-15 11:10
Membereqiz17-Jun-15 11:10 
QuestionHow to zoom? Pin
Member 116384986-Jun-15 21:40
MemberMember 116384986-Jun-15 21:40 
QuestionProblem with .net framework 4.5 Pin
AllenLai27-May-15 10:07
MemberAllenLai27-May-15 10:07 
AnswerRe: Problem with .net framework 4.5 Pin
ca04506519-Jul-15 16:16
Memberca04506519-Jul-15 16:16 
AnswerRe: Problem with .net framework 4.5 Pin
Member 772833216-Aug-15 15:32
MemberMember 772833216-Aug-15 15:32 
GeneralRe: Problem with .net framework 4.5 Pin
smile86913-Dec-15 7:54
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Posted 16 Sep 2001


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