What Is a TWAIN Driver?


A TWAIN driver is software that gives graphics-editing programs the ability to communicate directly with imaging hardware. The TWAIN driver translates commands coming from the software into instructions the hardware can understand and converts data from the hardware into a format that the application software can use.

How Digital Imaging Devices Work

  • Digital imaging devices work by collecting reflected light from a photograph, document or scene and converting it into digital data. The TWAIN driver provides the interface between the imaging device and the image-processing software. Software manufacturers cannot predict the kind of imaging device that might be used or the kind of controls the device manufacturers include in their products, so they don't write code to communicate with every scanner and imaging device. TWAIN drivers are designed to bridge the communication gap between the digital imaging hardware and the application software, so the tools can work together.

Where TWAIN Drivers Fit

  • TWAIN drivers eliminate the need to use a second application to operate a scanner or other imaging device. TWAIN drivers are written by software professionals and regulated by the not-for-profit TWAIN Working Group, whose stated objectives include the develop and promotion of a standard for the imaging industry. Imaging hardware manufacturers provide installation software for their products, and to ensure TWAIN compatibility, they must include an appropriate TWAIN driver.

Finding TWAIN Drivers

  • TWAIN drivers for most products can be located at the manufacturers' websites. The TWAIN Working Group website provides a list of TWAIN drivers for many manufacturers and products. When searching for drivers, include the product model number and manufacturer name in your search term to locate a compatible driver.

What Does TWAIN Stand For?

  • TWAIN is a software standard -- not an acronym. According to the TWAIN Working Group, the name comes from the phrase “and never the twain shall meet," which appears in Rudyard Kipling's “The Ballad of East and West." Because people assumed TWAIN was an acronym, a contest was held to assign a phrase to it. No winner was chosen, but one of the entries -- "Technology Without An Interesting Name" is occasionally used.


  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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