Decapod FAQ

General Questions

What is Decapod?

Decapod is an open source project focused on building a low-cost digitization solution that will allow for rare materials, materials held in collections without large budgets, and other scholarly content to be digitized into a high-quality PDF format. This project will work to incorporate the hardware and software necessary to accomplish this goal.


  • Low cost and low barrier to entry (minimal training required)
  • Completely Open Source
  • For digitizing small to medium sized books
  • Built from "off-the-shelf" components available at most retailers

When will the next version of Decapod be available?

Decapod v0.7 will be available end of November 2012 and will feature:

  • Stereo 3D capture and dewarping of book surfaces
  • PDF export with options for OCR text, font generation, and content tracing.
  • Export to other image formats: PNG and TIFF.

How do I get the current release? What are its features?

Decapod 0.7 is the current release.

Features include:

  • Importing of JPEG, PNG, and TIFF images of any size.
  • Export to:
    • basic image PDF
    • PDF with OCR text.
    • PDF with computer traced content.
    • PDF with matched True Type font.
  • Tethered camera capture
  • Stereo 3D dewarping and calibration

Will Decapod be a package I can buy?

This project itself will not be producing a pre-assembled purchasable package. Instead the Decapod software will be freely downloadable and the compliant hardware components readily available at retail stores. This way you can also assemble your own solution depending on your requirements and budget.

To learn more about the equipment required by Decapod, see the Decapod Stereo 3D Equipment Guide wiki page.

Also we do not make any restrictions on the commercialization of the project, so another party may choose to resell a Decapod based product.

How do I get involved in the Decapod Project?

We welcome involvement by groups or individuals from the community! Please join the Decapod Google Group and introduce yourself. We are an open community thrilled to have anyone interested join us or just listen in on our mailing lists.

Digitization of Materials

Will Decapod handle hand-written materials?

Hand written materials is difficult to OCR due to the variability in written text. Hence for hand written materials, it is recommended to use an image-based format and manually transcribe the content.

Will Decapod OCR and font generation work in my language?

Decapod's OCR and font generation functionality is designed to work with Latin based text (i.e. English, French, German). OCR and font generation will not support languages which use non-Latin script such as Chinese, Arabic at this time. For non-Latin languages, Decapod can still be used to generate image-based output, but any option to process the text content will give unpredictable results.

How are gatefold pages, or large / oversized books handled?

In following with the spirit of the project grant, the project will only deal with small to medium-sized material. Thus if gatefolds are encountered, they should be omitted and noted, or be captured as multiple separate images. Along this line, Decapod will not be dealing with large books at this time.

How does Decapod handle colour diagrams, photos, maps, etc.?

Depending on the export formats and options chosen, Decapod will preserve the colour of the original content. However, certain options can only be output as black and white such as font-generated or traced PDF, thus photos or diagrams may not be preserved.

Are there plans to capture 3D objects?

There has been a lot of interest in capturing three-dimensional objects into a digital form. To start, Decapod will not be addressing this use case but we do acknowledge its immense application.

If this is a priority for your institution, then we welcome participation in extending Decapod as the project proceeds.

Technical Questions

Will a netbook be capable of running Decapod? What are the system requirements?

Decapod's calibration and dewarping process require sufficient resources to perform well. The current recommended system for Decapod consists of:

  • A 8-core processor such as Intel Core i7 or better
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 200GB of disk space
  • Minimum 2 USB ports for capture with two cameras
  • Capable of running Ubuntu 12.04 64bit and Firefox

What are the technical requirements for the cameras?

Decapod requires two identical cameras, mounted on a tripod, and connected via USB cables to the system. Decapod will require control of the two cameras, and in our testing we have found that not every brand and model is suitable.

For more information about the cameras required for Decapod, please see the Decapod Stereo 3D Equipment Guide.

Do I need additional lighting?

Lighting is very critical to achieving good results with Decapod. If there is sufficient ambient light, then additional lighting is not required to use Decapod. However, in some situations users may want to employ flashes, diffusers, or other lighting to improve results.

Project Coordination

Who is currently involved in the Decapod Project?

  • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation:
    The Fluid Decapod Project is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • Image Understanding and Pattern Recognition, Technical University of Kaiserslautern:
    Development of Decapod's imaging components which includes: digitization, document analysis, character recognition, and formatted output.
  • Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University:
    Design and development of the Decapod user interface components and interactions.
  • JSTOR:
    Member of the Steering Committee. Involved in community outreach, usability and user testing.


For general inquiries, please post to the Decapod Google Group.

Getting Involved and Getting Oriented

The following section is intended to help community members get up and running with working on the Decapod project.

Getting Started

If you're new to Decapod, a good place to start is to read the executive overview of the Decapod grant document.

Once you're ready, you can dive into:


  • Majority of Decapod's documentation is published in this wiki. Sign up for an account so you can comment, edit, and add content to the Decapod wiki.
  • The wiki is version controlled, so don't be afraid of messing up existing work, or knowing where everything goes.
  • This Wiki guide will help you with formatting text on the wiki.

Communication and Meetings

Decapod is a distributed project with members across the globe (Germany, Bulgaria, USA, and Canada), so we use a cocktail of different technologies to keep in touch across locations.

  • Skype - for voice chat and one-on-one video conferences. Excellent quality, but lacks ease of setting up ad-hoc meetings.
  • Decapod Google Group - a mailing list used to discuss general topics.

There are regularly scheduled meetings:

  • Decapod full team status meetings (currently on Tuesday, 12pm ET)