The optical scanner has an optical scanning head with LED light sources, focusing and receiving optics and a CCD detector array all mounted on a printed circuit board. This assembly, along with a storage buffer and a decoder is contained within a small housing which is attached on its lower side to a semi-glove which the user can wear on the back of his or her hand. The automatic sensing feature of the invention provides hands-free operation by automatically and periodically testing for the presence of a bar code in the scanner's field of view. If the presence of a bar code is detected, the scanner is placed in active mode. When the scanner is not in use, the scanner is powered down to conserve energy.