Thursday, February 7, 2008

Paper, Paper, Everywhere As Far As The Eye Can See

The person who said the advent of computers will lead to a paperless office also subscribed to the "three big lies" school of thought. Those lies are -

1. This won't hurt a bit.
2. The check is in the mail and

3. I'm from the computer help desk and I'm here to help you.

Its just so easy to just click on the print command that everyone becomes a click-happy paper-producing fiend.

If only we can accurately scan our printed documents and convert the scans into editable, searchable digital files. Well, wait no more. Omnipage Pro 16 allows the user to scan a printed document and accurately convert it into an editable MS Word document. Nuance (formerly known as Scansoft) has become the leader in the OCR (optical character recognition ) field. Its two leading products - Omnipage Pro and Paperport, a document management program. I had last worked with Omnipage about four or five versions ago. As good as the prior versions were; the current Omnipage version had significant improvements in character recognition and speed.

When initially started the program prompts the user for the preferred program interface: Classic (similar to prior versions), Flexible (tabbed, overlapping windows for advanced users), and Quick Convert (a quick and simple-to-use single screen designed for novice users and those in a rush to convert a document). The program can accept input from a scanner, file or digital camera image.

I needed to quickly convert a printed document into Word file. So, after a quick installation (click, next, click, next, click, next .... about as exciting as watching grass grow); I selected the Quick Convert interface as time was limited. A single printed page was scanned in from a networked HP Officejet L7680. The scan was quite quick and the resulting accuracy was remarkable. What assisted the conversion was Omnipage's direct support of Word 2007 and its improved graphics capabilities. The formatting of the document's text boxes and a table was correctly translated. It only took about five minutes from invoking the program to looking at the same document on-screen in Microsoft Word.

An accompanying program, PDF Create4, allows for the file to be saved in an Adobe Acrobat pdf file. Another accompanying program, PaperPort Standard 11, serves in the role of document manager. PaperPort allows for the organization of documents on your computer, scanned or otherwise. It will index these documents and allow for search retrievals. Paperport creates a toolbar that links to external programs. This allows the user to drag and drop a scanned image on links for email, printing, faxing, etc.

The speed and accuracy of Omnipage's OCR, along with its rich set of features makes it a very appealing program. The program typically sells for $450 - $500.

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