Worth 1000 Words

April 1st, 2004 APC, Software, Tech

Scansoft Omnipage Pro 14 offers the most precise solution in an imperfect world.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is one of those funny technologies … a fantastic idea but not half as useful as you think it’s going to be, a bit like digital TV or Matrix sequels.

From a legal standpoint, you probably shouldn’t be copying anything you don’t have electronic access to, and if you have all rights of access to it, somewhere along the line you’d probably be able to get it in digital format anyway.

However, if the publishers of OCR software are to be believed, it’ll save you countless hours (and therefore money) replicating documents into editable versions at the click of a mouse. By all accounts, Scansoft is the undisputed leader with Omnipage. Now in it’s 14th iteration, it’s proof enough of how hard Scansoft have worked to improve their product in a field where the results are so hit and miss.

Omnipage Pro 14 is well thought out as a self-contained, system-wide OCR solution. It works with your scanner and other software so you hardly need to leave the application to make it work, even to input data. It even installs plug-ins in other applications of your choosing which grab data and bring it back to Omnipage to work on.

Importing directly from the scan or an image file, it works by making an educated guess about the elements of a page you’ll want to keep and what format you want them in — be they graphics, tables or plain text.

The theory is that it can recreate the page for export to any number of formats (including all Microsoft Office files), in the same layout as the original if desired. The practice is that (despite doing the best possible job of OCR — reputedly the best in the field) it can only make so much of a smudged scan or text running in weird directions.

What will make Omnipage Pro worth the money if you really need OCR capability is that it’s not just a vanilla-flavoured productivity tool. Scansoft have crammed it full of useful extra features to make a thankless job easier. Tackle repetitive conversions by designing a batch workflow for them — they can even include emailing your output. The program can also watch ‘hot’ folders the way Adobe Acrobat does, and it has full speech capability in up to seven languages.

Omnipage Pro is the winner in a very imprecise race.

Verdict ””

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