Document conversion II: ZyImage adds choice
- By Patrick Marshall
- Apr 10, 2000
ZyLab International Inc.'s ZyImage doesn't have the management tools and
extensive scalability of Adobe Systems Inc.'s Adobe Capture (see Page 38),
but it does deliver a very solid set of tools for converting documents — both scanned and electronic — into searchable text databases. What's more,
the product's search and retrieval tools are very powerful and lightning
Unlike Acrobat Capture, ZyImage is constructed from the bottom up as a modular
program with three major applications: scanning, indexing and searching.
The first of these modules, ZyScan, includes utilities for scanning documents,
importing existing files, assigning data fields (such as author, date, department,
etc.), and recognizing the text in documents.
The optical character recognition process is pretty much hands-off, and
we found the program does a generally good job of recognizing text. It lacks
some features that other OCR engines have, such as a spell checker and the
ability to select which areas of a document are read. Basically, you're
pretty much stuck with whatever results the OCR engine produces. But since
ZyImage retrieves the actual image of documents rather than the text interpreted
by the OCR engine, this is not critical for most users because they can
view the original.
One advantage ZyImage has over Capture for those building electronic
databases is that, in addition to scanned images, the program can handle
more than 250 electronic file formats, including all the major word processing
formats and several spreadsheet and database formats.
The second of ZyImage's modules, ZyIndex, is, as the name implies, the indexing
engine that compiles the text files in the recognized documents into searchable
catalogs of terms. This module also includes utilities for scheduling and
configuring index update and maintenance chores and for publishing to CD-ROM
and the World Wide Web.
The real heart and soul of ZyImage is in the third module, ZyFind. ZyFind,
like the other modules, presents a sparse, no-nonsense interface to users.
But it also offers extensive search and retrieval tools. You can perform
simple character-string searches, complex Boolean searches, proximity searches,
progressive searches and "fuzzy" searches that will search for terms similar
to the one you've entered. Once you've launched your search, it's generally
only a fraction of a second until ZyFind delivers a list of documents that
Like Acrobat Capture, ZyImage allows users to view documents with their
original formatting and graphics intact. While Capture accomplishes this
through converting everything to Acrobat's Portable Document Format, ZyImage
employs a different strategy. After ZyOCR is used to recognize the text
in a scanned file, Zy- Image stores both the scanned image of the document
and the recognized text. When you search for a term, ZyImage locates all
matches in its indexes and then offers the scanned images of the appropriate
pages and uses pointers to highlight the hits on the page.
One of the ZyImage features that makes it especially pertinent to the
kind of heavy use expected in many departments and agencies is its job templates.
The ZyScan module includes a wizard that makes it easy to create or
edit templates to include any steps — from scanning to importing, from OCR
to exporting — as automatic or manually launched operations. And by purchasing
multiple workstation licenses, you can distribute the work of scanning,
recognizing and indexing among multiple users, though not with the granularity
of Capture. While ZyImage does provide a job manager that shows what steps
have been completed for each job, it doesn't actually deliver the work to
the appropriate workstations nor does it report on the current location
of the various pieces of a workflow.
Finally, ZyImage includes a slick ZyAlert feature that will automatically
scan incoming documents for matches to search arguments. ZyImage will automatically
send all retrieved documents directly to specified e-mail accounts.
ZyImage is a complex and powerful product. We didn't find it as easy
to set up and configure as Acrobat Capture, nor does ZyImage provide the
scalability and flexibility in distributed processing that you'll find in
the Adobe product. But ZyImage does offer more options for document input
and output, and ZyImage's search tools and speed can't be beat.