OCR gets paper into the digital workflow
The follow-up version to ScanSoft Inc.'s TextBridge Pro 9.0 Business Edition
was expected to boost accuracy, maintain page formatting better and close
in on the fine capabilities of its closest competitor, Caere Corp.'s OmniPage
10 [see review,
FCW, Nov. 1, 1999].
Since that evaluation, the optical character recognition landscape has changed
considerably. Notably, ScanSoft Inc. acquired Caere Corp. this year, leaving
the resulting company with two complementary products:
* OmniPage appeals to agencies that need to precisely maintain the format
of original pages and perform ancillary asks, such as making fill-in forms.
* The new TextBridge Pro Millennium Business Edition has been refitted to
better handle large-scale conversion of documents while providing decent
As with past versions, the Millennium Business Edition is appropriate for
novice and expert users. The uncluttered interface puts all the major functions
within a single mouse click: scanning pages, recognizing content and saving
the converted material in multiple digital formats.
Still, there are many functional improvements and performance updates that
would justify an upgrade or a new purchase. For example, improved memory
management lets users specify a temporary disk file to stage pages while
awaiting recognition, a feature that enables users to process documents
containing a few hundred pages without having to start and stop several
times. You can also schedule the processing of very large jobs to occur
at off hours.
Also, it's easy to manipulate scanned pages using the thumbnail pane. Using
the pane, you can select a page image and change zones (areas that are recognized),
and rearrange the processing order of pages. You can even scan side-by-side
pages of a book at the same time, yet recognize them as two separate pages.
Previously, scanning could be invoked from your word processor. Now, a new
Instant Access feature works with Microsoft Corp.'s FrontPage 2000 HTML
Web editor and Print Shop ProPublisher 2000, plus most Windows text programs.
It saves time, for example, having converted text automatically appear in
a Web page while using FrontPage.
Our various accuracy measurements (which include recognition errors per
page and format retention) still put TextBridge Pro slightly behind OmniPage
10, but not by much. Credit several Millennium Edition internal enhancements
for the better showing. For instance, the algorithm to recognize tables
was redone, so there weren't as many misplaced cells or stray lines as before.
Moreover, you can quickly edit the entire recognized table or individual
cells from within TextBridge.
TextBridge Pro's recognition engine borrows a few tricks from OmniPage,
which should interest any agency working internationally. In all, 56 languages
are accepted. The software also understands multiple languages on the same
page if they belong to the same language group.
Document recomposition, which means that the original page layout is maintained,
has improved, although it's still not as good as OmniPage Pro 10. When I
saved documents in Microsoft Word format, TextBridge reproduced multiple
columns and generally kept color pictures in the same location as the original.
However, type size and style was misread several times even when scanning
high-quality original documents.
That said, TextBridge's conversion of documents to Adobe Systems Inc.'s
Acrobat format is one of the best we've seen. Version 9.0 did an excellent
job of saving recognized pages as Portable Document Format files, and this
update is even better. The Millennium Edition compressed files up to 27
percent smaller than Version 9.0 did, and the quality of images was noticeably
improved. This ability to efficiently convert large amounts of pa-per into
PDF formats should be especially advantageous to government entities.
Overall, we'd recommend TextBridge Pro Millennium Business Edition for general
government use. Although it's not the most accurate converting certain complex
documents, the PDF output is among the best.
Mike Heck is an InfoWorld contributing editor
and manager of electronic promotions at Unisys Corp. in Blue Bell, Pa.