OmniPage Pro 14.0 Office
Installing and configuring OmniPage Pro 14.0 is straightforward: insert the CD, and it runs automatically, presenting a standard menu. There are a few choices to make, and the program installs quickly.
You'll find the same clean interface in OmniPage Pro 14.0 Office as in recent versions. Below the menu and toolbar lines are four buttons with drop-down lists. These provide step-by-step or one-button control of the image capture and conversion process. You can choose to scan or use an existing file as the source. In addition to accepting a wide range of graphics file formats as the source, including TIFF, JPEG, and BMP, OmniPage also reads Adobe Acrobat PDF files, making it easy to extract text from a PDF document. If you choose to scan, OmniPage launches a scanner wizard the first time to identify your scanner and test its capabilities. This greatly simplifies configuring your hardware to use with the program.
Once configuration is complete, the next step is to recognize the text in the document. OmniPage automatically identifies the different text, graphics, and table regions of documents and converts them to text as appropriate. In our tests, the program did a good job identifying regions as text, graphics, or tables, but you can also override the choices. It's extremely easy to select areas and define their type of content. For example, if OmniPage identifies the text within a graphic as text, you can instruct it to let it remain a graphic.
The final step is to save the converted document, and you can send the results to the clipboard, to e-mail, or to a file. The program supports a wide range of file formats, including Microsoft Word 2003 XML and most other Word formats, as well as five different types of PDF.
ScanSoft packs a number of new and enhanced features into OmniPage Pro 14.0 Office, each one valuable to the document conversion process. We tested OmniPage with various documents, and the recognition accuracy and formatting retention were noticeably better than those of its predecessor as well as those of Abbyy FineReader 7.0. In particular, a magazine page with two columns of text mortised around a circular image came out well in Word format and was nearly identical to the original. This was clearly better than the results obtained with FineReader.
Perhaps more important than accuracy are some of OmniPage's new features. Not only is its text-to-speech feature (for voice read-back) much improved, you can now use it to generate WAV files that you can record to an audio CD for later playback. It's like having your own electronic assistant to read aloud the latest sales report or research during your morning drive.
You can even use speech recognition to launch saved work flows. In the proofreading window, for example, you can say "Ignore" or "Change" to accept suggested changes. Unfortunately, the speech recognition was a little unreliable on one of our test systems, and it had a hard time recognizing our commands. The good news is that OmniPage provides automatic support for both Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Microsoft Office 2003 speech-input features, so you can use those apps to command OmniPage. We tested it with Office's speech recognition, and it worked well.
OmniPage also sports new features designed to streamline large and repetitive OCR tasks. You can define custom work flows that will handle everything from finding an image file in a specific folder to e-mailing a converted document to a coworker. A new bar-code cover page feature lets you trigger a specific work-flow sequence automatically. All you have to do is place the printed bar-code page on top of the documents to be scanned, and OmniPage launches a predefined work-flow for the set of documents.
The package also includes ScanSoft's separate PDF Converter for Microsoft Word, which you can access directly from within Microsoft Office applications to convert PDFs into Word format.
The program's documentation--both in print and on disk--is generally lucid, with detailed illustrations and clear instructions. There are some holes, however, such as the lack of information about support for Office 2003 speech recognition.
Luckily, the company Web site makes it easy to check for program updates and search the support knowledge base. The site also provides lists of supported scanners and copies of the documentation available for download, and there are customer forums where users post messages about problems and solutions (though ScanSoft representatives do not participate).
Technical support from a live person is a bit harder to get. You get one free call (although the call is not toll-free) when you purchase the product, but after that, ScanSoft charges $19.95 per incident for phone support and $9.95 per incident for e-mail support.