In the leapfrog game of professional optical character recognition (OCR) packages, ScanSoft jumps ahead of the competition with OmniPage Pro 14.0 Office. Recognition accuracy and page-format retention are incrementally improved over its predecessor, but OmniPage Pro 14.0 Office's support features show the largest improvement. Anyone with batch and repetitive scanning tasks will appreciate OmniPage's Batch Manager and work flows, which streamline procedures. Bar-code cover sheets for hard-copy and electronic documents can automatically signal OmniPage to launch a specified work flow and send you an e-mail message when the job is finished. Other enhancements include expanded PDF support and better text-to-speech for voice read-back. You can even use speech recognition to control work flows or make proofreading corrections. And in spite of all these additions, OmniPage remains easy to use.
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.
The OmniPage user interface makes it easy to acquire documents and convert them to editable text documents in a variety of formats.
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. 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.
The Workflow Assistant guides you through the process of creating a work flow, which allows you to automate repeated OCR tasks.
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.