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OmniPage Pro

Character Reference

OmniPage Pro a real time saver

Computer users have cause for great joy thanks to the constant improvement in Optical Character Recognition software.

OCR software is the missing link between your fax/modem or scanner, and your word processor or other application. OCR applications take the fax or scanned page, which are merely pictures of the original text, and turn them back into real text you can edit and save as a word processor (or whatever) file. That makes it more than worthwhile in this age of electronic communications because it turns a tedious task of re-typing into a relatively quick "spell check-and-edit" session.

Relatively quick, we say, not necessarily quick. But still better than endless retyping!

Caere’s OmniPage Pro (Windows 3.1, 95 and NT) is the Lexus of such programs, and version 8 is easier and better than ever.

But with OCR software generally bundled as a freebie with scanners and fax software, why would anyone in his right mind shell out for a standalone app like OmniPage Pro?

Simple. The "garden variety" OCR packages usually throw up their little electronic hands in confusion and disgust when faced with columns, tables, or pictures. In fact, it takes a pretty gutsy OCR app to handle anything more than straight text.

And OmniPage Pro 8 is, indeed, gutsy.

It’s not only powerful, it’s extremely easy to use and it does the job very well – under most circumstances. If your original looks like it was in Titanic’s safe beside Jack Dawson’s drawing of Rose, even OmniPage Pro won’t help, but that’s merely proof of the old "garbage in, garbage out" truism (if your original sucks, so will the OCR job). If you have a nice and crisp original, however, OmniPage does a remarkable job.

The easiest way to OCR stuff with OmniPage is to click the "AUTO" button and let the Wizard walk you through things (kind of "Wizard-WYG," to coin a new buzzword). Not only will its "True Page" feature automatically figure out a page’s layout, highlighting and recognizing all the text areas, it translates the original page layout very well and passes it through into the final application in which you’ll be using the text. In all, a most impressive performance.

We had some trouble with putting OCR’d tables into Word 97 and then into FrontPage, and ended up going through a copying-and-pasting routine that was tedious, to say the least, but which still beat the pants off typing the damn thing in again from scratch.

OmniPage even has its own spelling checker that lets you tidy things up nicely before passing the recognized pages to the destination application.

Unfortunately, Caere still hasn’t included a quick and easy way to OCR faxes from WinFax Pro – it works with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, which is fine, but we wish it would work with the fax software we use. The only way to do it is to save WinFax faxes as TIF files, then go at them with OmniPage, which is about two steps more than we want to go through.

Other than that, OmniPage Pro 8 works extremely well with scanned pages, and it comes set up to work with more scanners than you can shake a stick at.

OmniPage Pro 8 is admittedly pricey compared with the "free" versions, but it does so much more that it’s worth the price of admission – if you need this type of software.


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January 31, 2006