Caere OmniPage Pro 10

"New OCR Engine & New Simplified Interface
Increases OCR Accuracy"

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coverCaere's OmniPage Pro 10, the latest version of their OCR (optical character recognition) program is a worthy upgrade with its new OCR engine that combines the strengths of three OCR applications to give you more accuracy. The program also has a new streamlined user-friendly interface. Accuracy has also been improved due to OmniPage's new method of recognition, as it now combines the zoning (recognizing sections of text and graphics on a page) with the recognition process (converting what it sees into editable text or graphics). The program also incorporates an improved font matching scheme. Font matching takes into account font metrics such as character aspect ratio, as well as the look of characters and the spacing of text lines so the program can more closely match the formal integrity of the original document. There is a new scanner troubleshooting wizard to aid you with problems, and the program has a new voice read-back feature that reads your OCR text aloud.

Familiar Features: OmniPage Pro 10 still retains the familiar features that you have come to depend on from the product: double-sided recognition which allows you to scan a stack of double-sided pages; the ability to schedule a time to automatically OCR documents; multithreading Schedule OCRcapability which lets you perform more than one task at a time; character-based OCR training which allows you to train OmniPage Pro for better recognition of special characters; support for over 100 flatbed and edge-fed black and white, grayscale, and color scanners; tight integration with Microsoft Word; support for multiple languages, even on a single page; retention of original page layout, including columns, tables, headlines, color graphics and type styles; and preservation of tables and spreadsheets.

Bundled Software: OmniPage Pro 9.0 included a free copy of Caere's PageKeeper Standard document management software to easily organize and retrieve scanned and electronic documents. But OmniPage Pro l0 instead includes OmniPage Web, Personal Edition, which is a streamlined version of Caere's new software, OmniPage Web 1.0, which automatically converts long paper documents into intelligently structured, completely hyperlinked Web sites. There is a low-cost upgrade option from the Personal Edition to OmniPage Web 1.0, which is a more robust program, for $149. And for those of you who want PageKeeper, it can still be purchased separately for $39 for the Standard version and $49 for the Pro version.

Price and Platforms: OmniPage Pro comes in a version for both the PC and the Macintosh (OmniPage Pro 8.0 for Mac version). Price: $499 and $99 to owners of any OCR product including versions such as the lite or limited editions bundled with most flatbed, edge-fed or multifunction scanners.

OmniPage Wizard: Caere also makes OmniPage Wizard, a wizard-based OCR application, which is similar to OmniPage Pro, but has less robust features. OmniPage Wizard has a highly graphical interface and walks users easily through the OCR process. It asks users simple questions about the documents they want to scan and what they want to do with those scanned documents. The user answers each question before OmniPage Wizard takes over to automatically convert the scanned pages. OmniPage Wizard is perfect for scanner owners who want higher levels of OCR accuracy and page format preservation capabilities than the "limited edition" OCR bundled with their scanner, and extreme ease of use, but not the superior OCR accuracy and advanced OCR features found in OmniPage Pro. Price: $49.00. See the Caere Web site for more information on additional products:

Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced users. The program is great for just about anyone. With its new interface, it is even more intuitive and easy to use and appropriate for novices. The OCR Wizard makes the process a no-brainer. Yet the robust features would appeal to Intermediate and Advanced users.

OmniPage Pro 10 includes a number of new and enhanced features that make OCR more accurate, more robust and easier to use. Below is a list of these improvements. This review will focus on the new and enhanced features of OmniPage Pro 10. For those readers not familiar with the program, please see our review of OmniPage Pro 9.0 for a general overview.

  • New OCR Engine--Includes a new recognition engine that combines the OCR technologies from three OCR applications: OmniPage Pro, WordScan Plus and Recognita Plus, thus increasing OCR accuracy.Voice Read-Back
  • Voice Read-Back--Features the ability to read OCR results back to you out loud. (See image to the right.)
  • OmniPage Web Personal Edition Included--Includes a personal edition of OmniPage Web, Caere's Web publishing software that converts multi-page documents to well-designed, fully hyper-linked Web sites.
  • New Simplified User Interface--Has a streamlined user interface that makes the OCR process more intuitive and straightforward.
  • Improved Font Rendering--Introduces a new font matching scheme which improves font rendering of OCR results.
  • Improved De-skew Technology--New de-skew technology minimizes distortion of the document image which often occurs during the straightening process, thereby improving OCR accuracy.
  • Improved Anypage Technology--Enchanced Anypage technology improves the recognition accuracy of color and grayscale document scans by more accurately converting them to black and white for processing.
  • New Caere Scan Troubleshooter--Includes a scanner-troubleshooting wizard to assist usersProofreader in resolving scanning problems.
  • Improved OCR Proofreader--Improved OCR Proofreader now includes five levels of zoom (as compared to three in previous versions).
  • Auto-launch of Native Applications--Allows users to automatically launch the applications to which their documents are being exported, including Microsoft Word and Excel.
  • Combined OCR/Zone Process--Now combines the processes of zoning and recognition into a single step, which enables OmniPage Pro to incorporate information obtained from the recognition process into the zoning process.
  • Assisted Zoning--Now enables users to zone part of a document manually and then let OmniPage Pro find the rest of the zones.
  • Ignore Zones--Allows users to indicate when they want a zone to be ignored during the recognition process so the zoned area will not appear in the final output.
  • Image View Toolbar--This toolbar is now located in the Image View window and is dock-able anywhere on the interface.
  • More Document View Options--Allows users to see the image and text views of their documents either horizontally (image above text or vice versa) or vertically (image and text side by side).
  • New Table Editing within OmniPage Pro--New Table Editing Window can be accessed with a double click on a recognized table in the Text View, allowing users to edit table contents (words and numbers) before exporting the document to a text-based file.
  • Accuracy and Speed Flexibility--Provides a new Accuracy/Speed Slider, which gives users the flexibility to select the best setting for their OCR projects based on their accuracy and speed needs.
  • Automatic Internal Scanning Microsoft Windows 2000 Certified--Meets Microsoft's requirements for Windows 2000 certification.

Installation: The installation process is quick and easy. The Caere Scan Manager is installed during the process, and the user is prompted to select a scanner manufacturer and model in the Scan manager so that they can use their scanner with OmniPage Pro. The User Guide advises you to uninstall any previous versions of OmniPage Pro.

Manuals and Help: There are two very thorough manuals: (1) a User Guide for OmniPage Pro, 63 pages; (2) a User Guide for OmniPage Web PE, 88 pages. In addition to using the manuals, you can use OmniPage Pro's online Help topics to learn about features, settings, and procedures. There is also context-sensitive help.

Interface: Even though the interface has been streamlined in OmniPage Pro 10, it is still intuitive and and easy to use. OmniPage Pro's desktop displays the pages of an open document in its Interfacethumbnail viewer, image viewer, and text viewer. The thumbnail viewer displays a picture of each page in the document. The image viewer displays the current page's original image. The text viewer displays the current page's recognized text and retained graphics. You can drag the splitter between the viewers to resize them. All three viewers can be turned on or off; you can see the image and text views of documents either horizontally or vertically; or you can swap the image and text views. The image view toolbar, now located in the image view window, floats anywhere on the interface, and docks within the image window. Additionally, all tools needed for editing the document image now reside on this toolbar, including the new zoom button, as well as the relocated rotate and straighten buttons. These enhancements make the zoning process much easier.

Methods of OCR Processing and Toolbars: OmniPage Pro provides an interface which changes to address the user's preferred processing preferences and level of use--from novice to professional. You select one of three OCR processing options from OmniPage Pro's OCR Toolbox: Auto, Manual and Wizard. And, depending on which you choose, the program will provide the corresponding toolbar to initiate OCR.

  1. One Button OCR Processing: The AutoOCR Toolbar allows you to preset your OCR Auto OCRpreferences (original document layout, level of format retention, save options). The settings in "auto" mode can be easily changed using drop-down menus or by using the options dialog box. This mode is best for users who are regularly recognizing similar types of documents and do not want to spend extra time modifying OCR options.

  2. Manual OCR: In Manual Mode, you have the most control over OCR options. The toolbar offers easily-accessible drop-down menus to select page layout, format retention, etc. This Manual OCR mode enables users complete control over OCR. Settings can be selected or changed at any point in the OCR process. This enables users to check results and make adjustments as needed along the way to yield the best possible results. Users have easy access to the Options dialog box directly from the toolbar to customize settings.

  3. Wizard: The Wizard toolbox activates OmniPage Pro's OCR Wizard. This tool interactively guides the user through the OCR process by prompting users with simple questions. In addition, the Wizard serves as a learning tool for how to use OmniPage Pro without help in the future by providing a type of tutorial in each option panel.

New OCR Engine: The three OCR products: OmniPage Pro, WordScan Plus, and Recognita Plus, offer complementary recognition strengths that when brought together provide a significant increase in accuracy. Also, OmniPage Pro 10 incorporates additional dictionaries that increase accuracy especially on compound and non-English words. I tested OmniPage Pro with a variety of different page formats: text pages, spreadsheets, tables, and columns. I used different quality pages (faxes, multiple generation photocopies and documents with shaded or colored backgrounds, and reversed-out text). The program performed well in all instances, and the improved accuracy was evident. Colored text scanned in, but it came in as black text. It is also helpful to play with the layout options such as Single Column, Multiple Column, Mixed Page, or Spreadsheet to see what gives you the best accuracy for your data. OmniPage Pro retained my original page layouts when I selected that option; also it identified multiple languages on a page; and its handling of color graphics was excellent.

Accuracy/Speed Slider: OmniPage Pro 10 also increases OCR accuracy by providing you withAccuracy/Speed Slider the Accuracy/Speed Slider. It gives you the flexibility to select the best setting for your OCR projects based on your accuracy and speed needs. This slider lets you determine if you want OmniPage Pro to function at its most accurate level or at its fastest.

Improved De-Skew Capability: This de-skew capability allows OmniPage Pro to automatically straighten the image of documents skewed (or crooked) up to 10 degrees before recognition occurs, thereby improving accuracy. This version's enhanced de-skew technology minimizes distortion of the document image which often occurs during the straightening process. Also, for users who want to disable automatic straightening, OmniPage Pro includes a manual Straighten Page option that can be used to de-skew specific pages. This is particularly import to users of sheet-fed scanners and those using automatic document feeders. This improved feature worked well. I couldn't figure out why I kept getting a straightened page when I was putting in the page crooked for testing. I finally figured out that I had the automatic straighten page option turned on.

Improved Font Rendering: This new technology improves font rendering in OCR results. Unlike font mapping, which was used in previous versions of OmniPage Pro, font matching takes into Font Renderingaccount font metrics such as the aspect ration of characters, as well as the look of characters and spacing of text lines. This allows the length, width and over-all column format to more closely match that of the original document. I especially appreciated this improvement as I am always scanning in text formatted with obscure fonts.

Table Editing: With each version, OmniPage Pro gets better in its handling of tables. It is not perfect, but probably tables are one of the most problematic items for OCR. The program does Table Editingwell in detecting tables on scanned pages and preserving the structure and layout of rows and columns. The new tools to modify tables in the image view--before recognition--are an excellent addition. These new table tools make it easy to move, add or remove column and row dividers. Modifications once the data is saved as a table object in the word processor require substantially more effort.

Zones: OmniPage Pro gives you more zoning capabilities to help you customize the zoning process to increase accuracy. Being able to zone part of a document manually and then let OmniPage Pro find the rest of the zones enables you to handle potentially troublesome zone areas, such as graphics Zonesthat include text areas (screen shots or schematic drawings), and then leave the rest of the zoning process up to the program. This provides greater control to attain the best possible accuracy and format retention and still benefit from the program's time-saving auto-zoning feature. Being able to indicate when you want a zone to be ignored during the recognition process so the zoned area will not appear in the final output is effective in screening out certain elements on the original page like handwritten notes.

Options Dialog: There is the familiar Options Dialog box in OmniPage Pro 10. It is the central location for OmniPage Pro settings. You can click each tab in the Options dialog box to access different groups of settings: OCR; scanner settings; Tables settings; Direct OCR settings; and Process settings. Having all of your options located in one dialog box with various tabs makes it easy to customize the program.

Caere's OmniPage Pro 10 is a worthwhile upgrade. No, I would suggest it is a must if you do a lot of OCR work. The increase in accuracy is apparent. Many programs are upgrade and advertised as having a new look and the changes are minimal. The new streamlined interface in OmniPage Pro l0, though, really is clean, tightly organized, with easy access to all of your controls and options. You don't have to search for anything. It makes it a breeze to use the program for just about anyone, especially for individuals new to using an OCR program. Using the OCR Wizard is like using a built-in tutorial that walks you step-by-step through the process. The new zoning tools and table editing abilities make it a must for users who want more control over the process. The voice read-back feature is fun to use, but actually very functional in situations where you scan in documents containing a large amount of numbers.

Windows 95, 98, 2000 or NT 4.0
Intel Pentium processor or better
50 MB free hard disk space (90 MB recommended)
CD-ROM drive
SVGA monitor with 256 colors or higher

Graphics: Adobe Photoshop & Adobe ImageStyler
Web Page Editor: Macromedia Dreamweaver 3.0
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series