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by: Jimi St. Pierre

The requirement to save paper and control the management of workflow documents and images continues to be driven by two main methods: managing costs through efficiency and managing environmental concerns through technology. The need is therefore continuous and ongoing, to ensure the correct acquisition of document scanning software with functions which fit the purpose. This summary highlights some important considerations when buying such software.

Categories of Document Scanning Software

Document scanning solutions fall in to one or more of the following categories by function. These are

1) Ad-hoc scanning of individual documents into computer files

2) Desktop batch scanning of documents to network files or to a document management system

3) High-volume, multi-user scanning of documents to document management system

4) Automated indexing of documents from multifunctional printers, network scanners or distributed capture

5) Applications which automate data entry tasks using handprint recognition and dynamic Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to capture data from images

Which Scanning Software Features?

The key to the best practice and most efficient document scanning is to specify as many automation features as possible to eliminate manual indexing and at the same time make all documents fully searchable.

An excellent way to achieve this is with barcodes. Barcodes can be recognised with a very high rate of speed and accuracy and a minimal possibility of false positives.

Another way is via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which can be used to read indexes from machine print on scanned images. It's not as quick as barcodes, and the recognition rate is not as high, but it has the advantage with documents that were not designed with scanning in mind.

An efficient user-friendly interface design will also save you time in setting up, training staff and supporting the document scanning application. Clearly, staff will respond better to any work pattern changes with a more efficient interface for their daily work. For this reason the user experience must be a paramount consideration..

Other Key Scanning Software Features

Features and areas requiring attention and comparison between software brands are:

License Type: Is the license server or workstation based? Do any monthly page limits apply?

Platforms: Presently, almost all batch scanning system is limited to the Windows user environment.

Export Capabilities: How is index data exported? Keywords can be used to organize images into logical folders and filenames on a network, for example. Alternatively it can be exported to delimited text files for import into other software systems. Or again, it can be added directly to an ODBC or OleDB database.

Scanner Support: Almost all scanners support TWAIN drivers. These days, ISIS drivers are also supplied with most document scanners available. Real-time image enhancement on scanned images is supplied by Kofax - native support for Adrenaline image processing boards.

Multifunctional Printer (MFP) support is provided by automatically processing images from a drop folder operating in the background. Any networked MFP, digital copier, scanner or fax machine can scan images to a network folder. These applications process these images without any user intervention. Usual practice is to use printed barcode coversheets to index documents prior to scanning. This means more flexibility, in that any user can scan and index files.

File Type Support: PDF is an overall standard, but it is useful to specify additional file types, and check what is supported by the software. It is useful to know that PDFs can create a hidden text layer that is overlaid on the scanned image, letting the viewer search, highlight and copy the OCR text while viewing the image. This function is very desirable.

Document Scanning Costs

All pricing options depend of course on the selected optional features and page count limitations, if any. Setup cost depends very much on the desired level of service. It is possible for knowledgeable users to install and configure most scanning software systems. However there are many advantages to having experts to guide you through the process to ensure the fullest available automation and workflow efficiency. The biggest cost in batch scanning is without doubt the indexing process, and proper automation is vital to getting the most return from your investment document scanning software.

Jimi St. Pierre writes for several Office Equipment suppliers in the UK, including Principal Corporation, where you can find out more about document management software on their comprehensive office equipment website at: =>

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