If you possess a scanner or multifunction device (MFD) printer, chances are you already have some kind of OCR program sitting on your hard drive – and quite possibly, an older edition of Nuance’s OmniPage.

Given that Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 could set you back around £300, is there really any point in paying a significant sum for the very latest edition?

Well, if you need the highest accuracy and are seeking to convert huge batches of documents to digital formats, or want access to support for multiple languages or cloud computing, the answer may well be yes.  

Previous versions of OmniPage have been rightly slammed for Nuance’s arcane user interface. Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 tries to emulate its rivals by kicking off each session with the Start Page. From here you can jump straight in with a document scan, for instance, or access one of the Workflows – customisable templates that tell Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 to carry out a precise set of instructions.

Overall, the interface of Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 is cleaner and more streamlined than before, although this still isn’t an easy program to grasp.

The Help system is quite detailed and informative, but we would have welcomed more optional wizards to help us get to grips with Nuance OmniPage Professional 18’s impressive depth. On occasions, the interface still feels a touch inflexible, and we wish it was easier to cycle backwards and forwards through the different stages.  

In the past OmniPage has tended to do well on accuracy, and the latest version proved quite stunning when introduced to our bundle of test documents.

When it came to text itself, we couldn’t find a single error, with every word detected perfectly. On occasions, odd words would be mistakenly highlighted in bold, although these were easy errors to correct, and they only happened when we were testing an old Lexmark MFD – a newer dedicated scanner threw up no such problems, suggesting it may have been the MFD that was causing these small problems.

The level of accuracy of Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 was quite outstanding, with even complex dictionary pages – frequently a disaster on lesser OCR packages - rendered flawlessly.

Previous versions of OmniPage have struggled with tables, but Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 processed and laid out a series of intricate tables with next to no errors, producing near-perfect files in Microsoft Excel.

The new version now offers despeckling tools (from Normal and Halftone to Salt & Pepper), and can clean up page borders while allowing for shadows and punch-holes.

We also liked the feature for enhancing the text and diagrams on shots taken with digital cameras. Version 17 had impressive language support, and Nuance has tidied up the coverage of its 120+ different languages.

In addition, a single language can now be automatically chosen for each individual page scanned, which makes it easier to work with documents containing multiple languages.

Reach for the clouds

OmniPage 17 could also connect to an impressive array of devices (including sending content to a Kindle), so it’s perhaps no surprise that this new version can reach for the stars – or the clouds, at the very least.

The Nuance Cloud Connector Management Console is an additional program that, once up and running in the background, lets you load and save files to off-site storage services like Microsoft Live SkyDrive, Box.net and GoogleDocs. Additional direct access is provided for services like Evernote and Dropbox.

The system isn’t quite as seamless as saving to a hard drive – rather more file moving is needed to put documents in the right place – but we expect access to cloud services to become more transparent in future versions.

For now, though, the cloud features are an interesting glimpse of a future where most of our computer’s resources are located remotely.

Extra options

Once Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 has been installed, you’ll find that Internet Explorer has some additional options that let you convert files swiftly into PDFs.

You can also convert large numbers of standard PDFs into fully searchable files. And while Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 itself doesn’t have any tools for organizing and keeping track of your files, you do get a full version of PaperPort 12 supplied (itself a £40 program) with the Professional version that will take care of these options.

The Professional version of Nuance Omnipage 18 is rather expensive. For £80 you can get the standard version. This comes without PaperPort and the enhanced PDF options. It also lacks a number of business features, such as Legal, Medical and Financial dictionaries, Forms conversion and Barcode features, and some of the more advanced batch processing tools.

Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 will also allow you to automatically block out certain parts during the creation of files, and includes additional ISIS scanner support.

Nuance OmniPage Professional 18: Specs

  • Windows XP SP3/ Vista SP2/7
  • 1GHz Intel Pentium processor or higher
  • 512MB RAM
  • 280MB free drive space, plus 100MB for installation
  • 1024x768 monitor
  • WIA, TWAIN or ISIS scanner
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 for Office 2007 and XPS formats
  • web access for online activation
  • Windows XP SP3/ Vista SP2/7
  • 1GHz Intel Pentium processor or higher
  • 512MB RAM
  • 280MB free drive space, plus 100MB for installation
  • 1024x768 monitor
  • WIA, TWAIN or ISIS scanner
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 for Office 2007 and XPS formats
  • web access for online activation

OUR VERDICT

Despite work from Nuance, the user interface of Nuance OmniPage Professional 18 still isn’t quite as easy to use as it might be. Much of this, though, is due to OmniPage being a very powerful program. With a huge number of useful features, plus stunning accuracy, this is an excellent package for those who need the very best OCR has to offer.

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