It might not seem like it, but OmniPage 14.0 came out almost two years ago. Arguably, it is the flagship OCR (optical character recognition) product on the market, and this version looks good enough to continue that trend.
So what's new in the fifteenth iteration of this venerable institution? Many of the benefits are subtle improvements rather than anything groundbreaking. Then again, previous releases didn't leave all that much room for improvement. ScanSoft reckoned OmniPage 14.0 provided 99 percent accuracy, while its successor offers '99+ percent' – which, let's face it, sounds marginal. Nevertheless, there is a veritable laundry-list of tweaks and extras in this release.
Ready, SET go
First, there's SET – short for scanner-enhancement tools – which lets you revisit less-than-perfect scans and improve their quality prior to OCR-ing. This is a real time-saver. You can now associate a complete scanning process with the button on your scanner. Likewise, the Document Workflow Wizard will automate complex document conversions and store them as repeatable batch jobs. It can even read barcodes on cover sheets to trigger the appropriate batch process for conversion.
You also get better font matching, layout learning and a faster OCR engine, which makes use of Intel hyperthreading and dual-core technology if it finds it. Last but not least, you also get copies of PDF Create and PDF Converter thrown in.
The interface retains the familiar tri-pane arrangement, with source thumbnails on the left, a central recognition panel and an output text panel on the right. The SET toolbar occupies a vertical strip next to the thumbnails. The OCR process remains a deceptively easy three-click task. Once the document has been passed through the scanner it is zoned and scanned. Rarely does the zone-identification process get it wrong, correctly recognising graphics and columns, which are then replicated in editable form. Likewise, proofing the result is as easy as falling off a log.
As is usual, there are two retail versions of OmniPage 15.0: the £90 plain vanilla version and the Professional flavour, which carries a significantly heavier price tag. Clearly you won't find some of the more exotic features of the Pro version in the entry-level edition, and you lose features such as digital-to-digital-document conversion, fillable forms, XML and e-book support, wider batch job controls, Sharepoint 2003 integration and barcode driven workflows, all of which would find favour in the corporate workspace.
We suspect – nice though these features are to have – most OCR users probably won't notice their absence. In any event, only hard-core OCR types with serious conversion workloads would be prepared to fork out £435 for a tool such as this.
OCR accuracy claims
ScanSoft actually claims its latest OmniPage release is 15 to 25 percent more accurate than the previous one, and up to 50 percent less likely to stray from accuracy than its rivals. As we've seen, version 14.0 was already 99 percent perfect, so where do these bold figures come from? Actually, they are more usefully viewed as reduced inaccuracy scores. If, for example, version 14.0 made 10 errors per 1,000 words, and the new release made only seven, then it would have reduced inaccuracy by 30 percent – but the overall accuracy, at 99.3 percent, is not significantly improved. But 30 percent of anything sounds much better than 0.3, doesn't it? That's not to decry the accuracy of OmniPage 15.0. It is undoubtedly excellent, probably the best on the market, although the new ABBYY FineReader will give the entry-level version of OmniPage 15.0 a run for its money. But even the improvements it offers are probably not enough to get version 14.0 users to upgrade.