File Format Buffet! – choosing your output format

Dec 09

Anymore OCR and data capture solutions give you a broad selection of what output format you want the result to be in?  Until the advent of layered file formats, your only choices were texts such as Word .Doc or Plain Text .txt. But now formats themselves have come with a ton of options, leaving people to make decision first on what export format to use then what variation of that format.

It seems for the most part OCR is exported in one of two primary formats Word .Doc or Portable Document Format .PDF. So we will use these as our staples.

Word is more or less a text only format. Scanning and converting a document to word is useful for when you want to make edits to the text, reformat, add graphics, and then re-create the document, or borrow it’s contents. Some of the options included in this format relation to OCR and Data Capture are to keep formatting, keep graphics, and encoding. It’s fairly easy to decide out of these options, which would be most useful to your process. The text formats from document conversion are usually limited to immediate consumption and not distribution, and the layered formats are for distribution and storage.

There are actually many layered file formats. There are even formats of JPEG and TIFF that permit a text layer. In the last few years, Microsoft released their own “layered” format called XPS, who’s popularity has yet to catch on. PDF is still the winner in this area. PDF comes with a salad bar of options, and sometimes it’s hard to pick what is best. When used in conjunction with data capture and OCR, the most common variation of PDF is a PDF with search-able text under page image. What this means is that the visible layer of the PDF is the scanned image, underneath it with matching coordinates is the text from OCR or Data Capture. The purpose is by searching the text you will find on the image the contents of your search. Because PDF is for the most part a locked down format, it’s important to decide first what variation you want before even creating one. Other common settings are tagging, password protection, PDF/A for archiving, and bookmarks. When used with Data Capture and OCR you will see PDF/A frequently for long term archiving of documents, and password protection. The settings tagging and bookmarks usually require an additional manual step unless the Data Capture program supports filling of this meta data. If you keep the quality of the image layer for any layered format high enough, you can OCR it again if you make a mistake in your format.

The upshot is, though you have a lot of options you should be able to very easily find the best practice or norm for your space. You have a lot of choices but many of them are used only in specially scenarios and if you are not privy to the scenario then you probably don’t need it.

Chris Riley – About

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Convert now Export later

Apr 14

It’s not surprising that an organization’s focus of any sort of document automation is the export format and data coming out of the system. But sometimes this focus has organizations choosing poor data capture and OCR products just for and ideal export format. The places this occurs the most is in healthcare and accounting where these industries’ specific repositories expect a format and the vendors of these repositories are unwilling to change. This post is to assure you that the accuracy and features of your data capture and OCR product are more important than the file format it creates.

By focusing on file export format, organizations are limiting their possibilities of solutions and perhaps locking them into a more expensive proposition then they should. Industry specific applications are able to charge a premium for connectors and their products because they understand where the focus is. However the most accurate data capture and OCR systems out there are general. Some data capture applications have connectors to say a specific accounting system, but even without specific connectors all data capture systems can export data in such a way that it can be converted to ANY desired format.

Data capture application support CSV, XML, ODBC, or text exports that can be molded in to any required format. Often because they support ODBC there is an opportunity to export directly to any application also supporting it. Because a conversion utility or a custom connector takes weeks to create vs. data capture and OCR’s man years to create, the focus should be given to the accuracy and capability of the OCR and data capture system before it’s export functionality.

While it would be ideal to find a data capture application that had the accuracy, the features, and the export you desire, I urge organizations not to limit themselves to it. Picking a poor data capture and OCR system will be far more costly than creating even a custom export from scratch.

Chris Riley – About

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Why hot folder’s are so HOT

Aug 21

We are all guilty of over complicating things. In technology products, over complication results in more features then you will ever use and less money you could use, other times over complication creates new problems in business processes. End-users, vendors, and technologist are all commonly trying to add too many elements to automation projects. One of the areas where over complication occurs the most in data capture and OCR integrations is when it comes to passing images and results from one step to another.

Most organizations when it comes to passing images from a capture application to a data capture application ask for a connector specifically written to incorporate the chosen imagines applications API to pass images to the chosen Data Capture applications API. Most organizations similarly when considering export form OCR and Data capture processes want a special connector to their repository or ECM product. I’m not sure what to blame, the warm and fuzzies that come from the realization that a OCR vendor has spent specific effort to develop these connectors, or the faith that somehow connectors are more efficient. What I do know is that in most all cases connectors are overkill and simply not necessary, why? Because there are hot folders, and they are amazingly powerful and simple.

A hot folder ( sometimes called a watch folder ) is a directory virtual or real that is setup to be a staging or queue for applications to put data in and take data from in real-time. The best thing about hot folders is they are free! Almost all imaging, data capture, and content management applications support hot folders. If they don’t you have every right to ask why. When an image capture application scans documents they can scan those documents to a directory. The data capture application can automatically read images as soon as they appear in this directory and process them. Data capture and OCR results can be automatically exported to another directory that a content management application can automatically pick up from. That is two folders vs. two pricey connectors.

You may think that you are losing functionality such as tracking and security, but there are numerous ways in windows to monitor folder activity and protect folder security. You might be surprised that many “connectors” out there are actually just a hot folder with a settings dialog. It’s a hot folder in disguise.

So when it comes to deciding how to get files from one application process to another, first consider hot folders and try your best to disprove their validity. If you can’t, you just saved a bundle of money and probably picked the most efficient method for your OCR solution.

Chris Riley – About

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