Replacement for fax right under our noses

Jul 12

How does a technology first invented in 1843 and executed in 1924 still exist as a primary function in our working lives? I’m talking about fax. The fax technology is old and outdated. I personally avoid fax simply because of principle. But my principle alone will not make big changes in adoption. What people don’t understand is that we have a fax replacement right under our noses, one that is both green and as easy to use.

The combination of a document scanner, imaging software, and email software is a complete fax replacement solution. Instead of typing in phone numbers users, can type in email addresses. In fax you double the amount of paper that exists. Paper in, paper out. With the document scanning approach, you are reducing the paper consumption, paper in, email out. Most document scanners today even ship with a pre-configured “Scan to Email” option. On a production level, systems can be setup in offices, your local Kinkos, wherever, to allow multiple users to access the same document scanner and scan to any email with a basic step-by-step wizard.

Not only is fax to email saving trees, it is also increasing efficiency and when combined with workflow, document imaging, OCR, and data capture, it adds much greater value for that single piece of paper.

These systems do in fact exist in small corners of the world, and I have participated in the development and setup of them. The adoption is still very low. What it comes down to is fear of change. People understand paper to paper. Many users of fax don’t even know what email is. There are two ways this can be solved, time and forced adoption. While I would hope for the second which would be a campaign of replacing all fax machines with scanners, it’s very unlikely and requires unity of multiple competing entities.

No I do not like fax, but I understand it. And I hope that sooner rather than later people see there has been a solution to replace fax that is both saving trees, increasing efficiency and has existed for many years.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at

OCR and Paste

Apr 13

You probably use the copy and paste functionality on your computer daily. I too use copy and paste on a regular basis, but I also use OCR and paste nearly as much. OCR and paste is what I’m referring to as the process of selecting a region on your computer screen and using OCR to read that region as a screen-shot and converting it to text. Even to my surprise, it has become quite the habit and one of my favorite ways to collect data from one location on my computer to another. Many wonder why this might be the case, as most information on the screen is available as text anyways. The reasons are: it’s more efficient than copying and pasting into a program. It maintains structure of information using document analysis, and there are times when the information I want is not in text form but in an image only.

I have actually taken it one step further and used the technology to automate the extraction of data from web pages that are scroll heavy. Instead of scrolling forever for information on a web page, I can use the tool to take a screenshot of the entire web page and convert it to text for me. You can imagine how the technology could be used maliciously, but in this case, it’s just to get information.

The ability of OCR to read screen-shots is quite impressive. Though screen-shots usually come out in low DPI resolution which is traditionally not optimal for OCR, the text and text in image is what is called pixel perfect so it provides an excellent candidate for conversion. Also leveraging document analysis technologies built into OCR, I can grab a table and have it export a table versus having to copy and paste text and manipulate back to original form later.

When you become an expert in OCR, you find yourself using the technology in the oddest places, but this is one case where my productivity has increased because of the tool, and I think it’s worth sharing. I suspect that OCR of screen-shots is only going to increase in the future. Because of this and malicious reasons, so will counter mal-ware technologies. As well as a very easy way to convert data from one locked down legacy system to a new one.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at

Translating images

Sep 06

Text translation services come in a variety of forms, from individuals who make a good living translating documents from one language to another, to large firms using many individuals or purely software. No matter the form, they are all faced with a challenge when the text they need to translate is contained in physical paper or an image file.

Today, translation is facilitated with the use of word processing systems. Word processors give the translator the ability to be more efficient and manage the translation process over many sessions. But in order to use the capabilities of a word processing system, it’s necessary to get the text into a digital format. That is where Optical Character Recognition comes in. OCR is one of the greatest tools in a translator’s bag of tricks. It allows the individual to convert the image files and physical paper to digital text which can be consumed and translated.

The great thing about modern OCR is the sheer number of languages that are supported. Not only is OCR capable of converting a document to digital in one language but even if it contains multiple languages, it’s smart enough to know where one language begins and the other ends. If you can imagine the risk of a translator who receives OCR errors, you will see why making sure documents are scanned at the optimum quality is a great consideration. Modern OCR engines will tell the operator exactly where any confusion might have occurred and give them the opportunity to correct it. Documents scanned at 300 DPI TIFF Group 4 black and white will excel.

Without OCR, a translator’s job becomes more of a data entry task than what they are truly skilled at which is translation.

Chris Riley – About

Find much more about document technologies at