OmniPage Professional 17 OCR Software
At a Glance
Nuance's OmniPage Professional 17 offers a variety of subtle but impressive enhancements over the previous version of this powerful, optical character recognition application. I tested a shipping version (in tandem with a Canon CanoScan LiDE 200 scanner) and used it successfully to convert a variety of documents--ranging from simple, one-column formats to complex, magazine-style pages--into editable text and PDF files.
The OCR process was nearly impeccable, with just a few occasional typos, which I easily fixed using OmniPage's built-in proofreading and text editing tools. For example, in one test that involved scanning a book chapter, OmniPage scored a 99.9 percent accuracy rate, with just 11 errors out of 11,175 characters. According to Nuance, OmniPage Pro 17 is both faster and more accurate than version 16, but since the previous version I tested already had a very high accuracy rate, I didn't notice any dramatically different error rates when converting some of the same test documents.
Although it doesn't look much different than version 16, this latest OmniPage Pro upgrade offers several noteworthy improvements. Among the new features I found most useful: a new Windows Explorer-style window (called Easy Loader) that expedites loading multiple files into OmniPage for OCR conversion; improved OCR support for Microsoft Office 2007 via toolbars that now appear on separate Nuance OCR tabs within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; and enhanced support for digital camera images of 2 megapixels and above (including iPhone and other phone cameras) that involves automatically compensating for skewed text and distorted lines.
In a nod to the growing popularity of e-books, OmniPage has also added a new Kindle Assistant option that helps you set up a macro that automatically sends a converted document to an Amazon Kindle book reader. In testing this feature, however, I found it best to add an extra proofreading step to the default macro before sending any Kindle-readable documents, to ensure that your e-book reading is typo free.
At $500, OmniPage Pro 17 is still pricey compared with other full-featured OCR packages (such as the $400 Abbyy FineReader 9 Professional Edition and the $399 Iris ReadIris12 Corporate), but it also comes bundled with an efficient document manager (ScanSoft PaperPort 11) and a useful PDF conversion utility (Nuance PDF Create 5).
If you're still using OmniPage Pro 15, I highly recommend upgrading to version 17, which offers major improvements in the application's interface and ease of use, and in advanced features. But if you already have OmniPage Pro 16, you may need to take a closer look at whether this latest installment has enough goodies to justify the upgrade. And while OmniPage Pro 17 is clearly intended for workgroups, network users, and other office environments, Nuance also sells a standard (less advanced) version for $150, which may be a better fit for individuals and small-business users.