Paper, begone!
October 9, 2011 11:10 AM   Subscribe

My (very) small office just got a new whiz-bang scanner that can scan stacks of paper to image-only PDFs. Ideally, I'd like to use this to do away with paper filing, but this is harder (for me) than it sounds.

Other relevant data:

- I can scan these files to a networked drive that I can access from my Macbook Pro running Lion.

- I'd like to make this as automated as possible.

- I need to be able to search documents using Spotlight on my Mac.

- I've tried DevonThink, but it tells me that the PDF i created on the copier "contains no text."

- Evernote can make the PDFs searchable, but I have to manually drag a box over the part of the PDF I want converted, which is kind of a pain, and I cannot figure out how to just select the whole document.

Any advice appreciated. Thanks, as always for your help.
posted by 4ster to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should have said earlier that this is a copier with a scanner feature.
posted by 4ster at 11:11 AM on October 9, 2011

The phrase you're looking for is "document imaging management" (or "document management"). I generally work with fairly high-end systems that work with ERP systems, but there is software out there that's much simpler and cheaper and includes the basic features you want, like OCR.

I don't know that any of them are going to work with Spotlight; most of them have a client interface for searching and other tasks.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:16 AM on October 9, 2011

Best answer: Check out Steve Losh's post on going paper-free for under $220. This is, for the most part, the workflow I use. I don't use Spotlight, but I just verified that it indexes the OCRed PDFs.
posted by cardioid at 11:24 AM on October 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you need an automated OCR solution, ideally something that will let you batch OCR multiple image files at once. My office uses Acrobat for this purpose, but that might be a somewhat spendy option for you, depending on your budget and on whether or not you need/want more than once license.
posted by devinemissk at 11:31 AM on October 9, 2011

I use Evernote for thus and it doesn't make me select the area to OCR, it just OCRs all of every scan. Maybe it's a preference option?
posted by nicwolff at 11:38 AM on October 9, 2011

I convert lots and lots of documents of all types. It is a recurring freelance gig for me.

An issue you want to consider with OCR software is whether you have a need to perform this on spreadsheets and other documents that are not typical word processing documents. The Steve Losh solution sounds great and cheap, but he does not really say what he is archiving in terms of document types.

If you are just in the market for typical word processing doc scanning, then life gets a lot easier. For other formats, your choices get trimmed down a bit and the cost can go up.

Make sure you download and test OCR on your most difficult documents first. It is not all about the interface too - some OCR apps will simply create better output than others depending on the source doc.

FWIW, I have 4 apps that I use depending on the original scan. I have had docs that just came out awful via one OCR app and completely error free in another. Same source, settings and everything else.

good luck!
posted by lampshade at 11:46 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

DevonThink will OCR your pages. The in-application term for this is "convert to searchable PDF"
posted by bfu at 11:52 AM on October 9, 2011

Response by poster: DevonThink will OCR your pages. The in-application term for this is "convert to searchable PDF"

bfu: I'm just not seeing this. Are you using the "Personal" version or another one?
posted by 4ster at 12:01 PM on October 9, 2011

Response by poster: Ahh. I see, it is the Pro version.
posted by 4ster at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2011

Just to chime in on the DT band-wagon, I use DTPO and the OCR is the best I've seen. I've been working in a medium law firm (50 attorneys and 100 support staff) that has scanned and OCRed everything for the past several years and everything we use in the office has not been as accurate as I've seen DTPO at home.
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:31 PM on October 9, 2011

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