Secrets of the paperless office: optimizing OCR

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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Since I started using a document scanner about seven years ago, I’ve scanned many thousands of pages and used OCR (optical character recognition) software to convert those scans into searchable PDFs. I’ve also written extensively about the paperless office. But when you try to reduce the amount of paper you use, you inevitably increase the amount of hard-drive space you use. I began to wonder what combinations of scanner settings and software would get the best quality scan results while using the least hard-disk space.

What sparked my investigation was a claim that some OCR apps increase the file sizes of scanned images dramatically, whereas others (Acrobat Pro in particular) shrink them. When you plan to store and read scanned documents on an iOS device, compactness is especially important. Unfortunately, Adobe’s $499 Acrobat Pro XI () can no longer be driven externally by AppleScript, which means it requires tedious manual clicking to perform OCR. Were other OCR apps really inflating file sizes, and was there any way around this problem without resorting to Acrobat?

Hundreds of experiments later, I came up with some surprising results. Read on for all the details or skip to the “So, where’s the sweet spot?” section for the bottom line.

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The Mac office: Embracing the nearly paperless future

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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I have a nice document scanner. I have great OCR and document-management software. I have a solid system for converting paper into digital documents. I hardly ever print anything. I even wrote a book on the paperless office. And yet, somehow, I still have tons of papers in my home office, and despite my best efforts, more appear all the time. What’s happening?

The old joke goes, “The paperless office has about as much of a chance as the paperless bathroom.” For the moment, let’s ignore the fact that paperless bathrooms are apparently becoming a thing. Is the paperless office really that hopeless?

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Our top five Dropbox tricks

Macworld Staff Editors, Macworld

The Macworld staff occasionally work on articles together. You're reading one of those articles right now.
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If you asked Macworld editors to name the technologies they can't live without, you’d inevitably hear about Dropbox. This file-synchronization service lets you access your files from anywhere—not just your Mac, iPad, and iPhone, but also any Web browser. It provides easy cloud-based backup, too. But all that’s just the beginning. Here are five of our favorite ways to use it:

1. Share big files

Anyone who passes around photos, videos, or other big files has most certainly discovered the puny file-size limits of most email servers. Dropbox can help. First, make sure you’re running the very latest version of the app by downloading it from Dropbox’s website. Then, in the Finder, find a file in your Dropbox folder, and Control-click, right-click, or two-finger-click it. In the contextual menu that appears, select Share Dropbox Link. (In older versions of Dropbox, choose Dropbox > Share Dropbox Link.) Select this option to copy a shareable URL for the file in question to your clipboard, ready for pasting into an email message or a chat window. Recipients don’t even need a Dropbox account to use links. There’s no quicker way to share large files.—Lex Friedman

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Tools we use: The best Mac apps for working remotely

Lex Friedman Senior Contributor, Macworld

Lex uses a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 5, an iPad mini, a Kindle 3, a TiVo HD, and a treadmill desk, and loves them all. His latest book, a children's book parody for adults, is called "The Kid in the Crib." Lex lives in New Jersey with his wife and three young kids.
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The Yahoos of the world may be eliminating telecommuting, but the fact is, working from home is easier than ever. I work from home myself, so I’m clearly biased, but many companies find that home-based workers are more productive than their office-based brethren. Here are the Mac apps and web-based tools I use to make working from home work.

HipChat

That's not Messages. It's HipChat. Tip: To keep from getting the two confused, don't put their very similar icons side by side in the Dock.
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Automator workflow of the month: Powerful PDF tricks

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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PDF is a wonderful format for reading documents, but once you move beyond reading, things can get complicated in a hurry. Thankfully, useful tools for working with PDF files are built into Automator, OS X's built-in workflow tool. Let’s run through a few of them now.

Combine PDF documents

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What’s hot about OS X’s Hot Corners

Kirk McElhearn Senior Contributor, Macworld

Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn (@mcelhearn) writes The Ask the iTunes Guy column and writes about Macs, music and more on his blog Kirkville. He's also the author of Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ.
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When I want to step away from my desk, I move my pointer to the top-left corner of my display. My screensaver activates and my screen locks. When I want to see if I have any messages in Notification Center, I move my cursor to the top-right corner and Notification Center appears. Dashboard? Who needs a keyboard shortcut? I just slip my pointer to the bottom-right. And to see all my apps in Mission Control, the bottom-left corner of my screen does the trick.

OS X’s Hot Corners come alive after you set a not-so-easy-to-spot preference. This lets you determine what actions will trigger when you move your cursor into a particular corner of your Mac’s display. Select Apple menu > System Preferences and then click Mission Control. At the bottom of the window, click the Hot Corners button to see a dialog box with options for all four corners.

How can Hot Corners save you time? I’ll take you through all the possibilities for this little-used, yet powerful feature.

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Set up a kid-friendly computer

As any iPhone or iPad owner with children will attest, touchscreen devices are clearly the future of kid-friendly computing—there’s no substitute for the direct interaction between on-screen items and fingertips. But a lot of great kid software is still available for the Mac, so until we replace all our Macs with tablets, we’ll have plenty of reasons to set up a computer for the young ones.

Most people worry about finding the right software and configuring the right settings for kid-safe computing. But what about the hardware? Chances are you often see a scene much like the one above—your child happily absconding with your laptop to the couch. But it’s not the best setup—ergonomically or logistically—for a child. Here are some tips for setting up a work-and-play-station your kids will love.

Choose a computer

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