It’s been three years since Mac users have seen an upgrade to OmniPage, the optical character recognition (OCR) software for the Macintosh. In the intervening years OmniPage developer Caere has been acquired by ScanSoft, and much has changed in the Mac world. Today, ScanSoft is “reaffirming its commitment” to the Macintosh market by announcing Omnipage Pro X for Mac. The new version of OmniPage sports many new features and improvements, and runs natively on Mac OS X. Recently MacCentral had an opportunity to speak with OmniPage Pro X product manager Chris Strammiello about the new product, which will be available beginning next month.
First Mac OS X-native OCR software
First and foremost, OmniPage Pro X for Mac is a Mac OS X-native application, Strammiello told MacCentral.
“This is the first Mac OS X-native OCR product to be launched for the Macintosh,” he said. He explained that the software makes use of many Mac OS X native features like support for Mac OS X’s Aqua interface, pre-emptive multitasking and AppleScript.
OmniPage Pro X may be Mac OS X-native, but many scanners are still waiting for driver support from their manufacturers in order to operate natively under Mac OS X. As a result, the software will function in Classic, according to Strammiello. As long as you have a scanner that uses TWAIN or a Photoshop Plug-In, you can import documents through Classic and then work on them natively in Mac OS X using OmniPage Pro X. Accordingly, if you haven’t made the shift to Mac OS X yet and you’re still using Mac OS 9, OmniPage Pro X will work just fine.
Accuracy boosted, features added
Strammiello told MacCentral that the new version of OmniPage Pro sports dramatically improved accuracy over its predecessor; internal tests suggest that it’s up to 40 percent more accurate than OmniPage 8 was. Additionally, OmniPage Pro X is 47 percent more accurate than other Mac-compatible OCR software. All told, Strammiello said that OmniPage Pro X is 99.2 percent word-accurate.
Support for Adobe’s portable document format (PDF) is also a vaunted feature in OmniPage Pro X for Macintosh. The software enables you to convert read-only PDF documents into editable files that you can then use in your favorite applications — Microsoft Word, AppleWorks or whatever you choose. Scanned documents can also be archived in PDF format, as well.
Despeckle is a new feature that’s been added to OmniPage Pro X. The feature helps to clean up “dirty” scanned files before the OCR engine tries to read them. Strammiello explained that artifacts on the original document can knock off the accuracy of the OCR, and Despeckle removes them.
Voice readback is another important new feature of OmniPage Pro X. It enables you to proof by ear rather than just by eye — a helpful productivity feature for users who want to be doing things other than proofreading OCR pages. The function is also important for visually impaired users who may be unable to read scanned documents. Voice readback also helps to achieve Section 508 compliance, a federal mandate that provides equal access to government documents to disabled individuals.
One shortcoming of OmniPage 8’s Mac release was its inability to translate tables and spreadsheets correctly, greatly reducing the product’s usefulness if you had business presentations or financial material you needed to scan. That limitation has been corrected — OmniPage Pro X for the Macintosh can now handle such files.
Tight integration with Office v.X
If you’ve added Microsoft Corp.’s new Mac OS X-native Office productivity suite to your Mac OS X configuration, OmniPage Pro X can be directly integrated with the software. You can import files directly from Office v. X by accessing a pull-down menu; OmniPage Pro X doesn’t need to open, said Strammiello.
“Our emphasis here has been to create efficiency and time savings at every turn,” said Strammiello.
Coming to Macworld Expo
Strammiello said that ScanSoft would have a booth at next month’s Macworld Expo at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA. He said the company plans to have copies of OmniPage Pro X on-hand to sell to showgoers; the software should find its way onto store shelves at about the same time.
The cost for ScanSoft for users who don’t have any OCR software in their current collection is US$499. To upgrade from any OCR software from any manufacturer, including past versions of OmniPage, the cost is $149 instead. Strammiello indicated that a special limited-time upgrade price for ScanSoft OCR users is also planned, though details weren’t available as we went to press with this article.
Final system requirements for OmniPage Pro X are still being refined, but Strammiello suggested you’ll need a PowerPC G3 or G4-based Mac with at least 64MB RAM, 80-100MB free hard drive space, and a TWAIN or Photoshop Plug-In-compliant scanner. (The amount of RAM will go up, obviously, for Mac OS X users).
So, with OmniPage Pro X for Mac on its way out the door, will it be another three years before we hear from ScanSoft again? Strammiello is confident it won’t be that long. “I’m already working on my next-generation Mac product,” he said.