Nuance – Scansoft PaperPort 11 Professional review

document management for the desktop
Photo of Nuance – Scansoft PaperPort 11 Professional
£89

With most categories of software application there are at least two major offerings, but with consumer document management, PaperPort is the only real global player. It’s designed to provide a specialist desktop geared to creating and handling documents, especially those generated by scanning originals.

Any document in the PaperPort workspace can be one or more pages and is represented in the main document display as a thumbnail of its first page. To turn it into something more directly useful, such as a Word file or a PDF document, you simply drag the document thumbnail over the icon of the application you’re interested in. PaperPort generates a row of application icons at the bottom of the screen, which are derived from the programs already installed on your PC.

So, for example, if you drag a PaperPort document over the Word icon, the program calls on its Optical Character Recognition (OCR) engine and produces a pretty accurate Doc file from it. Similarly, if you drag it over the Adobe reader icon, PaperPort generates a PDF file, using Nuance’s own PDF Create 3. This all happens transparently, unless the OCR or PDF program needs further guidance to complete a task.

Nuance claims increased accuracy for the OCR engine in version 11 and it certainly did well with the test documents we tried. It tries to maintain the original layout of the source page, so if you scan a page which includes a letterhead or photo, it will try to detect the various areas of the page and reproduce the document in Word. This isn’t quite so successful, as some of the choices of frame and object positioning make resulting documents awkward to edit.

The PDF generator within PaperPort 11 is the full version of Nuance’s standalone PDF program and again it did well in generating electronic versions of the physical documents we scanned. Nuance claims the PDF-MRC compression built into this new product can produce PDF files up to eight times smaller than those generated using Adobe’s Distiller.

The third part of PaperPort 11 Professional is a product called Watson, not to be confused with Microsoft’s Windows debugging tool, Dr Watson. This one acts more like the Copernic search agent, which consolidates results from several different engines. Watson goes further, by picking up the context of searches automatically. It does this by searching the details of Web pages you browse, in real time. While it’s a useful tool, it doesn’t seem particularly well tied in with the rest of PaperPort’s document management functions.

Company: Nuance

Contact: 01483 794444


Verdict
If your work involves transferring paper-based documents into electronic ones, PaperPort 11 Professional can save you a lot of time. It converts documents to common types quickly and with a minimum of fuss. It still feels like a loosely aligned suite of applications, though, rather than a fully integrated document handling system.