Remember the paperless office? Never happened; we still have piles of paper that take up too much room, can be difficult to search, and can’t be encrypted.
OCR software lets you scan important documents and turn them into searchable PDFs. But the technology is still far from perfect.
No matter what you do to stop them, they continuously arrive by snail mail: insurance forms, medical bills, automated-deposit pay stubs (okay, I like those), and many other documents we can’t simply toss out. If you’re at all careful about saving them, you undoubtedly have one or more large filing cabinets taking up precious real estate in your office. If you accidentally put an important document into the wrong folder, you’ll probably never see it again. Moreover, there’s no backup in case of fire and no encryption in case of burglary.
Obviously, you can make quick scans of paper documents, but what does that give you? Most likely, a .pdf file in which every page has a bitmapped image. Yes, it looks like the physical page; but since the text is merely pixels, you have a digital copy that can’t be searched and text that can’t be edited.
And the files are often huge. Each page can take up 2MB or more if you opt for 600dpi scanning — needed for making small print readable. Large, multi-page documents become too big to email.
For many years, the solution has been to use OCR software. But early versions often were extremely expensive or required too much after-scan fixing to make the process worth the effort. OCR is still not perfect, but it’s gotten less expensive and more capable — including the ability to create searchable PDFs.
The resulting files look just like the paper versions — they might even show the folds in the paper — but the text is real, searchable, and editable. You can easily copy and paste it into other apps such as Word or PowerPoint. If you save a file to the wrong folder, you can probably find it again with a text search. And the pages are typically small enough — sometimes as little as 49K — to send through email.