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The I.R.I.S. Office Suite, an OCR package, is merely another testament to the truth that optical character recognition is not an esoteric application. The cabability to convert printed text to a word-processing document has become commonplace since scanners–and devices including multifunction peripherals (MFPs) that may also be used as scanners–have grown to be so widely prevalent.

Chances are that somewhere on the hard disk–or in that pile of CD-ROMs that was included with your scanner or MFP–you do have a copy of one of the most popular OCR packages, like TextBridge or OmniPage. I.R.I.S. Inc. is hoping that you’ll forgo utilizing these packages in favour of its newest discharge of I.R.I.S. Office Suite. The suite contains Readiris, the most recent versions of I.R.I.S.’s OCR software for use with flatbed or sheet-fed scanners. In addition, I.R.I.S. is sweetening the pie by including certainly one of its new USB-interfaced IRISPen II pen scanners in the box.

Installing the program and USB IRISPen II scanner takes just a few minutes; we had been up and running without any problems. Paper manuals are offered for the Readiris and Cardiris applications, and documentation for that IRISPen II is available online.

I.R.I.S. emphasizes that its Readiris OCR can accurately discern blue-colored text on a yellow background, a task challenging for most OCR packages. To judge this capability, we printed two test documents with identical text over a 1,200-dpi color laser printer. One document consisted of black text on white paper as well as the other had blue text on yellow paper. Both documents were scanned using a Visioneer OneTouch flatbed scanner and the IRISPen II.

Readiris’s accuracy for both test documents was excellent, especially when scanned on the flatbed. From 2,535 characters on the page, there was only six recognition errors on the blue/yellow document and merely three recognition errors on the black/white document. These effects were as precise as any for the OCR package we’ve seen. Accuracy on business card printing using Cardiris was a bit more variable and depended upon the design from the card. Fancy and unique cards tended to need a good amount of editing, though more-or-less standard card layouts were read having a high degree of accuracy. Both Readiris Pro 6 and Cardiris 1.50 can be purchased as separate products as well as being packaged with Office Suite. The Readiris engine can recognize an unbelievable 56 languages, though you don’t must install OCR support for all of these.

Using the IRISPen II proved a bit more troublesome. As with all hand scanners, scanning straight across a line of text takes lots of practice and a steady hand. We got fairly good at it after about 20 or thirty minutes, but until then, accuracy suffered. With the upgrade from your Standard version of the software, included with work Suite, to the optional nnhwfn version, the IRISPen II can also read bar codes and offer text-to-speech capabilities, letting you proofread by listening for errors when you drag the pen across text. The real benefit of the IRISPen II is you can easily enter figures from a document right into a spreadsheet.

The important thing in determining the overall worth of the I.R.I.S. Office Suite is if you need the IRISPen II scanner. Cordless pen scanners require documents to get saved in memory but offer the ability to operate untethered in a library or someplace else where you might not want to take or make use of a PC or even a laptop. If you can do with no mobility provided by standalone pen scanners, you should look at the IRISPen II and i also.R.I.S. Office Suite.

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