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STI Batch OCR - It's not a Keeper

by Steven Levine

I have been looking for a better OCR than what comes with Keller Group's excellent PMFax and decided to give Solution Technologies Batch OCR a try. At $299 it was a bit pricey, but Indelible Blue offered a small discount and STI's web page claimed the package included the Review Image Manager and that the Review Image Manager included the consumer TWAIN drivers. This made the pricing seem more reasonable. Also, STI's product line appeared to be industrial strength scanning apps aimed at enterprise customers, so I expected very good OCR capability.

The package arrived with a thin manual and a CD-R disk with a hand-written label on the jewel box stating the was version 1.4.1. The package would not install from the CD. The indicated that this was a bug that had been fixed in the version I supposedly had. I copied the install package to hard disk and was able to install from there. The OCR software reported itself as version 1.3.

The Review Image Manager was nowhere to be found on the CD. A conversation with Indelible Blue resulted in the conclusion that STI had changed the product specifications, but was slow to notify anybody or update their web site. The web site is now updated.

STI Batch OCR, as it's name implies, processes one or more images files and generates one or more text files in a single run. It is designed to run from the command line. The command line specifies the input files, the output directory and couple of processing options. The source files must all be in a single directory and the output text files are placed in another directory which must be different than the source directory. This is somewhat limiting, but workable.

STI supplies a VX-REXX front-end that provides a simple GUI for selecting the input and output directories and setting the processing options. The front-end worked, but had several annoying traits. It did not remember the last source and destination selections. This often resulted in lots of extra mouse clicks. It also had a defect which got it into a mode which broke the source directory navigation. The GUI had to be restarted to recover from this mode. Keyboard navigation was difficult.

Once the source and destination are specified, the selected images are converted and the results are placed in the destination directory. The conversion was noticeably faster that the Calerla package used by PMFax and the processing log was clear.

Unfortunately for STI, the conversions were no better than what I typically get from PMFax. I found this odd. However, given my experiences so far with the package, I decided the chances of getting substantially better output were marginal, at best. I did not attempt to contact STI for assistance. Without the Review package and the TWAIN drivers, the package is very expensive relative to its performance. I contacted Indelible Blue and returned the package for a refund.