OmniPage Ultimate 19 talks the talk, walks the walk

Already a huge player in the field, Nuance is taking its flagship OCR product, OmniPage, to new levels. The new Ultimate version features, text-to-speech, a LaunchPad app that embraces the Windows 8 Metro look, better re-creation of complex document layouts, and editing PDF forms. But at $500, OmniPage Ultimate makes the competition look like bargains.

Text-to-speech, the most obvious differentiator in this product, is useful for the hearing impaired, but it's also helpful in ways you may not realize. It's amazing how many mistakes you'll catch, and the improvements you'll think of, when you hear your prose read aloud. Alas, while text-to-speech is included, it's only inside the program and not available as a Microsoft Office add-on as OmniPage 19's OCR and PDF features are.

Nuance provides a host of key commands to control the reading of the OCR results in the text window. It would prefer to have the program read whatever I select with click-and-drag. You can also export and file as an MP3 for perusal at your leisure.

OmniPage Ultimate's OCR is top-notch, and Nuance claims a 25% improvement over version 18. Ultimate powered through my test documents with minimal blunders, producing excellent editable PDFs and as good a recreation of complex documents (pictures and text, text embedded in pictures, forms with lines and boxes, etc.) in Word format as either Adobe Acrobat or Abbyy FineReader. There was a slight but noticeable improvement in the quality of exported Word documents and fewer recognition mistakes with the tougher scans, though I'd be hard-pressed to say that the difference is as dramatic as Nuance claims.

The aforementioned LaunchPad App allows you to quickly scan and convert documents using pre- and user-defined "Go-flows," which are basically macros that encompass scan and output settings. For instance, you could create a Go-Flow to scan 150dpi to ePub format with all documents saved in your "Books" folder. Or 120dpi to Word format saved in your My Documents folder. Go-flows are referred to as workflows elsewhere in the suite, so don't let that confuse you.

One thing I was not expecting to find in OmniPage Ultimate was a full-on, online (cloud) backup utility. It was exciting until I found out that it required an additional paid license. Still, OmniPage Ultimate will process documents stored in Dropbox, Google Docs, SkyDrive, etc. without the need to log in separately.

OmniPage Ultimate is the current king of the OCR mountain in terms of features and accurate OCR. The text-to-speech is interesting and could be useful in many scenarios. The program's PDF form editing features are nice as well, but at $500, Ultimate will be a hard sell when you can get OmniPage 18 Standard for only $150. That said, the improved OCR accuracy will be a boon for those who do lots of OCR on complex documents or iffy scans.

Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.


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