Sunday, December 11, 2005

More on scanners, OCR & digital cameras

DearREADERS,

Your interest in scanning essential proof documents into your computer is fantastic, because we must consider that our paper trail needs to be preserved, and having scanned copies attached to the ancestors in question will make it easier to "prove our case" when explaining our family history. If you are new to DearMYRTLE, you'll want to read the previous columns on this topic:

HAND-HELD SCANNERS
http://www.dearmyrtle.com/05/1205.htm

READERS' FEEDBACK: SB, Christenings & Such
http://www.dearmyrtle.com/05/1213.htm

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DIGITAL CAMERA OR FLAT BED SCANNER?
From: tim@lexpages.com
DearMYRTLE and Five Acre Estate,
Early this year I was frantically shopping the world for such a scanner. I'm glad to hear it exists. For my summer trip this year I bought a Nikon Coolpix 7.1 megapixel digital camera, to serve the purpose of a scanner, for copying documents and rare photographs that could not be borrowed from their owners.

I was able to copy documents with it, and some photos, but, even though 7.1 megapixel seems a lot, it didn't do as good of a job copying photos as a flatbed would. Therefore, even though I have a very tight budget, I would still prefer to save up for a Photosmart 1200 Scanner.

The 7.1 megapixel camera is equivalent to a 200 dpi scanner. The Photosmart 1200 does 300, 600, and 1200 dpi, therefore, higher resolution. Photographs need high-resolution scanning to get down close enough into the grain to fully capture what is there, for proper archiving.
As for there not being a market in the U.S., I think they're wrong. There is, indeed, a market, but that market doesn't know it yet. The problem is with education.

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OCR - OPTICAL CHARACTER RECOGNITION
From:
sladej@swbell.net
DearMYRTLE,
Just a brief comment about your answer concerning OCR and forms. Myrt wrote:
>> If I had attempted to OCR scan the file, it simply wouldn't have worked,
>> because the death certificate wasn't typed out in a paragraph. Instead it
>> had a lot of fill-in-the-blanks and 2 major boxes of information below his
>> name. Those lines really confuse OCR software.

Myrt, you should be aware that Nuance [formerly Caere, later ScanSoft] also produces a software program called OmniForm v5 which WILL scan and OCR recognize most all types of forms such as death certificates. It literally makes a transcribed copy of the [typed] form, boxes and all. I have successfully used it for many genealogy and other types of forms.
http://www.nuance.com/omniform/standard/

By the way, I concur with your comments that hand held pen scanners are virtually useless. I have two that I only used a few times and found them worthless. A flat-bed or digital camera is only way to go.

As you said, nothing currently recognizes cursive handwriting, although there are groups working toward it. My point was that the text itself does not necessary need to be in paragraph format in order for OCR software to recognize it. It does quite well recognizing tables, columns and forms when the text or numerals involved is printed lettering. Some software can even recognize hand written letters and numbers, but not yet cursive.

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DearREADERS,
The next column will show (with graphics) how one reader enhances the scanned images to make them more readable. Unfortunately, the mailing lists at RW don't allow the distribution of graphics, so you will either have to read this via my blog or my website.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE,
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207
http://www.DearMYRTLE.com

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