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Could you recommend software to help us convert our paper files to electronic?

Answered by Stephen Beals, Digital Pre Press Manager and Writer


We are presently working towards converting all of our paper files to electronic files and are searching for the best software to make this a reality, whether it's FileMaker Pro or something else that I'm hoping you can recommend.

This is a scary proposition for a production team because we live by the paper trail. Although we love our PDF's and digital files, we still grab the file folder with the previous samples in it to review the job before we reprint or revise etc.





There are really too many variables to give a single answer, but we can point in the direction of what you need to consider:


1. Does the text need to be editable or is an image of the paper document all you need? And even if the text need not be editable, what resolution does it need to be to make it useful? In other words is there small type that needs to be legible?


2. Do the images need to be separated from the text? Some software will isolate images from text, convert the scanned image to live text and so on. But nearly all of this software requires some degree of human intervention and editing. But the speed and reliability of optical character recognition (OCR) software has gotten pretty good in recent years, particularly with documents that are relatively consistent in format, typestyles and so on.


3. One added benefit of using an (OCR) component to the document scanning process is that the text and images can be made searchable. To make such an archiving solution more valuable you may want to manually enter meta data (data about data) to add vital information about the images.


4. Will any of these documents need to be repurposed for print production, office printers etc? If they may need to be reprinted in a commercial print production environment, the files will need all of the resolution of the original.


5. How will images be accessed and to whom will they be made available? Do there need to be any security measures taken? Would it be helpful to make them available over the Internet or an Intranet? It may be that you need software that will create multiple iterations of each document so you have the right solution for each different application (and many of the solutions can do just that).


And of course the really BIG question:


6. How many documents are involved? Software solutions for document storage are generally quite specific to your needs. The key to finding the right solution is to thoroughly examine not only what your current needs are, but your future needs as well. Otherwise the software salesman could easily sell you a system that does everything it's made to do, but isn't really what you need.


Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at

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