Thursday, September 10, 2009

Workflow - PDF with OCR - NeatWorks 2.1.7 for Mac

Workflow - Business Productivity - NeatWorks 2.1.7 Mac

A lot has been written recently about the NeatWorks software for Macintosh and its ease of creating PDF documentation of receipts for reimbursement. David Pogue, for instance, in The New York Times gave it rave reviews for its multi-page PDF generation capabilities.

While the program can be used for many more options, such as creating records of receipts, complete with subtotals, sales tax and aggregated totals, the Windows version does a much better job than the Mac version for these tasks. The accuracy (or inaccuracy, to be precise) of the Mac version means that the practical use as a Mac replacement to the Windows version is severely limited for the time being until both applications are brought to parity (more details on this in a separate product review can be found at

Despite the Mac version's shortcomings, though, we've found it to be a timesaver for some of the simpler scanning-to-PDF processes that we go through for scanning phone bills, receipts and other reimbursements that we don't need a permanent record of. In fact, we've found it cuts out numerous steps for both single- and multi-page PDFs, complete with optical character recognition (OCR) when compared to the built-in solution for Apple Mac desktops and laptops, mainly Image Capture.

The NeatWorks Mobile Scanner (we have the 2008 version to test) can scan both to Image Capture and to NeatWorks.

So the primary question is, can you scan to PDF without opening Neatworks? The short answer is NO, for two reasons.

1. Due to an error in Snow Leopard Image Capture, PDF files scanned with Image Capture and the Neat Mobile Scanner 2008 generate a file that won't open up in Preview or Acrobat Pro, even though QuickLook shows the image.

The files, when opening is attempted in Preview, generate an error message stating:

The file "name.pdf" could not be opened. It may be damaged or use a file format that Preview doesn’t recognize.

In Acrobat Pro, the error message states:

Acrobat could not open 'name.pdf' because it is either not a supported file type or because the file has been damaged (for example, it was sent as an email attachment and wasn't correctly decoded).

To create an Adobe PDF document, go to the source application. Then print the document to Adobe PDF.

2. Acrobat Pro 9.0, another potential timesaving application for scanning to PDF, does not recognize the NeatWorks Mobile 2008 as a valid scanner, eliminating its 2-step process to multi-page scans (and significantly reduced file sizes of more than 66% when compared to both Image Capture and NeatWorks).

Before stepping through the workflows for single- and multi-page PDFs from NeatWorks and Image Capture, it's important to note the button settings on the top of the NeatWorks Mobile 2008 scanner. On the top of the scanner are two buttons, Scan and PDF. These buttons are considered "soft" buttons as they can be reassigned to a variety of options.

For instance, Scan can be assigned to scan in color or black and white, or to scan to PDF in color or black and white. The PDF button can be set for the same PDF settings or to "scan extra page". While this last command would be very helpful for scanning multiple pages directly to PDF, it only works within the NeatWorks database, so to scan a multi-page PDF requires launching NeatWorks, scanning into the database and then exporting to a PDF. A long process, to be sure, with room for improvement, but it still beats the Image Capture workflow by at least four steps.

WORKFLOW 1: Single Page PDF with OCR

WORKFLOW 2: Multi-Page PDF with OCR

A final note about Image Capture and Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6). Snow Leopard's Image Capture is also a bit spotty; while it will scan JP2 (JPEG2000) files, which will open in Preview, the same error message is generated in Acrobat for JP2 files as is generated for PDF files scanned via the NeatWorks Mobile 2008 scanner in Image Capture. We put this down to an Image Capture issue, but further testing will be needed to determine whether Snow Leopard's Image Capture via other scanners result in JP2 and PDF files that Acrobat can open.

1 comment:

Nina said...

I think this is a pretty good article which describes the differences between the leading OCR software: