Click and Scan
Presto's logical interface presents all OCR tasks as buttons across the top of the screen. Click these buttons to scan a document (or to open the bitmap of a document you've already scanned), mark document zones (which Presto calls blocks), recognize the text, proof the results, and save the text. Presto recognizes most languages that use roman type, including Fijian and Basque. And this app sports yet another setting that's worth its weight in code: Choose the Invisible Cell option for tables without grid lines, and Presto rarely misreads rows and columns.
The general recognition skills of this program are impressive. Even before we marked the zones in our documents, Presto made only occasional errors. For instance, on a relatively clean document, it saw two lowercase Ls as a capital U and put a period where a comma belonged. And it mistakenly saw a grainy fax as being entirely in bold and misspelled just one word, rendering About as Alxwt.
Presto's exporting skills are equally adroit. You can tell the program how much of the document's original formatting you want to keep, and Presto churns out raw text, retains original font sizes and styles, or keeps the entire document structure. (In the latter case, it reproduces columns, tables, and text blocks and keeps graphics in place.) Plus, you can save data in several formats: tab- or comma-delimited (for databases), Word, Excel, HTML, or PDF. Presto is the only OCR app CNET tested that exports data as PDF files. OmniPage comes with a demo version of an HTML converter, but you have to spend $100 for the usable version.
Not a Lot of Help
It's a good thing Presto's interface is so straightforward because its manual and online help are sparse. For example, Presto doesn't explain its "Use spaces to show formatting" export option. And although NewSoft's Web site hosts a long list of FAQs, the list is unwieldy and covers a number of different products. Fortunately, the site provides easy access to an email form for requesting tech support.
One other weak point: you can't schedule Presto to wake up in the middle of the night and process the contents of a folder full of scans as you can with OmniPage. But it does let you open up to 10,000 scanned pages, designate a folder to save the results in, and set the process in motion. Presto is also faster. In CNET Labs' speed tests, Presto was one-third faster than OmniPage and almost seven times faster than TextBridge. However, unlike OmniPage, Presto cannot automatically save separate documents in a single scan session to different files.
Once upon a time, anyone who trafficked in text had to spend thousands on sophisticated OCR workstations. NewSoft's Presto OCR provides essentially the same functionality in an easy-to-use package for about a hundred clams--a deal for both business and casual scanners.