What Is Document Imaging?
Document imaging is the practice of "digitizing" paper documents. In simpler terms, we can define document imaging as using a scanner to capture perfect images of your documents, images which you can store electronically in lieu of storing the physical document itself.
Document imaging has become so simple and efficient that there is no reason not to adopt it. In short, the days of giving up whole rooms to document storage are gone. But how can you implement document imaging for your business or personal needs? In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know and introduce you to the low-cost leader in document imaging solutions: FileCenter.
Document Imaging Summary
- What is the document imaging process?
- Your document imaging system
- Step 1: It starts with a document imaging scanner
- Step 2: Choose the best imaging file format
- Step 3: Imaging document management: the key to it all
- Jump to our recommendation »
What is the Document Imaging Process?
The easiest way to grasp the document imaging process is to break it down into its basic steps. The first step is to set up a way to begin capturing the document image. You might think of this as "photographing" documents. This can be done with anything from a phone camera to an actual digital camera to a flatbed scanner to a high-speed document scanner. Next, you need to save these images or digital photos of documents into a useful file format. Finally, you'll need to come up with a system to organize, manage, and search the document images. We'll take these steps one at a time.
Your Document Imaging System
Now that you have a basic grasp of the document imaging process, you can start to visualize what you'll need in order to piece together your document imaging system. Any imaging system is going to require at least two components: some device or piece of imaging hardware to capture the images, and some software to take care of it from there. Let's figure out those pieces now.
Step 1: It Starts with a Document Imaging Scanner
While you could use a digital camera or even a cell phone camera to capture document images, we don't recommend them. Why? Because a proper document imaging solution demands efficiency. You need to grab images quickly, and you need those images to come out perfectly every time. You'll never get that kind of efficiency from a camera, which is going to require you to individually photograph and crop every single page.
What you need is a document imaging scanner – a scanner that specializes in documents. You'll find two basic scanner formats on the market: flat-bed and sheet-fed. A flat-bed scanner works fine for bound material like books and magazines, but for scanning loose-page documents, nothing beats a sheet-fed scanner for speed, efficiency, and accuracy. Your best document scanners can scan a blazing 60 double-sided pages a minute. And it's as effortless as putting a stack of papers in the feeder and pushing a button.
When it comes to your imaging scanner, don't skimp! You want a solid professional scanner. It's worth every penny.
Step 2: Choose the Best Imaging File Format
So you've scanned a page and now you're staring at it on your computer monitor. What next? You need to save it somehow, preferably in a way that will make it easy to retrieve later. This is where you need to make a choice: what file format should you use for your digital images?
As far as your computer is concerned, this document image is no different than a digital photo. So some users will simply save it like a digital photo – as a JPEG file. Some scanners will try to save it as a TIFF file. This is an older file format that's losing popularity quickly, mainly because of larger file sizes. We don't recommend either of these formats. Why? Because JPEG and TIFF files aren't searchable. What does that mean?
Remember, your computer can't see a difference between an image of a document and any other digital photo like, for example, a picture of a flower. You see words and paragraphs in the document image, but the computer just sees a photo. What if, on the other hand, we could force the computer to recognize the words? Perhaps by teaching the computer the shapes of letters? Suddenly those digital pictures would become much more like actual documents. You could copy text out of them, or possibly even search them like you search web pages. Well this isn't a fantasy, it's a reality thanks to a technology called Optical Character Recognition or "OCR" for short. This process teaches a computer how to pull the text out of document images.
Getting back to the question of file formats, is there a file format that can hold both the image of the document and the text? The answer is yes: PDF, sometimes known as an Adobe Acrobat file.
If you are scanning documents, your document imaging system should absolutely perform OCR on every scan, and it should save those documents in PDF format. How can you make sure that happens? That leads to our last step ...
Step 3: Imaging Document Management: The Key to it All
By now you can see that on the computer end, there are a number of hoops to jump through: you have to pull in the document image, you should run OCR against the image, and you should somehow combine the OCR text together with the original scanned image and convert them into a PDF file. Finally, you should come up with a way to organize all of these scanned documents on your computer. That's a lot of steps.
In this day and age, shouldn't there be a software solution that handles all of this for you? Absolutely. Let's call it document imaging software. And the software we recommend is called FileCenter. FileCenter handles every one of those steps transparently and automatically, making it possible for you to scan, OCR, convert, and save document images in just a couple of mouseclicks. Most FileCenter users don't even realize how much is going on behind the scenes. They just know that FileCenter can pull a document through their scanner and file it away almost effortlessly.
FileCenter does two things remarkably well. First, it is incredibly efficient at document scanning. But it is equally strong at document organization. Most users don't think about the document imaging management side of things, but how you manage and organize your PDF documents is just as important as how you organize paper documents. To that end, FileCenter features an electronic filing cabinet interface that mimics how you currently file your paper documents. This imaging document management brings your electronic documents to life. It even includes full-text searching, making even hard-to-find documents findable.
Our Recommended Document Imaging Solution
FileCenter makes document imaging not just easy, but highly efficient. Producing fully-searchable PDF files and including integrated Optical Character Recognition and an electronic filing cabinet interface, FileCenter will take the pain out of embracing document imaging. Download a free trial today!