Nuance’s PaperPort handles paperless document management on personal computers.

Perhaps there are alternatives, I haven’t seen one. I use PaperPort 11, but a newer version, Paperport 12, is available.

Paperport handles many document formats and sizes. Nuance designed Paperport to work with scanners – and a cut-down version is often supplied with the hardware.

The software sits on top of Windows’ folder structure. You view document thumbnails laid out on the screen. Usually Paperport’s display shows the first page of multiple-page documents, but unlike Windows, you can scroll through the pages without opening the thumbnail.

You can store documents in several formats – Paperport recognises all the common ones. But changing formats and using Paperport documents is straightforward.

Paperport automatically generates a row of application icons along the bottom of its display based on the programs installed on your computer. On my computer the icons include the main Microsoft Office applications along with Ominpage, Photoshop, Acrobat, FTP and others.

When you move a document thumbnail on one of these icons, the application opens allowing you to word on the document. For example, moving a PDF to the Outlook icon allows you to email the document and moving, say, a Tiff document to the Omnipage icon cranks up its optical character recognition engine.

PDF, the standard

These days it makes sense to store most electronic documents as PDFs – the format is the widely accepted paperless standard. Paperport comes with a built-in PDF conversion utility which does the job smoothly and efficiently – generally there’s little need for human intervention.

If you’ve a huge amount of documents to scan, it’s possible to let Paperport automatically improve images. It can straighten them and adjust colour and contrast, sharpen and remove red-eye from photographs. Even though I’ve scanned a stored more than 1,000 documents I’ve avoided this automation because it can introduce errors. Instead I tweak images manually as I enter them.

The bad stuff: I’ve found the program buggy – it crashes without warning. Yet it never loses a huge amount of work when this happens. In addition, there’s an annoying registration reminder application loaded on to your computer – which can cause problems with Windows. It takes a while to learn how to get the best out of the application.

Another gripe is poor support – the Nuance web site has few answers to the problems I saw and there’s not a vibrant and vocal community of users to call on when in need of help.

Overall: As far as I know, there’s not low-level alternative to Paperport, so if you need paperless home document management this is it. The application does what I need, is a productivity booster and is a powerful tool despite its annoyances.

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