Document Imaging And Scanning

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Two important components of records management today are document imaging and scanning. These two terms are often used synonymously to refer to the process of capturing hard copy documents--whether artwork, printed text, film, or handwritten manuscript--to digital format. They are not the same thing. This is important to remember when planning a move from a paper-based information system to a digital one.

Scanning is capturing of text or image. That is, working on the principle of refracted light, the scanner takes a snapshot of the document, then converts that analog data to digital format, enabling it to be read, manipulated, archived, and retrieved by a computer. There are several scanner technologies--flatbed, flatbed with transparency adapter, slide, and drum. Drum scanners are high-end and continue to be used by service bureaus for comprehensive document imaging and scanning conversions.

The higher the color depth of a scanner, the better the image. A 24- or 30-bit is usually adequate for casual use and web publication, but 36-bit is better for negative, slide, and film use. Resolution is another specification. Beware of the significant quality difference between optical (hardware) resolution and interpolated (software). Heed the optical measurement. The optical density is the measurement for tonal values, with a range from 0 to 4, with paper usually falling at 2.0 and transparencies at about 3.2.

What Comprehensive Document Imaging and Scanning Entails

The initial capture of the document is only part of the document imaging and scanning equation of the conversion to digital format. Format, access, retrieval, and archiving are just as significant. Text documents, whether printed or handwritten, are initially digital images. To translate the first to ASCII (raw) text, the image needs to be processed by an OCR program, short for optical character recognition. Handwriting recognition software is still very much in its infancy.

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