Greg Gore is Vice President of Praxis International, Inc.
Technical Training, Consulting, and Publishing since 1988



Converting Paper to Pixels
Greg Gore


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For several years, I have been wanting to convert my business and personal paper files to digital image files. The touted advantages of digital files over paper files include ease of organization, storage, and retrieval. I tried some test conversions a few times in the past and was not too pleased with the results. File sizes were too large, images were not sharp, storage seemed expensive, and the process of converting the files from paper copies to digital images was time consuming.

In the last few months, however, improvements in technologies and prices have renewed my interest in going digital. Prices for scanners have dropped dramatically from $1500 to $150 or less and prices for computer CD rewriters have also dropped. In fact, CD rewriters are often now included with new computers being offered for sale. CD-Rs and CD-RWs offer massive storage space at rock-bottom prices. A box of one hundred 650 MB CD-Rs costs about $25 or 25 cents each. A box of ten 650 MB CD-RWs costs about $15 or $1.50 each.

Businesses, especially financial institutions, are going digital at an increasing rate. Three months ago my bank began providing hard-copy “image statements” of the canceled checks rather than the actual canceled checks. The accompanying letter about the benefits offered by these “new state-of-the-art imaged statements” said that the “Legal proof-images are accepted as proof of payment by federal, state, and local government agencies and businesses.” In addition, credit card companies, mutual fund companies, insurance companies, and other financial institutions now provide statements online.

Clearly, the “Paperless Office” has arrived. To keep up with the times, I purchased PaperPort Deluxe 8.0, a software package from ScanSoft, Inc., the Peabody, Massachusetts based corporation that specializes in “paper-to-digital solutions.” ScanSoft’s other products include OmniPage Pro, TextBridge Pro, Omniform, and eOmni.

PaperPort has 3.5 million registered users including a broad range of businesses and individuals. Paper intensive businesses such as law firms, insurance agencies, real estate agencies, medical offices and accounting firms have come to rely on PaperPort to streamline their businesses and to increase productivity.

The software package has numerous features and is intuitive, easy-to-learn and cost effective with a suggested price of $99.99. For me, the number one feature is that PaperPort allows me to scan in a document and save it in a small file format that preserves the page in an image file that is exactly like the paper document. Or, as the PaperPort documentation says, “just like photocopying paper onto a computer.”

PaperPort uses a proprietary file type named a .max file. Scanning in a one-page magazine article with a couple of photos at a 300 dpi black & white resolution produces a file size of about 125 to 150 KB. A 300 dpi black & white scan produces a sharp image when viewed on a monitor or when printed. I can fit over 4000 such one-page image files on a 650 MB CD-R for an infinitesimal storage cost.

After scanning in an image with PaperPort, the image appears on the PaperPort desktop as a thumbnail image. Double-clicking on the thumbnail displays the image in a page view window where it can be edited (cropped, enhanced, rotated, etc.) and/or annotated with resizable notes, arrows, highlighter marks, etc.

PaperPort also has a clever feature that enables users to easily add keywords, comments, title and author to each image. This information is then included in a searchable database so that the image can be readily retrieved. Images are easily organized and stored in color-coded folders. Photos can also be scanned, imported, or downloaded from digital cameras into PaperPort to take advantage of the editing and filing system.

During the installation process, PaperPort recognizes other programs on your computer to which you can send your PaperPort images. For me, these programs include Microsoft programs such as Outlook, Word, Excel, NotePad, Internet Explorer, and others. PaperPort “supports a wide variety of programs including word processing, spreadsheet, fax, Internet e-mail, graphics, optical character recognition (OCR), and online services programs.”

From the PaperPort desktop, images can be linked to other software programs by dragging and dropping the image to the selected program. PaperPort converts the image to the linked program format and then launches the linked program. Here is what happens when I dragged and dropped a PaperPort .max image file of a page from a magazine article into Microsoft Word: PaperPort displayed a message that it was converting the file and performing optical character recognition. When these steps were completed, Microsoft Word automatically launched and the image file had been transformed into a Microsoft Word document ready for editing.

PaperPort has a number of other useful features including sending images as e-mail attachments, saving and creating web pages on the Internet, and using FormTyper™ (where blank forms are scanned, fields are detected by PaperPort, and users can then fill in the blanks and print the completed form). For additional information on PaperPort and more of its features, visit the ScanSoft web site at

I found one of the biggest hurdles to converting from paper to pixels was just making the decision to get started. Now that a new year is upon us, is there a better time than now to explore this option?


The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on December 5, 2001. Greg Gore can be reached at

© 2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.