Document Conversion II: ZyImage Adds Choice

WASHINGTON (04/10/2000) - ZyLab International Inc.'s ZyImage doesn't have the management tools and extensive scalability of Adobe Systems Inc.'s Adobe Capture, but it does deliver a very solid set of tools for converting documents -- both scanned and electronic -- into searchable text databases. What's more, the product's search and retrieval tools are very powerful and lightning fast.

Unlike Acrobat Capture, ZyImage is constructed from the bottom up as a modular program with three major applications: scanning, indexing and searching. The first of these modules, ZyScan, includes utilities for scanning documents, importing existing files, assigning data fields (such as author, date, department, etc.), and recognizing the text in documents. The optical character recognition process is pretty much hands-off, and we found the program does a generally good job of recognizing text. It lacks some features that other OCR engines have, such as a spell checker and the ability to select which areas of a document are read. Basically, you're pretty much stuck with whatever results the OCR engine produces. But since ZyImage retrieves the actual image of documents rather than the text interpreted by the OCR engine, this is not critical for most users because they can view the original.

One advantage ZyImage has over Capture for those building electronic databases is that, in addition to scanned images, the program can handle more than 250 electronic file formats, including all the major word processing formats and several spreadsheet and database formats.

The second of ZyImage's modules, ZyIndex, is, as the name implies, the indexing engine that compiles the text files in the recognized documents into searchable catalogs of terms. This module also includes utilities for scheduling and configuring index update and maintenance chores and for publishing to CD-ROM and the World Wide Web.

The real heart and soul of ZyImage is in the third module, ZyFind. ZyFind, like the other modules, presents a sparse, no-nonsense interface to users. But it also offers extensive search and retrieval tools. You can perform simple character-string searches, complex Boolean searches, proximity searches, progressive searches and "fuzzy" searches that will search for terms similar to the one you've entered. Once you've launched your search, it's generally only a fraction of a second until ZyFind delivers a list of documents that contain hits.

Like Acrobat Capture, ZyImage allows users to view documents with their original formatting and graphics intact. While Capture accomplishes this through converting everything to Acrobat's Portable Document Format, ZyImage employs a different strategy. After ZyOCR is used to recognize the text in a scanned file, Zy- Image stores both the scanned image of the document and the recognized text.

When you search for a term, ZyImage locates all matches in its indexes and then offers the scanned images of the appropriate pages and uses pointers to highlight the hits on the page.

One of the ZyImage features that makes it especially pertinent to the kind of heavy use expected in many departments and agencies is its job templates.

The ZyScan module includes a wizard that makes it easy to create or edit templates to include any steps -- from scanning to importing, from OCR to exporting -- as automatic or manually launched operations. And by purchasing multiple workstation licenses, you can distribute the work of scanning, recognizing and indexing among multiple users, though not with the granularity of Capture. While ZyImage does provide a job manager that shows what steps have been completed for each job, it doesn't actually deliver the work to the appropriate workstations nor does it report on the current location of the various pieces of a workflow.

Finally, ZyImage includes a slick ZyAlert feature that will automatically scan incoming documents for matches to search arguments. ZyImage will automatically send all retrieved documents directly to specified e-mail accounts.

ZyImage is a complex and powerful product. We didn't find it as easy to set up and configure as Acrobat Capture, nor does ZyImage provide the scalability and flexibility in distributed processing that you'll find in the Adobe product.

But ZyImage does offer more options for document input and output, and ZyImage's search tools and speed can't be beat.ZyImage 3.0 Score: B+ ZyLab International Inc. (301) 428-0045 ZyImage, as a standalone product, is available on the open market for $2,300.

You can purchase a $3,595 server license to allow concurrent access to ZyImage modules. Client licenses (for running ZyFind on clients) cost $795 each.

ZyImage is available on the GSA schedule with an approximate discount of 10 percent.

ZyImage is a complex program that delivers a lot of power to those who want to convert scanned or electronic documents into searchable databases. The price of that power is a relatively high learning curve. It can be used with Windows 98 or Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or later.

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