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EYES & HANDS for Forms (EHF)

4.0's shortcomings are very basic. For starters, the program needs a new name that better describes what it does. Second, it's too difficult to use. However, beyond these foibles, if you need to recognize and collect data in a heavy-duty forms processing environment, EHF from ReadSoft is a good bet. It might take a bit of work to set up, but it offers a very powerful enterprise-scale solution.

Setting up Eyes & Hands

Most of the hard work with EHF is up front. Before you can do much with EHF you have to tell it how to recognize forms. That means scanning in the form, then using EHF's tools to designate the locations of data fields on the form. After drawing boxes around a field or fields, you must specify its type. You can select from among nine field types.

Not surprisingly, the field types are extremely comprehensive. These nine field types comprise adjustment fields (used to identify and straighten forms); recognition fields (used to identify forms when the forms are too similar to be identified by their adjustment fields alone); image fields (processed without any interpretation); mark fields (boxes that are marked to select a choice); character fields; object fields (for machine-printed strings, such as on a label); barcode fields; coyy fields (areas that you want to save to an image file (in TIFF format) while scanning or during interpretation); matrix fields (a collection of two or more character fields whose exact position cannot be defined); userdefined field types.


Identifying field contents

After specifying the field type yoll also need to pick the format of field contents--whether alphanumeric, handwritten, or printed--along with the validation criteria and the degree of match required for recognition. Not surprisingly, many of these elements aren't obvious. For some options, I had to consult the online help to just get a sense of what EHF was asking for. It took me approximately one half hour to fillly characterize a relatively simple single-page form. In fairness, I expect it would have taken less time on subsequent attempts.

Editing output templates

The next step is to edit the Transaction description,which is essentially a template for the output of the data once EHF has recognized it.You can accept EHF's default layout. I'd recommend this, because changing the layout requires a lot of trial and error. The layout is specified in an abstruse list of parameters. A WYSIWYG display would be better. Smooth sailing

Once I finally got through configuring EHF to handle my form, it was smooth sailing. You simply call up the scan module, which can be loaded separately from the EHF Manager, and pop a batch of forms into the scanner feeder. EHF automatically recognizes which form is being processed.

The program does very well at recognizing not only printed text but also check marks, bar codes, and even handwriting. ReadSoft claims accuracy of 99.9 percent or more in recognizing all data except handwriting. The rate for handwriting is 97 percent. My crabbed handwriting frequently eluded EHF's interpretive powers. Fortunately, when EHF isn't sure about an interpretation it flags the item.

Easier integration

Version 4.0 of EHF offers several improvements vs. its predecessor. First of all, the program is now a 32bit Windows application. There are also several enhancements that make the product easier to use, including an optional visual grid for lining up fields. EHF's API is also open now, making it possible for developers to use Visual Basic macros and 01 E to integrate other Eyes & Hands for Forms 4.0

This industrial-strength program can recognize millions of forms per day, translating not only printed text but check boxes, bar codes, and handwriting as well. It's a little tough to set up, but once it's done you're all set. :

· Pros: Modular program; high capacity; high accuracy.

· Cons: limited scanner card support; terminology and setup somewhat

a ReadSoft Inc. Chicago 1 (888) 732-3763 (toll-free); http://www

·Price: $9,000

· Platforms: Windows 9S, Windows 98, Windows N7:

Windows applications.

Pricey but worthwhile

At first glance, EHF's $9,000 price does seem a bit steep, but, when you consider that this is an industrialstrength program, it's not so outlandish. Plus, the program is modular, allowing you to spread out the work over several computers. According to ReadSoft, some installations take advantage of this modularity to process millions of forms per day. If you need that kind of power, $9,000 is a small price to pay.

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