PaperPort Pro 9 Office Reins in Documents

Content manager ably digitizes and archives pages, but interface may bug users.

For most office workers, staying on top of things means keeping track of a depressingly large amount of paper—paper that, no matter how hard we try, seems to keep piling up in desk corners and file folders.

Paper is durable, portable and cheap, but its very hard to manipulate as a data format. ScanSoft Inc.s updated PaperPort 9 desktop content management system is an effective way to help get paper into digital formats such as Adobe Systems Inc.s Acrobat PDF and to archive documents for effective searching and sharing.

Although the package has maddening interface flaws, it also has significant interoperability and capability improvements, especially for corporate users.

The two versions of the product occupy a solid niche in the low end of the content management market. The $100 PaperPort Deluxe 9 provides the base package, and the new $200 PaperPort Pro 9 Office (which eWEEK Labs tested) contains all PaperPort Deluxe 9s functions plus the ability to turn any document into a PDF file via a PDF-creation printer driver.

PDF printing capabilities can be bought for less than $100 from other sources: Adobes new Acrobat Elements starts at $29 a copy, so organizations could consider mixing and matching PaperPort Deluxe 9 with a product like Acrobat Elements to save some money—if they dont need the text PDF editing features PaperPort Pro 9 Office provides. PaperPort Deluxe can edit and annotate only image-based PDFs; text-based PDFs can only be viewed, searched and printed.

In addition to its stronger PDF features, PaperPort Pro 9 Office supports network scanners and digital copiers and adds client support for higher-end content management systems.

This level of corporate integration is important because PaperPort does not scale up past the small workgroup level on its own. It offers no document repository database (documents are simply stored in a normal file system, although shared network drives can be used for this purpose), no distinction between personal and shared documents, no check-in/check-out features, no content protection nor security, and no support for document workflow, approval or routing. (It was easy to e-mail documents directly from PaperPort.)

Both versions of PaperPort started shipping last month and require Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000 or XP.

Full PDF Support

The biggest change in the PaperPort 9 series is its comprehensive support for PDF as a native file format (see screen). PaperPort 8s native format was the proprietary Max format.

We could do everything with PDF we could with Max, including creating multipage documents, adding annotations, and storing both image and OCR (optical character recognition) text versions of documents in the same file.

On the downside, a few interface bugs irritated us. The top problem was that in its Details view, pressing Enter to view the currently highlighted file always loaded the first file in the list, a bug that destroys the ability to use the keyboard to navigate between files in this common view. We were also unable to cut and paste file names when trying to rename newly scanned documents in the Details view, another irritant. These are basic interface problems (which were also present in PaperPort 8) that we were surprised to encounter.

West Coast Technical Director Timothy Dyck can be reached at