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OCR Forms Processing Software

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Implementing Fixed Form Recognition

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OCR and Fixed Forms: A Practical Overview

Managing a large volume of forms can be a challenging task for businesses. Think about reading checkboxes, extracting text, and dealing with forms varying from surveys to application forms – that’s our world, and we will here to help you navigate it. If you’re looking to automate and streamline this process, OCR for fixed form processing is the technology that addresses this challenge. This guide dives into how automation through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software and intelligent data capture can efficiently handle forms like surveys, applications, questionnaires, medical claim forms and many more.

Understanding Fixed Forms

You’ve seen them everywhere: fixed forms, also known as structured forms, are a common sight in various industry sectors. They have designated areas for your input – think checkboxes, specific fields for text, and sometimes those familiar circles you need to fill. They’re structured, predictable, but certainly not trivial for automatically processing. We encounter these in various scenarios, from application forms and customer surveys to insurance documentation and healthcare paperwork.

We usually group documents into categories based on how they’re laid out. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Structured Forms: As the name suggests, these have a fixed format. Think of government tax forms, insurance claim forms, or standardized tests – they usually have the same number of pages. Every form of a particular type looks the same: specific fields and checkboxes are in the same place, and if there’s a section for comments or signatures, it’s always in a predetermined spot. This consistency in structured forms makes them ideal candidates for OCR software automation, although their apparent simplicity can be deceptive. We’ll delve into this further later on.;
  • Semi-structured Documents: Examples of these are invoices or bills of lading. While each invoice from the same vendor typically includes the same type of fields, their actual placement might differ from one document to another. The number of line items can change, and crucial information like the tax field might appear on different pages in various documents. Because of this, the processing OCR software needs to apply a more flexible data capture approach, one that relies on pattern recognition and machine learning techniques to accurately capture the data.;
  • Unstructured Documents: These could be letters, contracts, or reports, where the format and placement of information can vary significantly, and there is no real structure to the layout. To read and understand these, the software uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) along with natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning.

SmartSoft Invoices can process all three types, though the software configuration varies slightly for each.

Navigating the Challenges

Fixed forms might look consistent at first glance, but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to processing them digitally:

  • Varied Origins: Forms often come from a variety of sources, leading to a surprising amount of diversity. They might be printed using different printers, scanned with varying settings – dpi (resolution levels), color, image compression level, and method. Sometimes, there are slight variations in headers or footers even in forms that look identical. This variety affects how these forms are represented digitally, revealing that ‘fixed’ forms aren’t as fixed as one might think.;
  • Diverse Marking Methods: The ways people fill out these forms can vary greatly. It’s not just about ticking boxes; we see a range of methods including ticks, crosses, and dots. It’s common for marks to exceed the checkbox’s boundary.;
  • Image Quality: Further complicating this issue, we find that many organizations compress their scanned images to save on storage space, resulting in lower-quality scans, typically in black-and-white, where finer details can be lost. This might impact the OCR and OMR quality.;
  • Layout Variations: Beyond the typical scanning offsets,skews and varying orientations, subtle layout changes, such as margin adjustments, are common.

A capable forms recognition software system should be prepared to handle these variations efficiently.

Scanned or Text PDF? Both are Manageable

SmartSoft Invoices offers accurate processing of both scanned documents and vector PDFs. For scanned images, which are in a pixel-based format, the software uses OCR technology to convert the image into editable text. In contrast, vector PDFs, created by software applications, contain text that’s already digital and precisely extractable without the need for OCR. Additionally, the OMR software must handle the intricacies of the PDF format, which is known for its complexity and diverse range of features.

Streamlined Configuration Process

What is unique about SmartSoft Invoices is the ease of its configuration process. Users simply upload a document to the software for processing and click on the relevant regions on the document to match with the corresponding form fields. This interaction enables the software to learn, allowing it to automatically recognize and process similar forms in the future. No need for manual pixel-based layout descriptions or writing complex scripts.

Comprehensive Forms Reading Solution

SmartSoft Invoices extends its functionality beyond form recognition. The software offers a broad range of features tailored for efficient document processing across various industries.

  • Document Intake: Supports various methods for receiving documents, such as through email, scanners, APIs, monitored folders, and network drives.;
  • Smart Validation: Features a formula language similar to Excel for intelligent and accurate data validation and automated calculations.;
  • Database Integration: Seamlessly integrates with downstream databases for efficient data export and validation.;
  • Extensibility: The software is designed for customization and integration, allowing for the addition of custom features through its plugin system.;
  • Robust Security and User Management: Incorporates detailed user and group management features, ensuring secure, permission-based access and data protection.

In a Nutshell

Navigating the world of OCR form processing doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task. With its focus on ease of use, quick deployment, and thorough coverage of the entire document processing workflow, SmartSoft Invoices automates and streamlines your document processing effectively.

We invite you to discover what our solution can do for you – schedule a call with us and try out the software free to see its effectiveness with your own documents.

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