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Corex Technologies
CardScan
by Rick Smith (December 1995)

Card Scan is a program that lets you EASILY take a stack of business cards and turn them into a useful database of information. You can also keep the the actual card graphics in the database! Card Scan is different from most products in that it can work with most Twain compliant scanners instead of only a proprietary scanner.

Cardscan performs complete card recognition and it is very good. If it is presented with a clean card (in both design and a card that hasn't been in your wallet for years) to scan, it rarely makes a mistake. If their are some graphics, some handwriting on the face of the card and you don't get the card straight into the scanner, it can make a few errors with the card. The spelling can be incorrect or the company name can end up in wrong location. Generally, there are less than five errors per card and these can be quickly corrected.

I have used this program to scan many of my Comdex business cards in a massive "power" scan a few months ago. I used a Windows 95 machine connected to a Windows NT server and I stored both the software and the data on the server. Although this sounds complicated, I did it because I was out of space on the Windows 95 system, I was the only system on the network and this server had over 5 gigabytes of free RAID 5 disk space! It worked very well.

Features
The feature that I like the best is that you can tap (sorry, left click -- for you mouse or trackball users -- I put this program and data on my pen-based Concerto conputer) on any field and this field becomes highlighted and can be easily moved to another field. No complicated Alt, Edit, Cut, Alt, Edit, Paste to use, but keyboard "shortcuts" also work. This is very useful if the company name ends up in the wrong field.

The program automatically understands email addresses and fax numbers in addition to the usual name, title, company name, address, city, state, zip code and phone number.

Even vertically oriented business cards are handled very well. In fact, it is quite entertaining to watch the system decipher a vertical card. First it displays it sideways on the screen and tries to read it. When it finds it can't it then flips it upright and tries to read it again. Sometimes this second flip is completely upside down, but it continues and finally the card is displayed correctly and read properly. It's a wonderful simulation of a computer "thinking" about a problem and solving it.

Problems
The only scanning problems that I have encountered with this program is with three types of unusual cards. These are cards with white lettering on a dark background, cards with only embossed lettering without any ink and cards with a dark horizontal stripe across the card.

The program seems to handle only dark lettering on a light background so these first two problem card types can't be read properly at all. Since this program can process multiple cards on a single page, it searches for dark borders to determine the card edges and stripes on a card cause the program to split the card into two parts and read each part as a separate card. So a card with a stripe turns the card into two parts.

I have found that the program is excellent at adjusting the proper brightness and contrast to read a card, so I have found that it is best to give the program a grey scale image to read, instead of trying to set the contrast and brightness yourself. This is especially true if you are scanning in several cards in the same scan, since some cards are very "bold" while others use very "thin" type and each needs a different brightness/contrast setting. Using a grey scale image makes it easier on the scanner operator.

The only reason I manually set the brightness/contrast is to help the software read the more unusual cards. This works, but the extra time it takes is longer than manually entering the card, so you would need to have several similar cards to make this extra work worthwhile.

If you have a high speed flatbed scanner and want to scan a stack of cards, you can let the program loose on the entire set. Their technical support told me that you can save BMP files into the \IMAGE directory and the program will then read the files. I have tried to do this, without any success whatsoever.

Also, card images that read poorly, sometimes look much nicer than the card images that can be read very well by the program. Unfortunately, there is no way to replace a card image in the database. The image can be deleted, but not replaced.

Conclusion
I have used an HP3 card scanner and a Delrina WinFax scanner (made by Fujitsu) with great success. Although these scanners are on opposite ends of the personal scanner spectrum, they both work very well with CardScan. The images saved in the software look clearer, when I used the HP scanner, but recognition is great for both.

Even with the problems found in more unusual cards and the inability to perform all the scans idependently from the program, this program is easy to use and finding your cards after they are scanned is very easy.

Pro:
Excellent user interface that is very easy to use
Works well with pen computing - you can perform most functions with the mouse instead requiring keystrokes
The actual card image can be saved along with the scanned text

Cons:
Problems reading any card with a stripe across the card
No way to replace the card image with another image

Copyright 1995 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
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