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Education Technology

Large-Scale Paper-To-Digital Conversion? 459

Posted by timothy
from the that's-asking-a-lot-professor dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I've just been asked to digitize several dozen sets of lecture outlines at the university where I work. Basically, professors want to hand me a big (often 100+ page) stack of their handwritten lecture notes (with messy text, equations, and diagrams; sometimes double-sided) and expect me to post a PDF-or-something-similar to their course's web page. However, every desktop scanner I've ever used takes 1-2 minutes of user-attention per page and the resulting files end up Huge, impossible-to-read, or both. All I have at my disposal is my PowerBook, Acrobat, a couple hundred dollars of department funds for a new scanner (this maybe?), and, if I ask nicely, overnight use of the secretary's Win2k box. Any ideas? Sheet-fed scanner recommendations? Better file formats than PDF (or better PDF settings)? Do any of you students have usability advice?"
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Large-Scale Paper-To-Digital Conversion?

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  • Get stuffed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by October_30th (531777) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:28PM (#9231472) Homepage Journal
    Uh. How about telling your prof. to get stuffed and get a real secretary.
    • Re:Get stuffed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Amiga Lover (708890) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:35PM (#9231552)
      I think you're right on the money. May be well worth taking the job to an outside agency. There are many print shops using Xerox Docutechs, which scan in many hundreds of sheets at once to print copies of documents. The scanning takes barely a second a page, and it wouldn't surprise me if the document format being stored inside the docutech is something that can be used for this purpose.

      I've had a similar job, where our school's lecturers wanted their notes in the same style so one of my jobs as admin assistant was retyping chapters from textbooks & inserting the original illustrations. That didn't start out too bad until lecturers started basing course notes on entire quarters of books, expecting them to be retyped completely in their own style. Give an inch they'll try to take a mile - use the few hundred $$ to get it professionally scanned.
      • Re:Get stuffed (Score:2, Interesting)

        by SoSueMe (263478)
        ...retyping chapters from textbooks & inserting the original illustrations. That didn't start out too bad until lecturers started basing course notes on entire quarters of books...

        Isn't that copyright infringement?
        Unless, of course, they wrote the textbooks.
      • by capsteve (4595) * on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:45PM (#9232099) Homepage Journal
        being in the prepress industry, i see more and more traditional printing going the way of xerography. of the competitors in the field, xerox probably has the best system with the docutech series... you may want to consider kinko's which is an authorized user/vendor of the docutech system.

        on a side note, if the professors are utilizing a lot of additional material which includes might include3 handwritten information, you might consider getting encouraging them to transcribe that material(hopefully your not the TA that has to do the transcription) into a digital for, be it text or WORD. this'll difinitely help in reducing the size of your files.

        also consider looking into adobe's pdf service, [adobe.com] if you're overwhelmed with just orginizing the material itself. probably not so kosher to suggest ity on /. but it could be something the school already has an agreement with adobe(taking into account the units of acrobat the school itself might be using). i know it's not rolling your own, but sometimes using an "out of the box" solution to get thing up and running so you can explore other solutions has it's merit as well...

      • Re:Get stuffed (Score:5, Informative)

        by Man Eating Duck (534479) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @05:11PM (#9232621)

        I've been working with various versions of the Docutech system for about six years, and they're in use in most of the professional copy/print shops around, at least in Scandinavia. They scan full page and double sided, 600 dpi at about 1 page/sec. Newer versions also can handle full colour.

        Native document format is tiff images with a proprietary control file (structuring, positioning etc), but you can easily convert it to pdf.

        I'd guess that a professional shop will charge you about 30 cents a page if you accept the raw document files without 'touching up'. This is more than adequate if you're just going to reproduce it on paper, or even distribute the PDFs. It'll weigh in at about 100k a page for the tiff format, and a lot less for the PDFs. This is black and white, which in most cases will suffice.

        Professional equipment (as in contracting a print shop) is definitely the way to go. I know that at the University of Oslo, Norway, they have established an in-house shop that will do this type of work internally for just about cost. Maybe that's an idea to put forth to the management? Surely your university will find other uses for it than just your assignment.

        Hope this helps :)
      • we've gotten a bunch of jobs like this - turning handwritten documents into searchable pdfs - and had a lot of luck sending them to firms in india, either by sending the documents snailmail or scanning with a sheet feeder and ftp'ing. the firm we got the best results from was called suntec, suntecindia.com I believe. I know outsourcing is a touchy subject these days, but they were all set up for this, we weren't, and their prices were quite good.
        • by BigBlockMopar (191202) on Monday May 24, 2004 @01:32AM (#9235137) Homepage

          we've gotten a bunch of jobs like this - turning handwritten documents into searchable pdfs

          We had to do this, too. For a Court, which requires the reasons, decisions, etc. to be publicly available online.

          *Thousands* of documents, hundreds of pages each. The responsible department got me, as the IT guy, to set it up for them (after they'd already bought the stuff to do it).

          Basically, a couple of Ricoh Aficio series copier/scanners, a couple of ancient Fujitsu sheet-feed scanners, and a bunch of students sitting all day in front of computers running OmniPage Pro.

          The Ricohs were great on paper - fast, networked, etc. but their scanner drivers were poor (reminded me of bad CD-ROM drivers - "Copywrite 1995 Behavior Tech Computer. All right reverse." [sic,sic,sic]), and their service (contract) involved having to call the Ricoh guy because the scanner portions randomly wouldn't appear on the network, then wait for him to appear while at least one of the students sat idle. 2 stars out of 5.

          Ancient Fujitsu scanners, black and white only, don't remember the model number, required proprietary SCSI cards, no support under Windows NT/XP/2K. These were commercial-grade super-expensive scanners when new (about 1990). Installed Windows 95 on a bunch of relics with ISA slots for the SCSI cards and let 'er rip. Scanning was fast, feed was reliable like a good-quality photocopier or fax machine. Only issue was requirement for an old computer running an old OS; better overall than Ricohs - 4 stars out 5.

          OmniPage Pro 12 - reading was *excellent*, far better than anything else I've ever seen. Handled French and English, simple monochrome diagrams, etc. with only very small occasional formatting problems. Print to a PDF using Acrobat on the file server. Only real problem was stability, frequently locking up and losing the scan and OCR on page 99 of a 104 page document. 2 stars out of 5, being punitive because of frustration.

          As they got to be more proficient with OPP, and as OPP's dictionaries filled up, we were able to add more and more computers and scanners, so that they were running around, tossing files into the scanners, stapling scanned documents back together, and occasionally rebooting one of the Windows 95 workstations. Peak was 15 computers and scanners.

          Task took 3 students 3 months full-time.

    • Re:Get stuffed (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Walt Dismal (534799)
      No, seriously, this request shows utter lack of concern by someone who may be a professor, but is also a bad manager and possibly an idiot. Your response perhaps should be to scope out the project and toss estimate and the funding issue back into his lap. But do not let yourself be used as slave labor.
    • by eliza_effect (715148) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @06:08PM (#9232940)
      professors want to hand me a big (often 100+ page) stack of their handwritten lecture notes (with messy text, equations, and diagrams; sometimes double-sided) and expect me to post a PDF-or-something-similar to their course's web page.

      Spend the money on buying them copies of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.
  • Kinkos? (Score:5, Informative)

    by axonal (732578) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:30PM (#9231489)
    Some Kinkos have those big goliath Xerox scanners which act just like copiers. Load a stack up papers, and it will scan the pages and load them up. Not sure about PDF export/etc though.
    • Re:Kinkos? (Score:5, Informative)

      by zenquest (315406) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:37PM (#9231572)
      We have a Xerox WorkCentre Pro 65 at my school. It can scan at around 50-60 pages per minute, and will do double-sided. It will do PDF output, too. (and email it or FTP it to you, if so configured)

      Our teachers use them for exactly the purpose described. If you don't have one of these type machines around anywhere, then definitely give Kinkos or some similar establishment a try.
    • Works for me (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sglow (465483) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:07PM (#9231848)

      I tend to scan lots of documents and setup a simple perl script that uses the 'scanimage' command line tool to do the scanning. Using my Epson Perfection 1650 scanner (pretty standard flatbed scanner) I can scan an 8"x10" page in black & white mode in about 10 seconds.

      I actually added a button to the Nautilus GUI shell so I can move to the directory I want and hit the button to scan a page to that directory. Very convenient.

      I scan to tiff and then use the convert utility (part of imagemagick) to convert to png. The resulting files typically run about 100K to 200K depending on the content.

      If anyone's interested in seeing the perl script I've posted it to: www.ollies.net/scanscript.html [freecache.org]

      Steve

  • well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:30PM (#9231498)
    if I ask nicely, overnight use of the secretary's Win2k box

    Plus, if you're lucky, you could also get other after-hours favors from the secretary as well ;-)
  • High Speed Scanner (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You need a high speed scanner. Fujistu makes a nice one that works pretty well.
    • Indeed, the AC is right - Fujitsu (and a few others) is the way to go. Back when I used to work for a stock brokerage, all of the overwhlming amount of paper that customers had to fill out would be scanned in with a few high-speed Fujitsu's into Hyland's OnBase [hyland.com] document management system.

      Sadly, this approach is way out of league for the small budget the poster has.
      I'd have to wonder if a consumer scanner, even a nice one like that HP, can keep up with the constant use required of it.
      Much like Laser printe
    • Do NOT get that HP scanner. I have the same model, and while the hardware is just fine, HP's scanning software is garbage.

      I run paperport to store all of my bills, documents, etc. The HP scanner software simply will-not use the resolutions and options I want paperport to use (200 DPI, B&W).

      When using the sheetfeeder, the damn thing always scans in 24bit at 200DPI no matter what I try and set as a default - then I have to manually convert every page.

      Go with a different model.

      N.
  • Simple. (Score:5, Funny)

    by jebell (567579) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:31PM (#9231504) Journal
    Outsource the job to India.
    • by Faust7 (314817) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:42PM (#9231630) Homepage
      Outsource the job to India

      "No, no, not my entire job, just this one part. No, I can do the rest. No, really. No! No... please..."
    • Re:Simple. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GothChip (123005) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:48PM (#9231685) Homepage
      I know the parent post was funny but he's thinking along the right ideas.

      Take the few hundred you have to spend on equipment and spend it hiring a few temps.

      A good typist should be able to type up hand written notes faster than scanning them all in and manually fixing all the mistakes.
    • Re:Simple. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pendragn (107545)

      Outsource the job to India.

      Not as bad an idea as it sounds. My advice is to not waste the department's money, and your time, buying, installing, and using a sheet feed scanner. Somebody in your local area assuredly has one already that they either rent out to people in your situation, or that they use to do the work you need done.

      Use the funds that the department gave you to have your local copy shop do the work. They will almost certainly do it faster than you could, and the end product will mo

  • HP Copiers (Score:3, Informative)

    by kevin@ank.com (87560) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:31PM (#9231506) Homepage
    The large multi-function HP Printer/Copiers will scan and e-mail a PDF of an entire stack of papers just as you would use a normal copier. I'm sure that the other manufacturers have similar features, but it is the HP equipment that we use at work.
    • Re:HP Copiers (Score:3, Insightful)

      by XaXXon (202882)
      Will you please tell both of us where we can get one for a few hundred dollars, as specified in the question?

      I think the real answer is that this guy is S.O.L. .. he's just going to have to spend some good quality time getting to know a consumer-level scanner, and let the professor know to do his notes in software initially.
      • You might not be able to get a copier that does this for a couple hundred bucks, but if a place on campus has a copier you can use, either for free or cheap (since scanning doesn't use toner or paper, after all), you win.
      • Re:HP Copiers (Score:2, Informative)

        by kevin@ank.com (87560)
        The big copiers run a couple of thousand dollars, but the multi-function fax/scanner/printers from HP are in the approximate price range and are all able to scan stacks of paper rather than individual sheets. The easiest way to get one of the large printers for less that a few hundred dollars is to start calling alumni who work for HP and ask them if they'll make an equipment donation.
    • Re:HP Copiers (Score:4, Informative)

      by plankers (27660) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:38PM (#9231586) Homepage
      The Konica ones where I work do a similar thing -- they can email you a TIFF or a PDF of a huge stack of paper. Ours are only black & white, and will only do a fixed resolution, but a newer color copier would fix all those shortcomings. Many universities and colleges have print centers that have this type of equipment if your department doesn't.

      Worse case, you can get an HP scanner and the automatic document feeder for it. If this is going to happen a lot it should be pretty easy to justify the $500 or so for the scanner, ADF, and a copy of Acrobat.
  • HP Digital Sender (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guanix (16477) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:31PM (#9231512) Homepage
    The HP Digital Sender [hp.com] series are really great for this stuff. You feed it a stack of paper and it scans it, 15 pages per minute, and can store the PDF on a file server or you can send an email with the PDF attached directly from the network sender! It's a bit expensive, but try to look around for one, maybe the local copyshop? Guan
    • There used to be a smaller model for about $1500, the 8100C. We have one of these and it's quite useful.

      Not as fast as they claim though. Take the speed with a grain of salt, assume half.
    • Re:HP Digital Sender (Score:4, Informative)

      by W2k (540424) <wilhelm.svenseli ... 15926om minus pi> on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:40PM (#9231608) Homepage Journal
      Great product. Unfortunately, its price is listed at about 10x the "few hundred dollars" the original submitter specified in his posting.

      I've found the Canon Canoscan flatbeds do a good job of automatically scanning straight to PDF, only minimal user intervention (hit "enter") is required. There's a special mode for scanning text which enhances contrast, so messy notes and diagrams should be fine, too. The resulting PDF:s are also remarkably small in size for what is essentially a huge bitmap. I've a Canon Canoscan 8000F myself, it's very fast and can do higher DPI's than most people need, and although it might be a bit out of his price range, I'm sure the cheaper models can do the same job nearly as well.
    • Most digital copiers can do similar things nowadays. Typically, you rent such machines, and it's not too expensive in this case, especially if the device is also used as a true copier.
    • Re:HP Digital Sender (Score:4, Informative)

      by Zak3056 (69287) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @04:21PM (#9232292) Journal
      The HP Digital Sender series are really great for this stuff. You feed it a stack of paper and it scans it, 15 pages per minute, and can store the PDF on a file server or you can send an email with the PDF attached directly from the network sender!

      I have one of these on my office network, and and I agree that they're pretty good machines--though I have some complaints about them.

      First off, I don't believe their functionality justifies the $3100 price tag. While the feature set it good, for that kind of money, this thing should be able to OCR, and not have to rely on 3rd party software for that functionality.

      Secondly, their "scan to file server" feature requires a server side daemon to run--you can't simply drop the document to an SMB or NFS server. Further, the daemon only runs on WinNT/2k/XP systems, and you need to do a little bit of hacking to get it to run as a service, instead of opening it manually (or via startup folder) on login.

      Third, it can be DOG SLOW. In particular, when scanning multiple large jobs (particularly at higher resolution) the thing will bog down. It also can only handle a fairly small number of jobs in queue at any one time. One of our secretaries can fill its queue in short order, and have to wait about ten minutes before she can scan the next document packet. When she's trying to scan a hundred packets, this essentially becomes her main focus for a work day.

      All in all, our Toshiba copiers seem to do the same job better--of course, they have their own problems (i.e. over $20k each, with a poor user interface, and they don't do color, and don't OCR either.)

  • Format (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bobthemuse (574400) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:31PM (#9231513)
    While PDFs are pretty well supported, you'll still be storing it as raster data, so there won't be any size decrease over using an image format, such as PNG.

    Are there any web-based packages for searching documents, based on OCR-extracted keywords? Obviously with messy hand-written notes, formulas, etc, OCR won't work reliably. For a similar project, I'd like to OCR the files and use the text data solely for keyword searching. Obviously not perfect, but better than just images.

    PNG is your friend....
    • Re:Format (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chuckaluphagus (111487) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:52PM (#9231722)
      I have to scan and store very high-res black-and-white images for work, and I've found that the best format to save in is TIF with a CCITT Fax 4 compression. It will only work for black-and-white files, but for a full page of text and graphics scanned at 2-color, 600 dpi, you can get a file about 100 kbyte. The image quality is superb, and it's far, far more efficient than PDF.

      The program I use to convert to TIF is IrfanView (http://www.irfanview.com/), a generally excellent image viewer. I'ts free, too, so no worries there. It offers a ton of options for compression settings for different formats, so you can try other file formats as needed.
      • Re:Format (Score:3, Informative)

        by alannon (54117)
        Storing what you describe as a PDF should be almost the same size as the TIFF you describe, except for the small overhead of the PDF wrapper. PDFs support CCITT Fax 3 & 4, as well as ZIP & run-length compression on monochrome images.

        I run a micro-publishing business which often involves scanning a lot of B&W images at high resolution. I'll agree that storing files as TIFFs makes them much easier to edit, though. Our final publishing happens as PDFs, though, and it does not bloat the size of
  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:31PM (#9231517) Journal
    Just say 'No'. (If you're being told, it's a different matter, of course).

    It sounds to me like a damned hard job to automate (which is the only way it's not going to be a constant drain on your time), and you're being given next-to-no resources to even come up with a creative solution. Sometimes the best answer is in fact 'No' - it forces people to re-evaluate what they're asking. It comes with the danger of being sacked if it's you that's being unreasonable, of course....

    Simon.
    • by malia8888 (646496) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:48PM (#9231681)
      I really agree with Space cowboy. My former husband was a college professor. He was very brilliant in his field, but anything out side of his narrow realm daunted him. He wanted to put pennies in our fusebox when the lights went out. He stared at a breaker box in the condo like it was the control panel of an alien spacecraft.

      Explain the enormity of this scratched note-to-finished Pdf to this educator. Use crayons, mirrors, yarn and tape if necessary to get your point across. Just be diplomatic :P

    • I have to agree, this project sounds like a waste of time and resources. The only way to do a NICE job of this would be to type up all the text and create neat digital versions of all the diagrams, and that's more than a one-person job. Sounds to me like something the profs should be doing their damn lazy selves.
    • I agree totally. Some people tend to look at an admin as someone who does magic. They dont understand that some things either costs money or takes time. Perhaps it would be better to give the people writing theese things a laptop in the first place. It sounds like a great waste of time to duplicate the work when it should have been given to the admin in digital format in the first place.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:31PM (#9231518)
    Is to first make an exact copy (by hand) of all the existing documents. Its vital to have a full backup in case anything goes wrong with the scanning process you can always restore the manilla folders to their original filled state.
  • See if the department can afford an HP Digital Sender. While they're quite pricy, they'll feed, scan, and email you a PDF.

    http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/sm/WF05a/15 17 9-64175-64404-12126-64404-25324.html
  • ADF Scanners (Score:5, Informative)

    by Loiosh-de-Taltos (247549) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:32PM (#9231521)
    What I suggest and use is the HP 4C scanner. It's a SCSI-II only scanner that can be found on Ebay for under $10 usually. They also have an automatic document feeder option that can be found on Ebay. This scanner was originally designed for both Windows and Apple compatibility as well. It cannot handle 2-sided sheets.

    The scanner has four different pieces of software you can choose to use, I'd suggest Precision Scan Pro as that makes multi-document scanning easier.
    • Re:ADF Scanners (Score:3, Informative)

      by LightForce3 (450105)
      I agree, an ADF scanner is definitely the way to go on your budget. However, I'd recommend purchasing a new one instead of buying used, especially since you'll be doing high-volume work. I'd also be wary of HP scanners, as I've had bad experiences with their PrecisionScan Pro software, and have been told that in general HP software is sub-par.
    • Re:ADF Scanners (Score:3, Informative)

      by silverhalide (584408)
      I have used this setup to scan in tens of thousands of pages. All you need is Adobe Acrobat 4 or 5 (full version) and the Deskscan driver. Drop a stack in, click scan, and walk off and go do something. Come back in 5 minutes, put the pile back in to scan the back sides, click continue, you're done. Acrobat automatically interweaves the fronts and backs for you so the no-duplex thing is a non-issue. Ideal speed/quality settings: 300 dpi black and white threshold scanning. Tweak the threshold for the fir
    • Re:ADF Scanners (Score:3, Informative)

      by detritus. (46421) *
      I definitely second this recommendation. IMO, one of the best scanners ever made. I have a newer usb HP scanner that doesn't even come close to the speed of this thing. They just don't make bulky, well built quality scanners like the 4C anymore.

      And for the record, you aren't limited to only 4 software applications for scanning (at least in Windows, any application will work if it uses TWAIN). Perhaps you were referring to the document feeder having limited software compatibility?

      (Off topic, but amusin
  • by GraZZ (9716) * <[jack] [at] [jackmaninov.ca]> on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:33PM (#9231538) Homepage Journal
    Definately keep clear of the Scanjet 5550c; there's a reason why it's the cheapest feed scanner out there. It will frequently jam if you a) load more than 5 sheets into the feeder or b) use any sort of paper that has been handled by human beings.

    Our Engineering Society was trying to put up an exam archive with one of them and quickly gave up and started scanning with the flatbed.

    Also the scanner has no sane support (one of the few HP scanners that doesn't)
  • DjVu (Score:4, Informative)

    by alienw (585907) <alienw...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:33PM (#9231541)
    Acrobat sucks ass for bitmap images. It doesn't display them very well, they don't print out well, and the files are huge. DjVu [djvuzone.org] is a new image format that compresses extremely well (a few kilobytes a page -- actually comparable to ASCII text). It's somewhat proprietary, but it's probably the best solution here. There are free web-based services that can compress your images. You can try some of them and see for yourself.
    • Re:DjVu (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:37PM (#9231576) Homepage
      For scanned documents, tic98 [waikato.ac.nz] compresses even better than DjVu. It's free software and you can even read the author's PhD thesis about it.
    • Re:DjVu (Score:3, Informative)

      by mystik (38627)

      I haven't tried tic98 (mentioned lower in this thread) but I can vouch for DjVu. I routinely scan notices, bills and whatnot mailed to me, then destroy them (rather than maintain a large paper file)

      300DPI Black & White scans take about 19kb. They are quite readable, and with 300DPI information, make pretty good printouts.

    • JBIG2 inside PDF (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jab (9153)
      Actually, the newer PDF specifications and newer PDF viewers (like the totally excellent xpdf utility, and oh yeah, Adobe acroread 5 and onwards) all support JBIG2 compression. JBIG2 is a token based compression technology giving roughly similar file size and image quality compared to DjVu, but with the advantage that everyone and their uncle can deal with the PDF file format.

      So, I recommend scanning to TIFF (or TIFF inside PDF). Even if you don't currently have the encoding softeware, you can convert to

  • Fax machine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by markprus (83297) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:34PM (#9231547)
    Just fax the documents to a computer.
  • by SoSueMe (263478) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:35PM (#9231556)
    Do it the open source way.

    Get several (dozen) other students to use their own equipment and time in echange for a copy/copies of the completed work.

    I would hazard a guess that there are more than a few people who would like to have a copy of the complete series of the lecture outlines.
  • Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JensR (12975) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:35PM (#9231557) Homepage
    Get some students of the professor's course to type them into LaTeX. Give them some points they'd otherwise get for homework.
    a) Publication quality DVI/PS/PDF files
    b) The student can deepen their knowledge of the topic
    Everyone happy. Used to work like this at the university I went to. And you may be even lucky that some student typed these notes in for himself.

    • LyX for LaTeX!! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IronBlade (60118)
      Get some students of the professor's course to type them into LaTeX.

      Use the fairly user-friendly LyX [lyx.org] to do the LaTeX-ing.
      Heck, get the academics themselves using it to prepare their notes in the first place!
      They might actually thank you for introducing them to this convenient and easy document processor.

  • by artemb (2016) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:35PM (#9231558) Journal
    I found that DjVu format produces substantially smaller file than PDF for the same scanned image.

    There is an open-source project http://djvu.sourceforge.net/ that provides code for reading DjVu docs, but I have no idea where to get DjVu encoder.

  • Where i used to work, we digtized 4-5 million documents per month. But these were mostly printed copies.

    We had a set of high-speed sheet fed scanners, it would be then checked, and linked to a database. The documents in most cases where shipped to a vault.
  • Get one of those Canon scanner/copier/printer thingies..

    They can scan direct to PDF at an amazing rate of feed using the standard sheet feed.

    Since it has dual purposes, you might con them into one, shared among a couple of departments...
  • where to look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:37PM (#9231575) Homepage
    Have a look at the archives of this [upenn.edu] mailing list, which is mainly populated by Project Guternberg folks.

    But the broader question is whether this is really a good idea. The result is going to be huge files, which will be messy, hard to read, and will lack an index or table of contents. Seems like a case of profs with too much ego and not enough willingness to put their own work into more useful form.

  • Try making GIFs (Score:2, Informative)

    by PapayaSF (721268)
    GIFs compress very well, especially with source material that's in limited colors. Try making a page into an 8-color or even 4-color GIF at about 150 dpi. The handwriting should be about as readable as the original.

    Also, if you're scanning material with copy on both sides, you might get some visible bleed-through. Try scanning such pages with a sheet of black paper between the page and the lid of the scanner, then adjust contrast to ensure white whites and black blacks.
  • by John Miles (108215) * on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:41PM (#9231622) Homepage Journal
    I've run into a similar problem, and have no good solutions in the general case. I'm on a mailing list [yahoo.com] for users and collectors of Tektronix test equipment (oscilloscopes, logic and spectrum analyzers, and so forth). Last year, Tektronix's legal department issued a copyright release that permits the reproduction and distribution of documentation for test equipment that they (Tek) no longer support. This was of great interest to the people on the TekScopes list, because it gave a green light to scanning and trading/selling copies of manuals. I've scanned in a few manuals for some equipment I own, and it's a huge pain in the butt any way you look at it.

    Electronic test-equipment manuals are pretty much worst-case candidates for scanning. In Tek's case, the schematic volumes often consist of hundreds of double-sided, nonstandard-sized foldout sheets (11x23" for example) with lots of fine detail that must be reproduced clearly. You can either scan the pages in segments and leave it to the reader to reassemble them, or you can take the manuals to Kinko's and have the foldout pages shrunk to 11x17" or 8.5x11" for scanning. Either way, it's a real hassle, and highlights a clear need for a "prosumer" duplex sheet-feed scanner solution.

    A few years ago you could buy scanners like this one [ebay.com] that could handle arbitrary sheet sizes, but I haven't seen them in stores lately. These may be easier to use than flatbed scanners, assuming the precision they offer is sufficient for your application. I don't know how well they'd work on densely-printed schematics.

    Other than bitching about the state of the scanner marketplace, I don't have much to suggest. There are a few hints that will improve the quality and usability of your final document:
    • There are other formats, like DjVu [lizardtech.com], that have certain advantages over .PDF, but think carefully before using them. Will you be able to read your files 10, 20 years from now? In .PDF's case, the answer is an unequivocal 'yes' because of widespread government, military, and commercial standardization around it. I hate to see people spend hours scanning manuals in DjVu or another nonstandard format, because I'm 95% sure I won't be able to read them years down the road on a completely different platform.
    • To make the document searchable, use an OCR package like FineReader if possible... but expect to spend even more time babysitting the process.
    • Experiment with your scanner resolution settings to minimize the resulting .PDF file size. There's a big difference in size between 200 dpi and 300 dpi, and between a B&W and color scan.
    • For some mysterious, forehead-slapping reason, flatbed scanners often use glossy-white backing material in the lid. This encourages bleedthrough of text on the reverse side of double-sided material, making your scanned documents look sloppy and compress poorly. Placing a sheet of black paper, plastic, or cardboard material between your document and the scanner lid will make a big difference.
    • by deranged unix nut (20524) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:53PM (#9232155) Homepage
      Since purchasing a Canon G2 (4 megapixel) digital camera, I have discovered that it works pretty well for producing readable quality duplications of 8.5"x11" sheets of paper and whiteboard notes.

      This camera can be controlled programatically. Automation would be needed to make it practical for a large scale, but it is much quicker than most flat-bed scanners and the quality would be okay for hand-written notes. It would be easy to take multiple overlapping pictures and leave it to software to re-assemble the images.

      (Yes, it is a goofy solution, but I works well for me as I normally have my camera handy.)
    • by jensend (71114)
      Bunk. DjVu has an open-source implementation [sf.net] and well-documented specs. It will thus be readable no matter what happens to LizardTech. Similarly, the main reason PDF can be counted on to be readable in the distant future is not its installed user base (that changes quickly enough to be fairly well negated as an advantage over the 10-20 year timespan you suggest), but rather that it is an open format.

      DjVu is probably the best format for the poster's needs. I had a university class where nothing was ever han
  • I don't understand why, but most people don't realize that most new copy machines are also PRINTERS and DIGITAL SCANNERS. I always find it funny when companies purchase fax machines/scanners/copy machine/printers when they really only need one device.

    If you can find access to a digital copier at your university somewhere, you can just put the whole stack of paper in the sheet feed and it should be able to scan every page double sided and put it on a network drive somewhere.

    It might take awhile to figure o
  • by felila (150701) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:45PM (#9231654)
    I do conversion for fun, at Distributed Proofreaders.

    The problem is the mixture of graphics, equations, and text.

    It's easy enough to turn a page of text into a smallish file. Get a good automatic-feed scanner ($3500 or so) and a copy of ABBYY OCR software. If the original isn't too speckly, tiny, or smudged, ABBYY will give you a 95% accurate text you can then correct. Best format to save in? Depends on what the school is going to do the files. If they're to be posted on web sites, perhaps XHTML. If it's just for preservation, plain text (if there's no Greek characters) or XML with UTF-8.

    Equations -- well, there's supposedly a version of XML for math, but Distributed Proofreaders has ended up using TeX, as it seems to be the mathematical standard. While this would work for preservation, it wouldn't work for a web site.

    For a web site, perhaps the best way would be to intersperse text with pngs of the equations and graphics. The pngs would still take a lot more space than text, but the files would be smaller than PDF versions of the whole page.
  • At work, I set up a document scanning function for our BAR system (Business Approval Request)--everything that's submitted must include documentation, which is often a paper quote or invoice.

    We bought an HP Scanjet with sheet feeder for about $200 (sorry, don't remember the exact model), and use Paperport to scan the documents to a network folder named for the person requesting the scan (the executive assistant does it). We save in 300 dpi TIFF files in 1 bit color (B+W), which are small (8.5" x 11" comes
  • by sabi (721) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:46PM (#9231665) Homepage
    Such as the fi-4120c [fcpa.com] is what I'd recommend. You might have to stretch your budget a bit. The cheap HP sheet feeders are very unreliable; we went through two HP 5550c's enduring constant paper jams before switching to a better (Fujitsu) scanner.

    Unfortunately you don't have much use for something like Acrobat Capture because you have handwritten notes to deal with. To process the files, SANE [sane-project.org] and/or TWAIN interfaces are reasonably easy to write code for. The cool thing about SANE is that you can run the saned daemon on any Mac or Linux box, and with a couple of lines of config file changes, it's instantly available over the network from any Mac, Windows, or Unix box (there are TWAIN bridges for Mac [ellert.se]/Windows [ozuzo.net] so it even shows up in Photoshop and so forth); there are also standalone GUI clients like XSane [xsane.org].

    I wrote a document management system in Python/wxWidgets (for Windows) in about a month part-time, and it works very well. Either on Mac or Windows, PDF makes sense because of the ubiquity of the viewers, even if you lose a bit in compression compared to more optimized formats such as DjVu. On Windows you can easily embed the Acrobat ActiveX control; on Mac OS X you have native PDF support, Panther's Preview kicks ass, and there are several open-source PDF browsing components such as the ones out of TeXShop or Glen Low's Graphviz port [pixelglow.com] you can embed in your own app.

    Given a choice I would probably pick the Mac to do this project, because of the wonderful Quartz/CoreGraphics Python bindings. You can just draw right to PDF, and place PDF files as if they were images; for example, here's a short script to rotate a bunch of PDF files (sorry, Slashdot destroys Python indentation):

    #!/usr/bin/python

    from CoreGraphics import *
    import math, sys

    for inputPDFPath in sys.argv[1:]:
    inputProvider = CGDataProviderCreateWithFilename(inputPDFPath)
    &n bsp; inputPDF = CGPDFDocumentCreateWithProvider(inputProvider)
    &n bsp; if inputPDF is None:
    print >> sys.stderr, \
    "unable to open '%s': perhaps is not a PDF file?" % inputPDFPath
    continue
    outputContext = CGPDFContextCreateWithFilename(
    inputPDFPath + '-rotated.pdf', None)

    for pageNumber in xrange(1, inputPDF.getNumberOfPages() + 1):
    mediaBox = inputPDF.getMediaBox(pageNumber)
    rotatedBox = CGRectMake(0, 0, mediaBox.getMaxY(), mediaBox.getMaxX())
    outputContext.beginPage(rotatedBox)
    outputContext.saveGState()
    outputContext.translateCTM(0, rotatedBox.size.height)
    outputContext.rotateCTM(-math.pi/2)
    outputContext.drawPDFDocument(mediaBox, inputPDF, pageNumber)
    outputContext.restoreGState()
    outputContext.endPage()
    outputContext.finish()
    You could also use ReportLab [reportlab.org], but because a lot of the PDF processing code is written in Python it's somewhat slower and memory-hogging for high-volume use. (I used ReportLab on Windows for the above project, and use CoreGraphics Python bindings for my research, so I do know what I'm talking about mostly :)
  • The HP one you picked looked ok, but feeder looks a little chitsy.

    We have a panasonic at work, and use it to scan in design packages. it's something like the model KV-S7065C [tinyurl.com] Don't be fooled by the 'low volume' tag - we routinely make 100 page pdf's out it (high volume = insurance office), even though it will take a few min. Thing works great. Highly reccomended. The panasonic comes with software that allows you to save all as a single file, break into xxx page long files (where you get to pick xxx), and ma
  • My dad's office (Score:5, Informative)

    by pavera (320634) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:49PM (#9231698) Homepage Journal
    My father is an attorney,
    he has a couple of high speed scanners from panasonic. They cost less than a thousand dollars (4-500) if I remember correctly, they scan at about 20 ppm, and the software that came with them will save each scanned group of pages as a separate document (pdf, tif, whatever). My dad uses this setup to scan all of the files that his cases generate (shrinking his document storage from about 1000 sq ft to 2 shelves in a bookcase). we are talking files that consist of 10,000+ pages, and normally he saves a years worth of cases on 3-4 cds. They can scan up to 500 pages at a time.
    Here is a link:
    High Speed Scanners [panasonic.co.jp]
  • All you can do... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cliffiecee (136220) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:51PM (#9231712) Homepage Journal
    Is say "Sure. I'll get this done- when I can. Don't expect it to be done for at least a few weeks, maybe longer."

    DON'T CLEAN UP THE SCANS. Don't even look at the scans. DO NOT RETYPE ANYTHING.

    With the kind of volume you say you're receiving, the only way you're going to survive is to:

    1. close your eyes,
    2. load the documents into the feeder,
    3. press 'scan'.
    4. Make sure everyone knows this policy.
  • by Bob Bitchen (147646) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @02:53PM (#9231729) Homepage
    poorly set expectations. How did the professors get the idea that it was possible? It's not pssobile under the contraints that you are faced with. If money was not a limiting factor you could do this. But I'll assume money is a factor and time as well. So go back and tell them that it's possible but it's going to cost this much to automate the process and this much if I type it in by hand and this much if someone else does it but with poorer accuracy and so on and so forth. Put the burden on them to decide how they want to deal with this. Only then will the appropriate solution be found and chosen.
  • I work at the Academic Support office at a university. Much of what I do is scanning textbooks for visually impaired students, and I've recently started using Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard for some books. After a semi-scientific study, I found that scanning in black and white (that's 1-bit pure B&W, not 8-bit grayscale or whatever) and using Acrobat's adaptive compression gives good results with a small file size. Of course, this is usually with printed text, so YMMV.

    The scanner I use is an HP ScanJet
  • by adamsc (985) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:05PM (#9231829) Homepage
    Check whether any of the photocopiers around campus support scanning: we have a Canon ImageRunner in one of the labs which I support. It's extremely fast - ~1 second per page for a double-sided scan and the feeder is pretty robust - we have grad students who take handwritten lecture notes for an entire class and dump this stack of a couple hundred crumpled pages into the feeder and end up with a PDF a couple minutes later.
    • We have one of these in our office and they're great for taking stacks of workpapers from clients, scanning them in and getting rid of the originals. You can email a PDF directly to someone, or store the PDF on a server somewhere.
  • by davidoff404 (764733) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:06PM (#9231844)
    This is something I've come across a lot in the past. Unfortunately, unless you've got a lot of time on your hands, you're not going to be able to do anything beyond basic scanning of the notes. It's always nice to get lecture notes properly typeset with LaTeX (and Xfig if there are diagrams), but this isn't feasible for the amount of data you've got.

    Unfortunately, OCR software probably won't be much use to you either since academics' handwriting (especially those involved in the mathematical sciences) is almost universally poor. My best advice would be to (calmly) discuss the matter with those professors who gave you the notes, pointing out to them the futility of producing small, readable PDFs from handwritten notes. Maybe you'll convince them to start TeXing their notes in future. Good luck!
  • by needacoolnickname (716083) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:20PM (#9231932)
    Most universities already have this service. The professor might not know it exists, but check the other departments to see if they have one (not the scanner - but the service at the school). It is usually somewhat intertwined with a Distance Learning center or department.

    It takes away the cost of printing lectures/notes/required readings from the departments and tacks it onto the students who now seem to pay for printing above a certain limit in the labs.

    At least this is the way at the universities I have worked at.
  • professionally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by curator_thew (778098) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:27PM (#9231988)

    The professional approach is to go back to them and clarify the outcome:

    (a) you can scan the documents in, and they'll take X amount of space, and Y time; and this doesn't include OCR;
    (b) you did a few tests (using the supplied document) and these are the results for TIFF, JPG, PDF, etc;
    (c) OCR is probably infeasible (or not, do some tests) because of the nature of the documents;

    Include in (a) the option of purchasing an automated document scanner, and the corresponding reduction in time.

    Based upon all the above, get a clear go-ahead, and make the purchase if new equipment is authorised.

    You said "where I work": this is your job: it's a bit poor to do as the other posters suggest and refuse to do the work: you need to make sure that the customer (professors) understand exactly what they are getting, and give them a choice to buy into it or not - i.e. "clarify the expectations".

    If you assess that it's 2 weeks worth of work, and the professors don't disagree, then you're supervisor just has to put up with it.

  • PDF Settings (Score:3, Informative)

    by AvitarX (172628) <me AT brandywinehundred DOT org> on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:44PM (#9232088) Journal
    I've been reading a few minutes and nobody seams to address your setting etc.

    The you should scan in grey-scale or if there is high enough contrast (pen notes, not pencil) in Black and White. The grey-scale with a JPEG medium or even low compressions is going to be much smaller then the deafaults. A pure black and white with group four compression will be even better. At work we scan pages at 300 DPI that way and get 20 to 30 k files (I think, haven't done it for a while).

    Also typically images for web viewing of even text are scanned at 72 dpi (all the scholarly journals at my university). This can make things hard to read but really shrinks the file (about 1/16th the size of 300 dpi).

    Also if the scanner is set low res pure black and white it will scan a lot faster, but still be pretty slow.

    The other option is to pay someone to do it. If you have all of the stuff ready at once and give the pros a week or so to do it when they aren't busy you can probably get as low as 50 cents a page.

    Blah blah, I lost my train of thought 2 paragraphs ago
  • by madstork2000 (143169) * on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:45PM (#9232100) Homepage
    It makes no sense at all to me, to have a PDF created of handwritten notes. Since most students will probably just download and print out the PDF anyway. The only adavntage is it may save a few trees not everyone will print them out.

    It sounds like the school wants to shift the production costs (i.e printing) to the students. This seems inefficient because the old way where the instructor could go to the copy center and have the notes copied the at the schools expense (I know these expenses are often passed along to the students anyway), rather than at the students DIRECT expense of their time for downloading, then printing out on their own equipment or using their own printing accounts at the computer center.

    If the notes were being OCR'd and then made available on-line, or post processed in such a fashion (where they are searchable, indexed, etc) where they were searchable, it would be useful. Otherwise this seems like a waste of time and money.

    -MS2k
  • by spizm (626209) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @03:47PM (#9232115)

    The company I work at scans large amounts of documents to PDF format on a daily basis. Depending on the volume some people do, we use either a Canon DR-3060 or DR-5020 document scanner. These will scan both sides of a page simultaneously, clean up the image (despeckle and deskew) and convert them into TIF or PDF all on the fly. They're fast too. Between 20 and 50 pages per minute. Only problem is that they're expensive.

    For your budget, you may be able to afford the Canon DR-2080C [canon.com] which goes for around $600. It has all the features of the more expensive ones, but it's meant for smaller volumes like what you're dealing with. With that, you'd be able to scan 100 pages into a pdf document in around 5 minutes.

  • by pikine (771084) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @04:06PM (#9232224) Journal

    I think what your professor wants is not a bitmapped copy of his handwritten notes or some vector curves that resembles such, but actually a typeset version of the lecture notes. If that is the case, assuming that his handwritten notes are sparse (and hopefully without diagrams, since it takes more time to mess around with them), you can definitely do a stack of 100 sheets in a week, or, as someone already suggested, hire some typists to help you out.

  • by Danh (79528) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @04:16PM (#9232269) Homepage
    If you want to do a good job, you have to type it, in LaTeX. It's the only way to get something nice and something the professors will be able to enhance in future.

    If a digitized copy of the manuscripts will do for you, you can go the scan -> image enhancement -> OCR -> save to PDF way.

    For scanning, you already got a lot of good comments how to automatise the scanning of dozens of scripts. If you lack these possibilities also a SCSI or USB desktop scanner should do the job (it's definitely less than 1 min per page), so you scan a script in 2 hours. No need to bother to outsource the job to India. Probably you can scan B/W and don't need greyscale or colors. I would scan handwritten scripts at 200 DPI and save the whole pictures in front of the OCRed text, so the user doesn't see the OCRed text and can only use it for selecting and copy&paste. It would be too much work to correct the OCRed text here. For machine written text I would use 300 dpi or more for better OCRing.

    As image enhancement you only need to be able to automatically orient the page so that the text is horizontal. I don't remember if Acrobat does it, but for this job I would anyhow get a good OCR program.

    As OCR program I recommend FineReader, but also Omnipage is ok. FineReader does better OCR than Omnipage and Acrobat. It also saves better to PDF (with retaining all of the paragraph structure) than Omnipage.

    If you keep the image before the OCRed text in the PDF you can expect files of 10MB for 100 pages for B/W scan at 200 dpi. OCRing of machine written text has become incredibly accurate, so you can do real OCR there and throw away the bitmap picture. This of course gives much nicer output (and smaller filesize), but you need to spend a lot of time correcting the text. Here the best OCR program really pays off (you probably have a lot of words which are not in a dict, need custom dicts (does Acrobat have them?),...). A program with a single flaw (e.g. that recognized you formula as text, or code as paragraph text,...) will let you waste a lot of time correcting it on every second page.

  • How I Do It (Score:3, Informative)

    by MSInsight (647382) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @04:52PM (#9232499)
    I scan and upload various land use and financial documents for a county and its townships to the internet on a shoe-string budget - actually, no budget - all volunteer, public service for fellow citizens. This is my prescription:

    Stay with your current flat-bed scanner. Do not waste money on a sheet-fed scanner. You do not have nearly enough money for a high-end Fujitsu or Bell & Howell sheet-fed scanner which will reliably get the job done without mechanically screwing up. The pros use high-end scanners because they never screw up and they go fast. Cheap sheet-fed scanners miss sheets or jam up too often to trust them with anything. Make a sign-up sheet for work-study or volunteer students in your academic department to sit down at your computer and scanner and scan the documents into the computer. Give them free pops and gummy bears (slur it so it sounds like "rum & beers") or something similar which won't transfer from fingers to documents. Just take a few minutes to set them up and show them what to do. Keep it simple. Let those empty minds waiting to be filled with knowledge (and beer) do the time consuming zombie work. You should focus your attention on how to put the files on the website.

    The scan file format I use is Portable Network Graphics format or PNG format. On average, it compresses black and white graphics 20-25 percent smaller than the widely used GIF format. PNG format is also supported to a basic enough level to be displayed using MS Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla, and other internet browsers.

    I use free Xsane scanning software on a linux system to scan the documents. Xsane can be set to scan in line-art mode, also known as black and white mode. This software can also be set to save files directly to disk in PNG format and automatically change the file names using numerical iteration, i.e., file-01.png, file-02.png, file-03.png, etc. without the need for human intervention to change the file name each time. I use a 100 dpi scan resolution setting because documents do not need to look ultra-smooth; they just have to be legible. Anything beyond that is a waste of hard drive space. Using this resolution also means I do not have to spend time embedding the graphic file in html code to constrain its width so it can be viewed on the average 15", 800x600 resolution monitor. I just insert weblinks to the individual, one-page graphic files: "Page 1, 2, 3, 4, ...", with each page number hyperlinked to a corresponding graphic file. Your graphic files will run 15-25kb each. The use of PDF graphics format is a waste of time and space unless a professor gives you a MS Word file of their lecture notes which you can convert directly into a PDF file with embedded text. That is the only case in which I would use PDF over PNG. Good luck.
  • by adrew (468320) <(adamcdrew) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Sunday May 23, 2004 @05:12PM (#9232625) Homepage
    We've [georgiasouthern.edu] undertaken a pretty large archiving job [georgiasouthern.edu] at my university. We're scanning every page of every newspaper we've ever printed (started in 1927) up to the time we have digital archives starting around 1993 or so. We're also scanning about 80 300 page yearbooks. Hopefully this can offer you some help or suggestions.

    We have a dual-processor G4 and an Epson 1640XL large-format FireWire scanner [epson.com] with the optional auto document feeder. It's probably a bit out of your budget ($2899 + ~$1200 for the ADF) but it's awesome. It can scan at up to 1600dpi and the ADF can automatically duplex and scan both sides of the page. We're using OmniPage Pro X for OCR software.

    Right now we're more concerned with scanning the documents and getting them online, so we haven't started OCR'ing everything yet. But the ADF is awesome. It can scan both sides of all 300+ pages of a yearbook automatically in about 2 1/2 hours.

    The newspapers are a bit different. They're getting a bit fragile in their old age so we have to manually scan them. We scan them at 300dpi in full color, so the 12x18 pages are around 50MB per page. But the scanner takes less than a minute per page. It's impressive.

    We use Photoshop's web gallery feature to generate the image galleries. Pretty simple really. Let me know if you have any questions.
  • by s.a.m (92412) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @05:15PM (#9232646) Journal
    Hopefully you'll get to read this one and hopefully it won't get modded down to oblivion.

    Yes there are scanners out there that can work for you. I have a Canon DR-5020 which we just feed it a ton of paper and come back in a few and it's done. It can scan VERY quickly. PDF format would work just fine as well. It's the best option especially since it's hand written notes as well.

    If this is a requirement which is going to be on-going then you will have to pony up the money and spend a few thousand. If you're not ready to do that, you may be in luck. Some places will lease it out to you and with that few hundred bucks I'm sure you can easily get a hold of one for about a week or 2.

    Look up for people who do Document Imaging, and you should find a lot of business that come up. If you're in the washington dc area then maybe I can help you out quite a bit.
  • Don't bother (Score:3, Insightful)

    by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @08:16PM (#9233719) Homepage
    Frankly, I've seen professors' handwritten lecture notes, and 90% of them add nothing to the educational process. Certainly not more than a quick note saying, "Read sections 2.1, 2.2, and 2.4, paying special attention to least-squares curve fitting and finding orthonormal bases." They're generally disorganized and difficult to follow because they usually take a lot of material for granted when they write.

    The mere fact that it's handwritten means that it's basically a rough draft that was hastily flung together. Send them back to him, and have him type them in and rework them until he figures they're worth recycling for next semester. The prof will save time in the long run, and the students will have something nice, clean, and organized to peruse.
  • Alternatives (Score:3, Informative)

    by RebornData (25811) on Sunday May 23, 2004 @08:57PM (#9233919)
    Hardware for image acquisition:
    Check to see if the department copy machine has scan functions... most built in the past few years do, even if they aren't used in most places for that. You'll get a decent sheet feeder and way faster scanning than most desktop sheet-fed scanners.

    If you have to buy something and have to go *really* cheap, you could get a multi-function print / scan / fax thing. Most will handle legal size, because they're not actually moving the sheet fed paper onto the flatbed glass... the image element stays stationary while the paper goes by. But, of course, you get what you pay for... expect to spend time dealing with paperjams and skipped pages. However, it should be faster than hand-feeding a flatbed.

    Software:
    I mention this simply because nobody else has (that I've found): Scansoft Omnipage Pro is designed for highly repetitive, batch-oriented OCR. It has options for doing automated or hand-tweaked "area recognition" (separating text from graphics) and has the best proofreading UI I've seen... it flags "low confidence" recognitions automatically, and displays both it's best dictionary guesses and the actual scanned words. Not sure it will help much with hand-written work, but for printed material it works well.

    Format: Your primary concern when looking for a destination file format should be longevity... will the files be readable 5 years from now? I've seen a number of people recommending highly efficient but obscure compression schemes, which are a terrible idea if you want the data to stick around. Saving a few bits doesn't do you much good if you can't figure out what they mean. I recommend that people scan to two formats, just for safety (Omnipage can do this automatically).

    -R

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