Library Science

The NeXT platform's integrated e-mail and fax services and ability to manipulate multiple media make it an ideal environment for document management. But until now programs for these applications, such as Boss Logic's BDMS and VISUS's PaperSight, have been primarily custom tools that need to be modified for each customer site.

Now Insight Software seeks to make the NeXT's capability to store, classify, and display document images available to a wider range of users with its $395 shrinkwrapped program, ElectroFile. Sporting an elegant user interface and powerful indexing system, ElectroFile is a strong addition to the field.

ElectroFile is a complete system for storing, classifying, and retrieving documents, which can be either computer-generated files or scanned images of paper records. The program was originally developed for litigation support but is well suited for record-keeping in almost any professional organization with a high demand for document retrieval.

While it can also be used by individuals who want control over their files, we suspect casual users may find that the entry of multiple fields of classifying data is more effort than it's worth.

An ElectroFile file is called a Library. Its capacity for number and type of documents is lim-ited only by disk size. To include a document in a Library, you first enter classification data about it in a window called the Front Desk. You can drag-and-drop electronic files into the Front Desk or scan images of paper documents directly into the window. ElectroFile's scanner module provides basic scanner controls, including batch processing of multipage documents and LZW compression.

When creating a new Library, you determine the classification fields you'll use to enter information about the documents. The user can set any number of fields specific to the Library. More fields means more ways to search but also more data-entry for the indexer.

One of ElectroFile's strengths is its ability to include unlimited attachments in the Notes field. You can drag-and-drop other files, enter rich text using the program's full-blown text editor, or use ElectroFile's dictation module to record and attach voice annotations. An especially useful attachment to a scanned document might be an OCRed version of the same file.

Once a document is entered in the Library, you search for it using the Library Browser and its related Inspector. You can easily set complex search criteria, and the program's B-tree search engine returns results quickly even from a large Library. After finding the document you want, you can display it in a Document Viewer window. You can zoom in and out of images or allow them to take over the entire screen.

Version 1.02 has a few limitations. It supports only the HSD Scan-X Color scanner and HSD OCR Servant character-recognition software, but an upcoming 1.1 release adds support for Fujitsu and other scanners and OCR systems from Xerox and Calera. The new version will also allow classification fields to be changed after the initial setup, provide faster indexing, and include a TIFF Doctor utility that rotates and scales scanned images. Version 1.02 is localized for France; 1.1 will support all European languages as well as Kanji. The documentation is a little slim, although the on-line samples are excellent. Insight also plans to release a network version with batch processing and advanced search capabilities at a later date. All of these changes are important if the program will prove truly useful in large, document-management applications.

by Dan Ruby

ElectroFile 1.02

4 Cubes

An elegant and powerful system for classifying, storing, and retrieving documents. Casual users might find it overkill for their needs. Broader scanner support and ability to revise record structure will improve an already strong program.


Insight Software, 3004 S.W. First Ave., Portland, OR 97201.