Scan newspapers into a computer
Published: Monday, December 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 30, 2003 at 10:21 p.m.
Q: I do a lot of my research by reading old newspaper articles. Is there a way to scan the text and transfer the content to my computer?
A: Scanners that can read printed text and convert it into an electronic document come in several forms. If you are working in a library or document archive, a hand-held pen scanner might be an efficient solution.
This scanner, typically shaped like a large marker, can read and store text in its internal memory as you pass its tip over a printed page. After you have finished scanning, you can connect the pen to a computer and transfer the information into a word-processing document for editing or reference. Most pen scanners can store at least 1,000 pages of printed text; some include built-in dictionaries and translation software.
The speed and accuracy of text scanners depend on the condition of the material you are scanning as well as the optical character recognition, or OCR, software the scanner uses to translate the image of the printed text into electronic form.
Several companies make pen scanners, including WizCom Technologies (www.wizcomtech.com), C Technologies (www.cpen.com) and IRIS (www.irisusa.com). Amazon.com also has a selection for sale. Prices range from $100 to $300.
If you are making copies of the newspapers or microfilm you are using in your research, you can also get OCR software that will work with a standard flatbed scanner.
As with a photo, you place the text on the scanner to be read, and the OCR program analyzes the scanned image and converts it into a text file that you can edit. ABBYY FineReader (www.abbyyusa.com) and ScanSoft OmniPage (www.scansoft.com/omnipage) are examples of such programs.
Q: I use a Macintosh Performa with 72 megabytes of memory and Mac OS 8.6. Should I upgrade to Mac OS X or buy a PC? I use my machine mainly for writing and Web surfing, and I may buy a digital camera.
A: The current version of Mac OS X, also known as Panther, requires at least a PowerMac G3 computer with a built-in USB port and at least 128 megabytes of memory installed.
If you were hoping to upgrade your Mac Performa to Mac OS X, you do not, Apple says, have hardware that can handle the new operating system. (The system requirements are at www.apple.com/macosx/upgrade/requirements.html.) As for the choice between buying a new Macintosh or a new Windows-based PC, both types of computers can easily handle word processing, Web browsing, uploading and downloading digital photos and other common tasks. You should consider what software you would like to run on the new machine. Many older Macintosh programs will run on OS X with the system's "Classic" emulation.
If you are very familiar with the Macintosh system, buying a new Mac with OS X already installed may be simpler than switching to a Windows XP computer. Windows PCs, however, are generally less expensive and have more of the latest software available.
Many digital cameras work with both Macintosh and Windows PCs, but you should check before you buy a particular model. Both Windows XP and Mac OS X include tools that help you organize and work with digital photos. You can compare the built-in photo-handling abilities of the systems at www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/digitalphotography/default.asp and at www.apple.com/iphoto.
Q: What is deleted by privacy protection programs that claim to erase your tracks online?
A: Basic Web surfing tends to leave files on your computer that can be found by someone who knows where to look. Privacy programs like Webroot's Window Washer and MacWasher X (www.webroot.com) and CyberScrub (www.cyberscrub.com) will delete such temporary Internet cache files, as well as history lists, cookies, downloaded files, auto-complete forms and recently used lists.
These programs can also delete old tax forms and other files with personal information while freeing space on your hard drive. A detailed comparison of such programs is at www.privacy-software-review.com.
Circuits invites questions about computer-based technology, by e-mail to QandA@nytimes.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.
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