- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

Few of us get involved with personal computers in order to play with them all day long. For the most part, we buy and use technology because we want it to work, to help us achieve something we couldn't do otherwise.
Along the way, there are plenty of challenges and frustrations between the beginning of a computing task and its completion. Some items I've found recently are worth having, and others might be worth avoiding.
PaperPort program scores big: An investment in ScanSoft's recently released PaperPort 8.0 software is possibly the best $100 you'll spend this year. It'll get and keep you organized, transforming paper into digital images that can be filed on screen and retrieved easily.
Originally devised for the Visioneer PaperPort line of scanners, the software now works with most major scanners; I use it with a multifunction device, Hewlett-Packard's LaserJet 3150 fax/copier/ printer/scanner, in place of a less-capable HP-supplied program. With PaperPort, scanned-in items appear on a "desktop" screen that has a separate pane of "file folder" icons. You can add folders, drag and drop scanned documents into folders, edit the scanned items' file name, annotate the items, stack a bunch of pages together and so forth.
If that's all the software did, it would be good, but there's more here. This new version has what the makers call an "improved" optical character recognition "engine" that can take a document and turn the printed words into computer-friendly text. The function can work on its own or to feed a scanned document's contents to Microsoft Word, Excel or just about any other program on your system, since a row of program icons are on the bottom of the PaperPort desktop screen.
PaperPort also includes a "form typer" program, which lets you drag a scanned-in form onto an icon, with the software "finding" the blanks that need to be filled in. It then scales the type size to fit the space available and lets you go from one field to another with the press of the "tab" key. There are several form-filling programs out there, but having this feature in PaperPort is an added benefit.
If your scanner can handle color images, you'll find PaperPort able to recognize and help you manage these as well. The program has some photo-editing tools as well, enough for basic image manipulation and improvement at least. I find myself using this program more than once a day, it seems, and I'm often finding new uses for it on a constant basis. Those needing more sophisticated scanning, optical character recognition and photo-editing tools can find these, at higher prices. For the bulk of what I do on a daily basis, the PaperPort software is a tremendous value. You can find out more about the program at www.scansoft.com/products/pprt80/.
The perfect mouse? It may be Microsoft Corp.'s IntelliMouse Optical, which lists for $45. My cordless Logitech mouse flaked out on me the other day and instead of replacing the batteries (sorry, gang, a mouse's batteries should last more than six weeks), I grabbed the Microsoft corded mouse and made the switch. I'm very glad I did. The IntelliMouse has four buttons and a scroll wheel. The top buttons perform traditional mouse functions left and right clicking invoke the standard actions under Windows. The two side buttons move either forward or backward through a Web session: It's an easy way to retrace your Web-browsing steps or to move through large sites easily, sort of like turning pages in a printed newspaper. The scroll wheel does what it's supposed to, and that's scroll up and down through documents or Web pages. Press and hold the scroll button, and you get a navigational tool that'll move around a Web page or document screen easily.
Movements for the mouse are very precise, thanks to the use of an optical sensor that captures 6,000 frames of movement per second. That's better than anything I've seen out there, and the movements are very good. I find myself having less strain in my hand using this mouse than I've had with some others. You can find the IntelliMouse Optical at most computer stores, and information is online at https://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouse/im_info.asp.

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