Is Fixed or Semi-Structured, understanding you forms
There are two major classes of Data Capture technology fixed or semi-structured. When processing a form it’s critical that the right class is chosen. To complicate things there is a population of forms out there that can be automated with either, but there is always a definite benefit of one over the other. In my experience organizations are having a very hard time figuring out if their form is fixed or not. The most common miss-diagnosis is from forms where fields are in the same location and each possess an allotted white space for data to be entered. Too most this seems fixed, but in actuality it’s not. Text in these boxes can move around substantially, additionally the boxes themselves while in the same location relative to each other can move because of copying, variations in printing, etc. There are two very easy steps to determine if your form is fixed or not.
- Does your form have corner stones? Corner stones, sometimes refereed to as registration marks ( registration marks have been known to replace corner stones when they are very clearly defined ) are printed objects usually squares in each corner of the form. They must be all at 90 degree angle’s from their neighbors. What corner stones do is allow the software to match the scanned or input document to the original template, theoretically making all fields and all elements that are static on the form lined up. Removing any shifts, skews, etc.
- Does your form have pre-defined fields? A pre-defined field is more than location on the form a pre-defined field has a set width, height, location, and finally and most importantly set number of characters. You know these fields most commonly by when you have filled out a form and you have a box for each letter. There are variations in how the characters are separated, but they all share these attributes. This is called mono-spaced text.
If your form does not have the above two items it is not a fixed form. This would indicate that a semi-structured forms processing technology would be the best fit. On those forms that are commonly confused for fixed, there are ways to make it process well with a fixed form solution by isolating the input type ( fax, email, scan ), and using the proper arrangement of registration marks.
Chris Riley – Sr. Solutions Architect