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There is still a lot of paper in business—forms, contracts and templates to correspondence and even e-mail—especially for small businesses who find the investments in a paperless office hard to swallow.

But the potential savings from converting much of the hard copies to digital copies can make a clear case for adding a scanner and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to your office or a VAR’s small-business tool bag.

“Scanning and OCR-ing documents can save hours of typing,” said Silvio Cavaceppi, director of worldwide SMB marketing at Lexmark. “Our research revealed that a lot of small businesses had heard about scanning and OCR but didn’t understand the benefits. When we explain what OCR can do, the interest is high.”

Digitizing hard-copy documents will ease repetitive administrative tasks such as filling out forms, contracts or other documents where a company only has a hard-copy original, Cavaceppi said. It would also benefit verticals such as the real estate, legal, education fields, and “anyone doing functional writing or administrative work who doesn’t have the originals, are using files they didn’t create, or wants to start from a sample or a version from another company.”

OCR can even be useful when the starting document is already in digital format, Cavaceppi said. “If a PDF is coming from a scanned document, you have to use OCR to make it searchable,” said Mike Dattilo, a software requirements engineer at Lexmark. “And you can’t edit a PDF without special software. Our OCR software lets you, for example, scan a form, edit it and print it out.”

OCR isn’t the productivity solution for all documents, Cavaceppi acknowledged. “We wouldn’t recommend it for numbers or spreadsheets … since one error would throw off everything.”

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