Imagine FOIA takes care of redaction chores

They must review electronic versions of documents captured from paper or microfiche and
electronically delete sensitive information before the documents go public. At the same
time, they must safeguard the originals.


A recent GCN tutorial [GCN, Oct. 27, Page 29] examined six electronic redaction
packages.


Now the GCN Lab is taking a look at Imagine FOIA from Imagination Software Inc. This
tool for the modern FOIA officer works standalone or, via ActiveX controls, as a cog in a
larger document management system.


The 1996 Electronic FOIA amendment requires agencies to automate their responses to
FOIA requests.


The congressional mandate is burdening an already overloaded FOIA system, although
E-FOIA is ultimately supposed to cut turnaround time for FOIA requests.


Imagine FOIA dovetails with that vision. Several integrators are building the product
into their own workflow and document management packages.


There are many steps in the redaction process where technology can hinder, not help.
Automation is worthwhile only if the online tools are as easy to use as a sticky note or a
highlighter.


Imagine FOIA has flexible highlighters, magnifying glasses and, of course, markers. You
can select text line by line as with a marker, and you can delete polygonal shapes from a
photo or document. But there is no undo feature via the menu, toolbar or shortcut key.


Rather than simply click a button to undo a highlight, you must select the Eraser tool
and click on the object. If you have deleted a highlight or redaction selection, you'll
have to start all over.


The Eraser tool works well, but it would be more convenient to select an object with
the Pointer and hit the Delete key. After an annotation box is drawn, you can resize it
easily.


When all annotations, highlights and redactions are done, the document is ready to
publish.


Annotation information goes into a separate file, so the original image remains
unchanged.


But to keep the annotations when you move a file, you must remember to move the .ann
file to the same place you put the original .tif file.


Imagination Software plans future releases that will support Adobe Systems Inc.'s
Acrobat Portable Document Format as well as e-mail links for intranet and World Wide Web
publishing.


Imagine FOIA comes in two flavors for desktop PC use at all levels of an organization.
The default installation is the Imagine Viewer for users who work with electronic
documents already in the system. The full-featured installation helps users import
documents into the system by scanning and by using optical character recognition and image
cleanup.


Imagine FOIA can scale up to fit multiuser environments. Its security features show
when an annotation was made and who made it, but only if the proper ActiveX controls are
present. You can write these controls yourself if you have the expertise, or you can hire
an integrator to do it.


Imagine FOIA works fine as a standalone application but has more value as part of a
document system. It's easy to use, and the ActiveX controls make custom development seem
promising.


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