Last Reviewed:  April 5, 2023

Separator Tutorials

NOTE: In addition to the tutorial below, we have a sequence of tutorial videos that covers the essentials of using separators: Video Library »

It's time to de-mystify Separators, one of the most powerful but least-understood features in FileCenter DMS and FileCenter Automate. Here we'll clearly explain separators with all of their ins and outs. We'll make frequent reference to FileCenter, but separators work the same way in Automate (in fact, FileCenter and Automate can share each other's separators, but we're getting ahead of ourselves).

Separators Part 1 – General Concepts

Let's start by understanding the basic concept.

When most users have a stack of documents to scan, they'll scan them one at a time. Why? To keep them separate, of course, and to save each document as its own file. But what if you could scan the whole stack and let FileCenter worry about splitting them up and saving them in separate files? That would save time and a lot of mouse clicks.

Enter Separators. If you've ever sent or received a fax, you can understand separators. Question: if five faxes arrive at your machine, how do you know where one fax stops and the next one starts? Simple. Faxes use cover sheets. Every time you see a cover sheet, you know a new fax follows.

That's exactly how separators work. Separators are simply cover sheets you stick on your documents. Every time FileCenter encounters one of these cover sheets, it knows a new document is starting.

Separators Part 2 – The Generic Separator

Now it's time to get your hands dirty. Let's run a couple of simple tests to show you how a basic separator behaves.

Open FileCenter and click the Separators button in the Tools section of the ribbon (FileCenter Professional and Pro Plus only; sorry Standard users). This brings up a list of your separators. For most of you, there will only be one: Generic. Select the Generic separator and click Print. Print three copies of it. Now you can close the Separators dialog.

Look at the sheet you just printed. It says Document Separator at the top along with a few groups of strange codes. These codes are how FileCenter knows it's a separator.

Now let's try a scan. Get three pages of paper, put a separator on top of each one, then assemble the stack. You should have six pages: separator, document, separator, document, separator, document.

Next go to the Edit tab in FileCenter. Click Scan to start a new scan, and select the option called Process Separators. Go ahead with the scan.

After your scan is done, you'll see OCR begin to run. FileCenter identifies separators during the OCR phase. When OCR finishes, FileCenter is going to break your six-page scan into three individual documents, each under its own tab. You'll also notice that the separator sheets are gone.

That's the role of the Generic separator – to split up document stacks.

Using Separators in the Manage View

One more test. Switch over to the Manage view and navigate to somewhere you can do a test.

Get your six-page stack of pages ready again and start another scan. This time you'll need to provide a filename for the scan. Make sure you select Process Separators again, and go ahead with the scan.

Like before, OCR will run after the scan. But this time, you'll end up with three individual files. All of them will have the same name with an increment after it. If you look at the files, you'll see that they each have one page, and like before, the separators are gone.

At this point, questions are popping up in your mind: What if I want to give the documents separate names? What if I want the documents to each go in different folders? What if I don't want to wait through OCR every time I scan? We'll cover those topics below.

But we will take up the last question: what if you don't care about OCR? Simple. If you select the Process Separators option but not the Make Searchable PDF option, FileCenter does a very rapid OCR of just the top 10% of the page – just enough of the page to tell if it's a separator. The separator-only OCR (as we call it) runs much, much quicker than full OCR.

Separators Part 3 – Named Separators

The Generic separator we just discussed only had one purpose: to split up a scanned document. Sometimes that's all you need. Named separators go a step further: they will name and route the file for you, or putting it in simpler terms, they'll auto-save the document into a pre-determined folder.

How about a quick example. Suppose your law practice only works on half a dozen litigation cases at a time. So you create one separator for each case. As documents come into the office, all you have to do is put the right separator on each document, then scan the whole stack. FileCenter will separate the documents then save each one into the appropriate case drawer.

Think of named separators as virtual filing clerks, and you'll get the concept.

Create a Named Separator

Open FileCenter and click the Separators button in the Tools section of the ribbon (FileCenter Professional only; sorry Standard users). This brings up a list of your separators. Click Add.

First give the separator a name. The name doesn't matter – it's just for your convenience.

Now note the area where you can add Destinations. Destinations are simply the place(s) where you want the documents saved. You'll usually only have one destination, but you can set up as many as you want.

Click Add to add a destination. For the Location, browse out to the drawer/folder where you want the documents to go.

Next you need to choose how the documents will be named. By default, FileCenter's going to use the name you enter when you perform the scan. If you'd prefer to always use a specific name, click Use File Name Builder. Now you'll see a field where you can provide a filename and increment (a counter after the filename). If you use Naming Options, you'll see that they're available in the drop-menu.

When you're done, click OK then Close to create the separator. FileCenter will ask if you want to print it now. Click Yes and print a copy.

Testing Your New Separator

Now it's time to take your separator for a spin. Put it on top of some page you can scan. Click Scan and make sure Process Separators is selected, then proceed with your scan.

Now you'll see something interesting happen after FileCenter finishes with OCR. The file will probably seem to disappear, then FileCenter will pop open a window showing where the file was saved. If you had scanned a whole stack of documents, this list would show you where every file went. This is so you can verify that the scans went to the right places.

Congratulations. You just scanned, named, and saved a document with just a couple of mouseclicks.

Separators Part 4 – Getting Flexible

Time to get practical. Most law firms don't deal with just four cases at a time, most medical practices don't deal with just four patients, and most small businesses don't deal with just four customers. You're more likely to be dealing with dozens, hundreds, or in some cases, even thousands. If you made a separator for every case, customer, client, or patient, you'd waste more time organizing your separators than you'd save scanning with them.

That's why we recently added Relative separators. Relative separators file documents into subfolders off of your current location. In other words, you can use them on any drawer.

For example, let's say our law firm has hundreds of cases. We try to be fairly uniform in the way we organize our case drawers, so every drawer has subfolders for Discovery, Evidence, Court Filings, Client Communications, etc.

To make scanning easier, we create one separator for each type of subfolder. There's a Discovery separator, a Court Filings separator, etc.

Now suppose that some documents related to Case X just came in the mail. For each document, we choose the separator that will send it to the right subfolder. Then we select Case X's drawer and scan the stack. FileCenter splits off each document and sends it to the subfolder specified on its separator.

But here's the real joy of relative separators: we can use this same set of separators for any drawer. That means we might only have to deal with half a dozen printed separators, even if we handle hundreds of different cases.

Create a Relative Separator

Open FileCenter and click the Separators button. Select the separator you just created and click Edit. Select its Destination and click Remove. Let's add a new, relative destination. Click Add under the destinations list.

On the Add Destination dialog, there are two options at the top: Fixed Location and Relative to Selected Location or Destination. Pick the Relative ... option. Now you can specify a folder where you want the document to go, in this format: folder\subfolder.

So, for example, if you want the document to go into a folder called Discovery, just type that in. Or if you want it to go into a Discovery folder off of a parent folder called Correspondence, you'd type in Correspondence\Discovery.

Once you've entered a folder name, click OK then OK again to save the changes. Note that you don't have to re-print the separator.

Testing Your New Separator

Once again, put your separator on top of some sheet of paper. Now select a drawer in FileCenter and scan, remembering to select Process Separators. When it's done, you'll see a folder appear in the drawer and your scan in the folder, named and saved just like your separator dictated.

Select a different drawer and repeat the scan. You already know what's going to happen.

Finally, select a folder in the drawer and repeat the scan. This time, FileCenter will add a subfolder to the selected folder and put the scan in it. Why? Why didn't the scan go into a top-level folder? Because the separator will always save the document relative to your selected path.

Hopefully you're seeing the power and versatility of relative separators. With just a few separators, you can shave scanning down to just one or two mouse clicks and maintain a uniform filing structure. That's about as effortless as scanning gets.

Separators Part 5 – Separate at Intervals

We conclude this tutorial with two specialized separator features. The first is interval separation.

Let's suppose you have 100 documents that are each exactly four pages long. They could be forms, statements, surveys, etc. Instead of performing 100 individual scans or inserting 100 individual separators, you place a single separator on top of the stack, scan it, and FileCenter breaks it up at four-page intervals, giving you 100 separate files, each named and saved according to the information on the separator.

The savvy reader will recognize that you can do the same thing from the Scan dialog without using a separator (Scan > Begin New Document Every ___ Pages). So why use a separator? If you have a regular scanning job that involves saving the files to a specific location, using a separator can save you some work.

Create the Separator

Open FileCenter and click the Separators button. Click Add to create a new separator, give it a name and a destination (at this point, we assume you're comfortable with this).

Below the list of destinations, you'll see an option that says Automatically begin new document every ___ pages. Select it and enter your document size in the blank. In our case, that's four pages. Click OK to create the separator. FileCenter will ask if you want to print it now. Click Yes and print a copy.

Test the Separator

Now let's try it out. Get a stack of paper at least three times longer than the document length you specified. For example, if you chose to split the stack at four-page intervals, get a stack of about 12 pages. Put your separator on the very top of the stack and scan the whole bundle. Make sure Process Separators is selected when you scan.

As before, OCR will run after the scan is done. The difference this time is that you'll get a whole series of documents all named the same but with a counter after the name, saved to whatever folder you specified in your destination.

Some of you are now asking the obvious question: what if the number of pages you scanned doesn't break up evenly? For example, let's say you selected a four-page interval, but your stack has 13 pages? Simple. The last document in the stack will be short a few pages.

Separators Part 6 – Bookmarks

Ok, time for the last – and most unusual – separator feature. This one's unusual because it doesn't actually separate documents. It's the bookmark feature. Simply put, you can use separators to insert bookmarks into scanned PDFs.

For example, suppose that you prefer to group PDFs into one master file instead of many individual files. You'd like to scan a stack of documents into a single PDF but still have a way to navigate quickly to the individual documents in the PDF. Your solution? Bookmark separators. Simply insert separators at the beginning of each document then scan the stack. FileCenter will insert a bookmark everywhere it encounters a separator, but keep the stack intact. Sound interesting? Let's see how it works.

Create a Bookmark Separator

Open FileCenter and click the Separators button. Click Add and give the separator a name. Important: this will also be the name of your bookmark! Now click the option called Use as Bookmark Separator then OK to create the separator. FileCenter will ask if you want to print it now. Click Yes and print a copy.

Testing Your New Separator

Get a couple of pieces of paper and put your separator somewhere in the middle. Now scan the stack, remembering to select Process Separators. When it's done, open your PDF (if it isn't open already).

Now you need to show bookmarks. If you opened the PDF in FileCenter, click the Options button below the column of thumbnails (on the left), then select View > Bookmarks. If you opened the PDF in Acrobat, select the View menu > Navigation Panels > Bookmarks.

On the list of bookmarks, you should see the name of the separator you inserted. Click it. You'll jump to the page that had the separator on it. You'll also notice that the separator is gone. FileCenter removed the separator and inserted a bookmark in its place.

So there you have it – a quick, easy way to insert bookmarks into your scans.

This is as far as we go in this tutorial, but believe it or not, we're still leaving some stones unturned. For example, did you know that you can insert separators after the fact (i.e. into existing documents) and even print multiple-choice separators, where you pick the destination on-the-fly? If this puts a bee in your bonnet, then we happily direct you to the excellent user manual included in FileCenter, where these – and hundreds of other features – have clear explanations.

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