A document management system (DMS) is a computer system (or set of computer programs) used to track and store electronic documents and/or images of paper documents.
From the very beginnings of modern office work, the workflow of data management has been an
important subject. Right from the beginning, office work included the production as well as the administration and distribution of documents. Different technologies were used for these purposes. In the past, the typewriter was the most important device for the preparation of documents. For the storage of documents, various conventional systems came to existence which supported the storage, the locating and the distribution of documents with the help of cardcatalogues or folders. Since the seventies, the distribution of documents was supported by modern photocopying processes. This document distribution process was mostly used in connection with manual file systems, and competed with the modern information technologies based on EDP (Electronic Document Processing) when these were introduced the first time.
Beginning in the 1980s, a number of vendors began developing systems to manage paper-based documents. These systems managed paper documents, which included not only printed and published documents, but also photos, prints, etc.
Later, a second system was developed, to manage electronic documents, i.e., all those documents, or files, created on computers, and often stored on local user file systems. The earliest electronic document management (EDM) systems were either developed to manage proprietary file types, or a limited number of file formats. Many of these systems were later referred to as document imaging systems, because the main capabilities were capture, storage, indexing and retrieval of image file formats. These systems enabled an organization to capture faxes and forms, save copies of the documents as images, and store the image files in the repository for security and quick retrieval (retrieval was possible because the system handled the extraction of the text from the document as it was captured, and the text indexer provided text retrieval capabilities).
The traditional storage of documents had a lot of disadvantages compared to electronic archiving - above all, the large expenditure of time, material, and personnel for the organization and maintenance of the manual process. In addition to the enormous space required for the storage, conventional file systems are also regarded as relatively unreliable concerning the locating of documents. Documents have to be copied and stored repeatedly since they are usually passed on to different places, e.g. to the different departments of an enterprise. In these time-consuming distribution channels, documents were lost easily, filed in a wrong way or they simply fell into oblivion. Sometimes, even different versions of a document existed because its older version had not been replaced by the new one.