A public domain document processing system has been developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The system is a standard reference form-based handprint recognition system for evaluating optical character recognition (OCR), and it is intended to provide a baseline of performance on an open application. The system's source code, training data, performance assessment tools, and type of forms processed are all publicly available. The system recognizes the handprint entered on handwriting sample forms like the ones distributed with NIST Special Database 1. From these forms, the system reads hand-printed numeric fields, upper and lowercase alphabetic fields, and unconstrained text paragraphs comprised of words from a limited-size dictionary. The modular design of the system makes it useful for component evaluation and comparison, training and testing set validation, and multiple system voting schemes. The system contains a number of significant contributions to OCR technology, including an optimized probabilistic neural network (PNN) classifier that operates a factor of 20 times faster than traditional software implementations of the algorithm. The source code for the recognition system is written in C and is organized into 11 libraries. In all, there are approximately 19,000 lines of code supporting more than 550 subroutines. Source code is provided for form registration, form removal, field isolation, field segmentation, character normalization, feature extraction, character classification, and dictionary-based postprocessing. The recognition system has been successfully compiled and tested on a host of UNIX workstations. This paper gives an overview of the recognition system's software architecture, including descriptions of the various system components along with timing and accuracy statistics.