Abbyy Finereader 10 review

Can Abbyy take OCR technology any further with its latest version?

Abbyy FineReader 10

This is a versatile application, able to create PDF, Word, Excel and HTML documents directly. Although it handles basic character recognition well, in our experience, it's handling of page layouts is much less good. We'd therefore only recommend it for converting pages with comparatively simple designs.

Anybody who has a lot of paper documents to convert to electronic ones, needs Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Using a scanner to create an image of a page and then intelligent software to recognise the letters in that image is a lot quicker and cheaper than having them retyped. OCR software, such as Abbyy Finereader, is often bundled in slimmed-down form with scanners and all-in-one printers, but a full version offers many extras.

Abbyy started in Russia, but is now a well-known name for OCR in Europe and the US. FineReader 10 is the latest release of their flagship OCR product and boasts of being able to convert printed text or digital photos to PDF, Word, Excel and HTML documents.

Each of these options has its own particular use. Scanning to PDF provides the ability to archive documents in their text form, rather than the much bigger bitmap images of the same pages. They can also be made searchable, so people using an OCRed archive can take advantage of fast indexing.

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Converting to Word documents makes the results completely editable, so if you need the information in the paper documents as the basis for revision or new work, this is a very direct conversion. Excel is useful for reproducing numerical tables, though of course formulae underlying the numbers will have to be recreated. Finally, converting to HTML is the ideal route if you want to add printed material to a Web site or intranet.

The program itself is remarkably simple to use and its main editing screen reflects this. A toolbar across the top offers large, easy-to-read icons for opening, scanning, reading and saving documents, while the main part of the screen shows two panels, the left-hand one for the bitmapped image either a scan or a photo and the right-hand one for the result of the OCR.

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