Product Promotion Network

ABBYY FineReader

Editors' Choice

For years now, our undisputed Editor’s Choice for the best-in-class optical character reading software has been ABBYY FineReader. The revamped latest version, ABBYY FineReader 14, is a top-notch OCR app that adds document-comparison features that you can’t find anywhere else and new PDF-editing features that rival the advanced feature set in Adobe Acrobat DC. FineReader 14 is also the best document-comparison productivity app[1] I’ve ever seen, with the ability to compare documents in two different formats, so you can compare a Word file to a PDF version of the same file and see which of the two has the latest revisions.

It’s truly terrific.

What You’ll Pay

In my writing and editing work, I’ve relied on ABBYY FineReader for as long as I can remember, and one reason I work mostly in Windows and not on a Mac is that ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac version is a lot less powerful than ABBYY FineReader 14 for Windows. For this review, I tested the £399.99 ABBYY FineReader 14 Corporate edition. A £199.99 (upgrade price £129.99) Standard version has all the OCR and PDF-editing features of Corporate, but lacks the document-compare component and doesn’t include the Hot Folder feature that automatically creates PDF files from documents or images saved to the folder.

For most users, the Standard version will be more than enough, but the document-comparison feature alone may be worth the extra price for the Corporate app. The prices, by the way, are perpetual, with no annoying subscription model like Adobe’s required.

ABBYY FineReader Main Menu

Feature Set

You’ll typically use an OCR app to convert scanned images of printed text into either an editable Word document or a searchable PDF file. Now that every smartphone takes high-resolution photos, you don’t even need a scanner to create images that you can turn into editable documents or PDFs, but your OCR software needs to be able to work with skewed and otherwise irregular photos in addition to high-quality scans.

FineReader has always excelled at cleaning up imperfect images, but version 14 seems even more impressive than earlier versions. When I used my phone to take photos of two-page spreads in a book, FineReader effortlessly split the photos into single-page images, unskewed the images so that text lines are horizontal, and recognized the text with often perfect accuracy. FineReader hides its myriad advanced features behind straightforward beginner-level menus, but the advanced options are easily accessible to advanced users from a toolbar and menu.

When you start up the app, it displays a spacious menu listing a half-dozen tasks: viewing and editing an existing PDF file; performing advanced OCR tasks in a PDF file; and converting standard document formats to PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or electronic publication formats, such as ePub and DjVu. Conversion options include the ability to combine multiple files into a single PDF, Word, or Excel file. A second menu lists options to scan to FineReader’s OCR Editor or directly to PDF, Word, Excel, or to various other image, document, and publishing formats.

A third menu opens FineReader’s separate compare-documents app. This menu system is more than enough to achieve most standard OCR and file-conversion tasks, and the Windows 10-style interface is among the clearest I’ve seen.

Editing Muscle

For basic PDF editing, FineReader has a clearer and more modern interface than Adobe[2] Acrobat[3], and makes it easier to perform tasks like using a developer certificate to sign a document. FineReader’s search feature has conveniences that Adobe doesn’t match, such as the ability to highlight or underline all instances of a search string.

You can also switch on a convenient redaction mode that lets you blank out any text or region in a document simply by selecting a region with a mouse, clicking, and moving on to the next. On the other hand, ABBYY doesn’t include Acrobat’s full-text indexing feature that can make searching almost instantaneous in large documents. FineReader’s interface uses the familiar sidebar of thumbnails or bookmarks at the left of a full-size image, but the layout is exceptionally clear, and all icons are labeled.

A new background OCR feature means that you can get started editing a PDF before the app has completed its text-recognition operations.

ABBYY FineReader OCR Proofreader

FineReader’s unique powers are most evident in its OCR editor, an efficient tool for checking its OCR output and correcting recognition errors. Scanned images of old books, crumpled paper, or marked-up pages are almost certain to produce either outright errors, or readings where the OCR software can’t be certain of the original text and makes a best guess of what was on the page. FineReader’s OCR editor works like a high-powered spelling checker in a word-processor, quickly trawling through doubtful OCR readings while you confirm or correct each one in turn–and its superb keyboard interface lets you confirm a doubtful reading with one keystroke or correct it with two or three keystrokes, typically selecting the right reading from a list that the program offers.

This kind of repetitive work normally strains your hand muscles as you maneuver the mouse, but FineReader’s thoughtful design reduces strain to an absolute minimum. One other plus, for many law and government offices that still use WordPerfect for creating documents, FineReader can export OCR output directly to WordPerfect without making you save first in an intermediate format like RTF. Everything in FineReader seems designed to reduce needless operations.

When you install it, it adds a Screenshot Reader app to your taskbar icons. This works like a superpowered version of Windows’ built-in Snipping Tool. I use it to capture the text when an on-screen image shows a picture of some text but doesn’t let me select the text itself–for example, an image of a page in Google Books or Amazon’s Look Inside feature.

I start up the Screenshot Reader app, drag the mouse to frame the text I want to capture, and then wait a second or two while FineReader performs OCR on the image and sends the text to the Clipboard. Options in the app let me select a table or simply capture an image to the Clipboard. They also let me send the output directly to Microsoft Word[4] or some other app instead of to the Clipboard.

There’s nothing else out there that’s remotely as powerful and efficient at capturing text from the screen.

ABBYY FineReader Sent To Formats

The Best OCR

For advanced, high-quality, fine-tuned OCR, FineReader essentially has almost no competition. Adobe Acrobat DC is a PDF-editing powerhouse, with strong OCR features built-in, but it isn’t as accurate as FineReader and doesn’t offer anything like FineReader’s interactive OCR editor. OmniPage and the enterprise-level OmniPage Professional[5] offer high-powered, automated OCR functions that work well for high-volume operations, but, at least in my limited testing, OmniPage doesn’t match FineReader in accuracy or in its OCR-editing interface.

The lower-tech ReadIris Pro, bundled with many scanners, doesn’t match any of these three in convenience or accuracy. Acrobat, OmniPage, and FineReader leave all other OCR software in the dust. But FineReader, our Editors’ Choice, is the only one of the three that you’ll want if you need the ultimate in accuracy, convenience, and control.

ABBYY FineReader

Editors' ChoiceABBYY FineReader Logo

Bottom Line: FineReader 14 maintains this app’s status as the best all-round OCR app on the planet.

A fully redesigned interface and background-recognition features make it faster and easier to use than the superb previous versions.

References

  1. ^ productivity app (www.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ Adobe (www.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Acrobat (www.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ Microsoft Word (www.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ OmniPage Professional (www.pcmag.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *