ABBYY FineReader 8 Professional Edition review
A decent compromise between value and features, especially as you can upgrade from the Sprint version, but not one that will find universal appeal
Review Date: 20 Oct 2005
Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson
Price when reviewed: (£101 inc VAT) upgrade £65 (£74 inc VAT)
Many readers will be familiar with ABBYY FineReader, as the Sprint version is frequently bundled with scanners. If you already use Sprint, you can upgrade for £65, but is it worth the extra money?
One of the most significant differences between Sprint and Professional is the PDF functionality, although the ability to save to PDF as well as to scan from PDF files isn't something to shout about here - all three packages do it.
OCR accuracy for text was fine, although not up to the standards of OmniPage, so we'd hesitate to recommend it for mission-critical use. Underlined text could fool the OCR engine, so 'g' could become 'q', and 'y' could become 'v'. The engine was also too enthusiastic when it came to scanning graphs, electing to try to convert what the other packages quickly spotted as images into text, leading to a jumble of random letters and punctuation. We also found problems with zoning light images, with FineReader writing off light images as background noise or paper distortions.
Of course, you can do your own zoning, and here FineReader holds a slight advantage over OmniPage in terms of responsiveness and ease of use, but it isn't up to the standard of Readiris. For instance, if you draw two boxes around text that touch, FineReader won't automatically convert them into one irregular box as Readiris does - you need to change them yourself with a different tool. We also found that what the zone boxes show and what actually gets recognised aren't necessarily the same thing - the headline on the PC Pro page we scanned was properly recognised, but by the time it got into Word it had been clipped at the bottom. FineReader also tried to translate one of the pictures in our greyscale test as text.
If you're just scanning text, though, you won't have any complaints with FineReader. Both bold and indented text was perfectly reproduced, and our PDF document, in spite of the problems with the graphs and light-coloured images, showed perfect text recognition.
For SMEs, there's an Automation Manager, as seen in OmniPage 15. There's no 'watch folder' facility, so you won't be able to scan documents all day and have them automatically read, but you can easily program an automation to take all the files from a folder, recognise and save them before deleting the original image. It's possible to save the files a number of times in different formats, but there's no facility to save the scanned image for reference.
There's just one major niggle with FineReader in terms of usability: like Readiris, it doesn't automatically save your settings on closing the program, so if you forget to save your options you'll find yourself resetting them each time you load the program.
Ultimately, ABBYY FineReader offers a decent compromise between the value and accuracy of Readiris and the power and automation features of OmniPage. If you need automation on a budget, it's the package to go for, but for home and occasional office use Readiris is the better package at this price.
Author: Dave Stevenson
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