ABBYY’s FineReader OCR apps consistently get our Editors’ Choice award, but only Windows users get to use the high-powered FineReader 11 Professional Edition. Mac users get only a feature-limited version called FineReader Express Edition for the Mac—but even this limited version outclasses any other OCR software we’ve tested for the Mac. That’s because the OCR engine that ABBYY uses in all its products lets FineReader Express produce the same high-quality output produced by its feature-rich Windows-based siblings. FineReader Express doesn’t include the touch-up and editing tools that the Windows-based Professional version has in profusion, but most home and SOHO users won’t need them.
FineReader Express has the simplest and most straightforward interface I’ve found on any OCR app. The Quick Tasks menu has a drop-down menus that lets you choose whether to get images from a file or a scanner, and buttons that let you select from four output formats: a text document, a worksheet, an HTML file, or a searchable PDF. I simply clicked on a button, selected a PDF file that I wanted to convert to a word-processing document, and waited a few seconds while the app displayed a progress bar, then opened its main window with the document image displayed, and prompted me to select a filename for the converted document.
At this point, in the “Save Converted File As” dialog, I could click simply click Save to save the file and optionally open the file after saving (a checkbox let me turn off this option). For most documents, that’s what you’ll do, but with complex or difficult documents, it’s best to click Cancel and work with the document in FineReader Express’s main window before saving it. In the main window, you can adjust the way the app divided up your document into text, tables, and images, then click the Convert button to export the document as an RTF, HTML, XLS, or searchable PDF file.
One thing you can’t do in the main window is correct any OCR misreadings, as you can with the rival Prizmo OCR app, or with ABBYY’s high-powered Windows apps. You also can’t manually correct for distortions in the page image. But ABBYY’s recognition engine is so effective and accurate that you may not miss them. One test I ran on all the OCR apps that I looked at involved a scanned PDF of a legal form from a government web site. ABBYY converted it with only an error in only one word, where the scanned image was too faint to read accurately. Every other product—including the built-in OCR in Adobe Acrobat XI Pro—made dozens of errors reading the same document.
FineReader Express far outclassed its Mac-based competition—Prizmo and Adobe Acrobat Pro—when performing OCR on scanned images and PDF files created by scanning in a paper document. But Acrobat Pro far outclassed the competition when exporting Word and Excel documents from PDF files that were created by “printing” to PDF from an application, not by scanning an image. Adobe has the advantage here because it isn’t performing any actual OCR on this kind of PDF. Instead, it reconstructs the original document using information embedded in the PDF when it was created.
So if you’re thinking of buying an OCR app because you want to extract text from non-scanned PDF files—the kind that have sharp, clear fonts and perfect alignment on the page—then you’re better off with Acrobat Pro or third-party PDF editors like Nitro PDF. But if you want to extract text from scanned images, Acrobat is second-best to ABBYY.
FineReader Express let me down in only one way—it won’t work with a scanner unless your Mac is directly connected to the scanner via a USB cable. My scanner is part of an HP LaserJet Pro 400 MFP M425dn, which is connected by an Ethernet cable to my router. I can use OS X’s built-in Image Capture app to scan from the LaserJet MFP even when I’m using my MacBook to connect wirelessly with my router, and the rival Prizmo app is happy to scan wirelessly from the LaserJet MFP. But I had to connect a USB cable between the LaserJet MFP and my MacBook to scan into FineReader Express. ABBYY’s tech support confirmed that FineReader doesn’t (yet) scan wirelessly, and suggesting using OS X’s Image Capture to scan to any standard image format (PNG, TIFF, PDF) and then open FineReader and perform OCR on the scanned image. This works, but I’d be happier if I didn’t need either the USB cable or this extra step.
Despite this limitation, and despite its limited feature set, this is still by far the best OCR app for Mac users. ABBYY FineReader Express provides impressive error-free output and operates with an absolute minimum of fuss; it’s our Editors’ Choice for Mac OCR software.
|OS Compatibility||Mac OS|
|Type||Business, Enterprise, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc