ABBYY – FineReader Professional 6.0 review

fast, accurate optical character recognition
Photo of ABBYY – FineReader Professional 6.0
£60 + VAT

This OCR (optical character recognition) product comes in two versions; one for Western European languages and another which adds support for Cyrillic languages. The former, which is the one we’ve reviewed here, supports recognition of 122 languages and can process documents that incorporate multiple languages.

Installation is simple enough, with the software configured to find any attached TWAIN-compliant scanners and provide a list of them from which you can choose. You don’t actually have to have a scanner connected to your PC, either. It’s possible to process documents that have already been scanned by other applications, as long as they’re in a recognisable format such as TIFF. For those users who require distributed processing of documents over a network, there’s a Corporate version of the software available, but in the Professional version you’re limited to managing documents from your workstation.

Once a document has been scanned or loaded, it can be processed by the software. For the most part you can allow ABBYY FineReader Professional 6.0 to handle the recognition process automatically, but if things go wrong it’s possible to define areas of text, graphics and tabular formatting. We found that the software coped well on its own, but there may be times when a table should be saved as a graphic image rather than interpreted as text. A nice touch is that you can define the resolution and image quality of any scanned images, so that when they’re exported as part of a processed document you don’t have to re-scan them.

The most important part of the OCR process, the actual character recognition itself, is where ABBYY FineReader Professional 6.0 really shows its true colours. In our tests the processing operation was both fast and accurate, with columns of text, tables and graphic images all being handled properly and with a bare minimum of mis-recognised characters. Non-standard font faces were mostly handled well, although script fonts presented more of a challenge and led to greater numbers of inaccuracies. This is unlikely to be a problem for business documents, though, and in all other respects the processing engine performed well.

Output formats include the usual RTF, DOC (Microsoft Word), XLS, HTML and PDF. The latter has been enhanced to allow the inclusion of foreign language fonts, so that multilingual documents can be exported directly from within the program. There’s also the option of extracting text from within PDF documents and exporting it as processed text, potentially over-riding any password-protected export options that the author may have set. Alternatively, it’s possible to print documents directly from within the program.

Tabular formatting is well particularly handled. Not only is the general table layout maintained, but the actual alignment of text within cells can often be reproduced, too. In addition, the removal of background speckle and non-continuous shading is better than we’ve seen in other products and the software can also handle non-regular graphics, flowing text around objects in the same way as in the original document.

Ultimately, though, what’s important is that all these features are well wrapped up in a simple interface that will guide the novice user by means of ‘wizards’, while still allowing more experienced users to get at the options and settings pages. In this respect there’s very little to learn about ABBYY FineReader Professional 6.0. It just does the job well, processing documents with a few mouse clicks.

Company: ABBYY

Contact: 01279 656539


Verdict
Like voice recognition software, OCR packages continue to improve. This latest version of ABBYY FineReader may not represent a huge leap forward over previous and competing products, but it keeps the interface clean and uncluttered, manages a wide variety of complex formatting issues and produces output that is accurate and easily exported. There's not much more you could ask of an OCR tool.