Businesses have been making increasing use of smart phones and tablets as work tools. Thanks to Abbyy FineReader Touch, remote workers can use iPhones and iPads to snap images of documents and upload them to Abby’s cloud-based FineReader Online service to save it in various searchable, editable formats. Though it’s no substitute for a desktop optical character recognition (OCR) program, this iOS app does let you scan and convert documents from anywhere, which is very handy.
Abbyy is a provider of OCR, PDF, and document conversion software, including the Editors’ Choice FineReader 11, as well as older versions (FineReader 6 and 9) that are frequently bundled with the scanners we test. Though those solutions are for the desktop, Abbyy also offers mobile apps, including Abbyy FineReader Touch.
The FineReader Touch Interface
The app’s iPhone interface is a black screen with toolbars on the top and bottom. Once you’ve scanned documents, a list of them, giving the date and time of the scan, file name and type, length of time available on the server for each document, appears in the center of the screen. The button at top left gives you the status of the document you’re scanning. At top right is a search button (though it searches on documents, not text).
The tab at top center shows the balance of document conversions you have available to you. (You start with 100). Touching the tab takes you to the store, where you can buy more: $2.99 for 20 pages, $4.99 for 50 pages, $6.99 for 100 pages, and $9.99 for 200 pages.
At bottom left is an information tab, which provides Help, lets you email Abby for support; lets you rate the app, and tells you about other Abbyy apps. At bottom right, the gear icon lets you change settings. At bottom center, the camera icon lets you image a document with your iPhone’s camera.
From the FineReader Online site, you can also upload saved documents for conversion to Word, Excel, PDF, PDF/A, RTF, TXT, and OpenDocument Text formats. You can access the documents you’ve converted, open and save them, or export them to Google Docs, Evernote, or Dropbox. After 14 days, your documents will be automatically deleted from the FineReader site.
I used my iPhone 5 to image text pages (printed from Word documents), tables, magazine pages, and other documents in FineReader Touch, and save them in appropriate formats (Word .docx is default). Text recognition of one-page documents scanned to Word format took an average of 44 seconds per page. That’s much slower than typical desktop-based OCR speeds, but keep in mind that you’re not likely to be using FineReader Touch to scan documents en masse.
OCR results were generally good. FineReader could recognize text down to 6 pt on our standard Times New Roman and Arial test pages in documents imaged in good lighting. The FineReader cloud also did a good job in converting most of the saved documents I sent to it, though occasionally a document with unusual formatting would stump it.
Abbyy FineReader Touch is optimized for the iPhone 5, but it also works with the iPhone 4 and 4S, as well as recent iPods touch, and all iPads except for the first-generation model. Though although the app is compatible with the iPad 2, I wasn’t surprised that OCR performance was abysmal, given the device’s primitive 0.9-megapixel camera. It undoubtedly would have done better with the 3- and 5-megapixel cameras of the most recent two iPads (and the iPad mini’s 5-megapixel camera). Even with the iPhone 5, lighting and document/camera positioning had some effect on scan quality.
Abbyy FineReader Touch has its limitations. It’s most accurate with recent iPhones and iPads with higher-resolution cameras, and shooting for OCR requires good lighting, and some care in positioning the documents. Many portable scanners already come with OCR software, are faster, and working through the cloud may be an extra step if you’re scanning and converting a series of documents to your hard drive. As a paid service, its costs could add up if you scan a lot of documents. Documents handled through the FineReader cloud are given generic names based on the date and the number of documents uploaded to FineReader (by all users) on that date, so you’ll have to go back and change them to a more usable name.
However, these quibbles shouldn’t detract from its usefulness to people who may need to make quick scans of documents to readable text while in the field: scholars, researchers—secret agents, for that matter. For them, ABBYY FineReader Touch may be the best solution for their mobile scanning needs.
|Type||Business, Personal, Enterprise, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc