ABBYY FineReader Professional Edition
At a Glance
ABBYY FineReader 10 Professional Edition has some interface flaws, but there's no arguing the quality of its OCR, i.e. turning scanned images into editable digital documents. And since it does what it does so well, I'll give it a pass on how it gets there. At $400, it's pricey--though $50 cheaper than Adobe Acrobat X Pro. ABBYY FinePrint Reader Pro's main window consists of a column in which you see thumbnails of scanned documents, then two panes for larger previews of the current page and its OCR'd or in ABBYY's terms, "read" version.
There's a main toolbar for file and other basic operations across the top of the main window; however, I immediately got rid of it as the icons were overly large and there's no way to make them smaller. The edit toolbar was of manageable size. Fortunately, the language and concepts are easy to decipher so the program is largely easy to learn and use.
FineReader 10 Professional Edition can open PDFs and a wide variety of image types for OCR, or scan documents directly with a TWAIN- or WIA-compliant scanner. It also has a number of image processing features such as cropping, noise removal, orientation correction, etc. The program saves to PDF (plain, editable, and searchable), .RTF, .CSV, .HTML, as well as a number of Microsoft Office types.
I tried OCR'ing several documents: a few with graphics, some straight newsletters, and a handful of book pages. The OCR was nearly 100% accurate, with only a small number of minor formatting errors. Anything the program is less than certain of will be highlighted, but even most of the highlighted sections were fine. Elements such as images and lines were all recreated and to be blunt, FineReader 10 Pro does the best job by a long shot recreating mixed-element documents of any OCR program I'm aware of--online or otherwise. FineReader 10 Pro doesn't do handwriting recognition, but no other OCR product does, either.
Despite its somewhat clunky interface, ABBYY FineReader 10 Pro is easy enough to use--and there's no arguing with the results. Variations of FineReader come bundled with many scanners and MFP, so you may already have it. If not, look for it as part of your product research if you plan on doing OCR. The demo is good for 15 days or 50 single page scans, whichever comes first.
--Jon L. Jacobi