Review: ABBYY FineReader Express Edition for Mac

User-friendly, accurate, and easy OCR software for the Mac. (February 26th, 2011)

Software that converts pages of text to editable text files makes working easier. This accurate, and easy to use OCR software for the Mac even works well with digital camera images.

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Product Manufacturer: ABBYY

Price: $99.99 US

The Good

  • Support for RTF, XLS, HTML, and searchable PDF.
  • Simple, easy to user interface.
  • Excellent recognition engine.
  • Excellent results from Faxes and digital camera images.
  • Good value for money.

The Bad

  • Requires scanner with TWAIN driver support.
  • Performance with TIFF images lacking.
  • More features in ABBY FineReader 10 Professional for Windows.

When you want to take text from a variety of sources and process it into an editable form, the options are limited. Most scanners bundle some kind of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, but none is foolproof. ABBYY has long been a maker of fine OCR software for Windows, but has only recently introduced its OCR software specifically for the Mac platform. The question is, does ABBY FineReader Express Edition for Mac represent a worthwhile proposition at $100?

Interface

When you launch ABBY FineReader Express Edition for Mac, you are greeted with a simple, clean Macintosh interface to get things going. You can choose from four one-click conversion tasks: Convert to Text Document, Convert to Spreadsheet Document, Convert to HTML Document, and Convert to Searchable PDF functions. You can also select the language in which you want to convert. The software supports an amazing 171 languages including German, French, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, and many others.

finereader_express1-quicktask

FineReader Express Edition Interface


In the example below, I converted a PDF document into searchable text. The software let me select only the text, from among numerous images in the document to edit. The software handled the task with aplomb, making the task simple and straightforward, plus it was highly accurate. FineReader Express Edition for Mac converts any type of PDF (except secure PDF files), including image-only PDF files that have been scanned, into a searchable PDF document.

Document Conversion

Document Conversion


In the next example, I took advantage of FineReader Express Edition for Mac Camera OCR ability, a particularly useful feature of the software. There are numerous occasions where I have found it difficult to extract text from a document, particularly when I recently completed a degree program. Large textbooks, and course notes are not conducive to placement on a scanner. Books are often too thick and awkward, and you risk breaking the spine. If I'd had this software, I could have simply taken a photo of the text and then used FineReader to convert the JPEG file into searchable text. In the example below, I have done exactly that, with 100 percent accuracy. The trick of photographing text lies in making sure the whole page is in the view finder and that no shadows darken any text.

 Digital Camera Photo Conversion

Digital Camera Photo Conversion


The drawbacks of the software are few, but they are worth noting. For example, your scanner must support TWAIN drivers for it to work in conjunction with FineReader. However, there are simple work-arounds for this, which include scanning the document as a jpeg and using the software separately. It can be an annoyance not to have the scanner and software working together. Further, while the software has little trouble converting JPEG images to text, its support for TIFFS is surprisingly lacking. It has trouble converting TIFF files accurately. Power users may miss the functionality in the full Windows version - as the title of the Mac software implies; it is a more streamlined, and cut-down version of the full Professional Windows version. That said, the Mac version offers the key features and I think it is a good value for the price.

Overall Assessment

ABBYY FineReader for Mac is an excellent OCR tool for Mac users. It is accurate and it is easy to use. Its user-friendly interface means that just about anyone can use this powerful utility without having to wade through a complicated user manual. The software is also flexible and supports a wide range of documents and file types, meaning that the conversion of documents into editable text is a snap. Its multilingual language support, paired with a dictionary, adds to its usefulness. Another great feature is its Camera OCR function that allows you to take photos of documents that it can then read and convert to text. This can come in particularly handy when encountering documents on the go, or when trying to scan large bound documents. A whole range of Mac users could potentially save a lot of time using this software, from university students to office workers in any number of industries including banking, legal, healthcare, and education.

FineReader Express Edition for Mac requires at least Mac OS X 10.4 on a PPC or Intel Macintosh. A 15-day trial version that allows you to scan and translate only one page at a time can be downloaded from the site.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Sanjiv Sathiah


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