Abbyy continues its long-running OCR series with the excellent FineReader 12 Professional, a feature-packed conversion tool adept at turning printed pages or digital images into fully editable documents.
Fast conversions, robust tools, extremely user-friendly, plenty of supported file types
Graphs and images aren't always converted with 100 percent accuracy
Operating system: Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP
Processor: 1GHz or faster
Memory: 1GB for single core, plus 512MB for every additional CPU core
Disk space required: 850MB
Display: 1280x1024 resolution or higher
Abbyy's FineReader series of optical character recognition (OCR) products has been finding itself on enterprise PCs for nearly two decades. The ability to turn paper documents into digital files that can be edited and searched has made it enduringly popular in numerous professional fields, even with competition from similar software such as Nuance's OmniPage.
This gives a certain pedigree to the latest edition, FineReader 12 Professional, but it must also meet the high standards established by its predecessors. To this end, Abbyy has focused less on introducing big new features and more on ensuring the accuracy and speed at the core of FineReader's digital conversion capabilities.
At its fastest and most basic, the process for converting a PDF or image file into an editable document merely requires selecting the file, choosing what to convert it into, waiting a few seconds while it processes, then saving the result. It's an incredibly simple procedure that can be learned and repeatedly immediately, without the need for any specialist knowledge.
When turning a newly scanned file into a document, we found that an additional step of 'Recognising' the scanned pages was necessary, but this is performed quickly and with a single button press.
Switching between output types is easy as well. In some cases, FineReader 12 Professional will detect the most suitable file type based on what is being converted - .docx for text-heavy files, .xlsx for tabular data and so on - but this can also be set manually from the drop-down ‘Save' menu. This means that the method for converting something into HTML, RDF, PDF, PDF/A or e-Pub (for e-book use) formats is as equally straightforward as producing a Word document. There's also no need to re-process a file before saving it in a range of different file types.
The interface is generally excellent. Functions are logically placed along a main toolbar, and large, colourful icons mark the most important options to inexperienced users. These chunky icons almost look like they were designed with touchscreens in mind although, while it's certainly possible to run FineReader 12 Professional on a Windows-powered tablet, the use of smaller menus and pop-out dialogue boxes for editing tools - as well as a full range of convenient keyboard shortcuts - means we'd recommend sticking with a laptop or desktop.
Next: Accuracy and features