FineReader 7.0 Professional Edition from Abbyy Software House once again raises the bar for desktop optical character recognition (OCR) applications. It's easy to install and use, although the new mandatory product activation requirement is a minor annoyance. FineReader also features a wide range of powerful advanced functions to give greater control over how the app itself works, though mastering these takes some time and skill. At $299, FineReader is pricey, but if you already own a scanner with bundled software, you'll probably qualify for the competitive $149 upgrade price. While is suitable for businesses, the lower-priced FineReader is better suited for families and home-office users.
Abbyy FineReader 7.0 Professional Edition installs easily, and--with one notable exception--performs like any other OCR application. On our test system, the default installation created a folder containing about 175MB of data. The program will work with any TWAIN-compatible device--that is, almost all scanners. If you have more than one input device installed on your system, however, rather than ask you which one to use, it will choose for you; we'd prefer the option. On our test system, it chose a Webcam, but we were able to reconfigure the program to work with our flatbed scanner instead.
The FineReader OCR interface shows the original image, recognized text, and a close-up image of the scanned page.
The notable installation exception is that FineReader 7.0 now requires product activation. If you're connected to the Internet, it's simple to complete this copy-protection step. If you can't connect to the Internet, however, FineReader will run--in a crippled state that won't save or print recognized text.
The FineReader interface makes basic OCR tasks as simple or as complex as you'd like. Right below the standard menu bar, you'll find a toolbar with five large icons. One launches several one-step scan and read operations, ideal for beginners who need help wading through many OCR options. The other four buttons control individual steps, letting you scan, read, proofread, and save the recognized pages as a document. More-experienced OCR users will find that additional toolbars provide quick access to advanced functions such as recognition zone adjustments, image editing, and rotation.
PDF has become the lingua franca of the online document world because Adobe gives away the Reader program free. So it's a good thing that FineReader expands its Adobe Acrobat PDF file capabilities in version 7.0. FineReader not only now supports most available types of PDF, it also exports PDFs and extracts text from PDFs, a capability that turns PDF into an editable file format.