For many years I have used Abbyy Finereader as my OCR software. Version 10 is now out, and I have just bought an upgrade.
Mind you, I have retained copies of FR8 and FR9 on my disk, installed and ready to use. FR9 was quite an improvement in OCR terms on FR8, and has better PDF handling, but the user interface is a lot harder to use. It fights you. I’ve never got used to its quirks. In particular it decided that it wouldn’t allow me to scan images at 400 dpi on my Plustek Opticbook 3600 — which FR8 did — and since I prefer to scan at that resolution, I had to retain FR8. It’s also better for image cropping.
So … FR10. I’ve just installed it, which was painless. It asks if I want to start some screengrab software every time I start my PC — I uncheck this. I open it up for the first time, and it wants me to register – that too is painless.
Then I get a screen with a big red window of “helpful” options — with no way to close it. I uncheck “display on startup” and it still won’t go. I’m forced to close the application, and restart. Not really that good a start.
Next I open an existing FR9 project. I’d started work on Censorinus, so I use that. I select the folder; and then it asks me to save it somewhere else. Yes, OK, we never had to do that in FR5, FR6, FR7, FR8 or FR9. Why change it? So I waste some disk space and create folder censorinus_fr10. I suppose newcomers will find it useful. And it opens the project OK. Hmmm. Now what?
I click on a page, and it doesn’t seem to include any of the OCR’d text. I select ‘Read’ and it OCR’s it. But … where is the text I was working on? A look shows that FR10 has kindly deleted all my recognised text. It’s kept the blocks on the screen, and that’s it. B*****ds!! Now we know why they insisted on keeping the old directory — boy would they be lynched if they hadn’t! This is bad. This is really, really bad. Who wants to restart a whole project?
OK, well I look through a few pages rather hopelessly, and I see one where the image needs editing. So … what do we have? Well, we have the FR9 style: “Let’s hide all the tools boys! Hee hee!” I had to customise mine to get an eraser on it. How do I do that now?
Well, I can’t say. If I choose Page|Edit page image, I get a rubbish image editor, with no tools, on which I can crop. This is the FR9 approach, way inferior to the FR8 one. It looks as if they still haven’t got rid of that idiot who ruined the interface. I erase a bit of rubbish on the image … it takes ages. The pages flashes as I do. Awful!
OK, I see it. You choose View|Toolbars|Quick Access bar. This puts an extra bar at the top, under the file menu. Then you do View|Toolbars|Customize. Choose categories “Image”, and you are looking at that toolbar. Now go down the icons on the left, and insert them where you want them on that toolbar. I add erase and a few others, and suddenly I can clean up the image as I want to. I can zoom the image (although only to 200%, unlike before – another degradation in service), and I can get rid of the image of some long dead student’s pencil on the page.
I’m dispirited, tho. I’m having to work at this, just to do simple OCR tasks.
OK. Let’s OCR that page. Right-click, read and … off it goes. I get two windows, image and text. Luckily the “Quick Access Bar” also allows me to minimise the image! And I click on the text at one point, where it’s duff, and … hang on, where’s the zoom at the bottom? Ah, it’s still at the bottom; just not displayed by default. (Why?!) One click on it, and it appears.
The OCR quality appears about the same, or possibly a little better. We’ll see.
Overall verdict? Wish they’d shoot the interface designer.
UPDATE: another glitch. While working on Censorinus, I had to do a global replace of “aera” to “era”. This I did, but they’ve made a subtle change. After the replace, I used to just hit Esc to get rid of the search/replace dialog box. Now it doesn’t work. And why? Because each time you do a replace, they shift the focus to the document, meaning you have to click the dialog box to get back to where you were.
This is unbelievably infuriating, and will make for much more work in using the product. All those extra clicks during a long search/replace…