Recently I needed to digitise around 60 pages from a book which was a tutorial I was going to give out to my students. Of course I could have photocopied the pages and given them out but at 60 pages for each person I could have been looking at 600 pages just for 10 students and that would just not have been very green. I thought by digitising them and then putting them into a pdf file I would save not only a lot of time in copying and then stapling pages together, but also a lot of my sanity.
Out I went into a computer superstore and I bought myself a copy of OmniPage Pro version 15. I have used OmniPage Pro software for my OCR requirements since version 4.0. I always thought that if you knew the best in the market, why settle for anything else? Well was I in for a surprise. I took the shrink-wrapped box home and installed it on my desktop PC. After making a cup of coffee I just fired up OmniPage Pro and then I began scanning straight away. The interface was decently laid out and everything I needed was easily accessible. Before I knew it I had already scanned 60 pages and so I started to edit the recognised text after I saved the project as an OPD document, which is its native file format.
I spent nearly an hour and a half to go through all the recognised text and the quality was quite reasonable. I would say that OmniPage Pro recognised over 95% of the text without any problems at all. At the end of the editing session I saved the file as an OPD again. So now I decided I should save the recognised data as a Word file (.doc). As soon as I tried to do this, the whole program crashed. After telling windows not to tell Microsoft about it, I started the program again. This time it asked if I wanted to recover data from the error encountered before. When I clicked “yes”, the damn program just hung there and I found that it was using around 97% of processor capacity in the Task Manager.
I started the software again after forcing it to quit (after waiting nearly 30 minutes). This time I chose not to recover data from the previous error. The program started (phew!) but when I tried to open my OPD file from the previous session it just crashed again. This continued through a few restarts and even after rebooting Windows (there’s nothing wrong with trying, right?). I thought there was a really serious issue with OmniPage Pro 15 so I went to another store and bought OmniPage Pro 16. I came home and installed it after uninstalling OmniPage Pro 15. It installed fine, but when I went to start it I saw the splash screen for about 3-5 seconds and then it disappeared. This went on for nearly half an hour.
I decided by this time that never would I install anything from OmniPage (or Nuance, the parent company) on my computer again. I searched Google for a better OCR software and I came across Abbyy Fine Reader Pro 8.0. I just bought this software online and then I installed it and it started fine. After a couple of test scans, the program seemed to be working just fine, so I rescanned my 60 pages all over again. During scanning, I decided to save the file (or batch as it is called in Fine Reader 8.0) and found a really nice feature that I thought every OCR software should have. Instead of embedding the scanned images into one massive file that could be easily corrupted, AFR 8.0 puts them all into a folder as TIFF images.
This reminded me that the worst thing about OmniPage was that I could not open the massive 264MB file in anything else other than OmniPage. If somehow I could import the pages into Acrobat it would have been much better. Instead I just had to scan all the pages all over again when OmniPage decided to quit unexpectedly. Also, with version 16 of OPP, how am I supposed to update it if the damn thing won’t start (you can only update it from within the program’s interface and the updates are not downloadable!)? Did I also mention that support call cost $US19.99 per call? So I uninstalled OPP 16 and I am returning both version 15 and 16 for a full refund.
As for Abbyy Fine Reader 8.0, despite the weird spelling of “Abby”, she is a keeper.