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Abbyy FineReader 11 'easier to use, more powerful'

More choices, simpler to use, faster to scan

Abbyy FineReader has long been the market leader in OCR (optical character recognition) software. In layman's terms, it extracts the text from almost any image. ABBYY FineReader 11 Professional Edition launched yesterday, and costs £99 for the full, Professional version, or £65 to upgrade.

But Abbyy faces the problem all successful software vendors have to wrestle with: once you've cornered the market, how do you get your customers to upgrade? According to Abbyy Europe's CEO Jupp Stoepetie, who I spoke to today, the reasons to upgrade are two-fold. Firstly, the new FineReader is faster and has more features than ever before. But, Stoepetie told me, it's also easier for non-technical and irregular users to get to grips with.

Let's start with the speed. Stoepetie told me that in the past Abbyy had focused successfully on making FineReader accurate, but that 'accuracy damages speed'. Now, he says, Abbyy has made FineReader much faster, not necessarily by changing the underlying code, but by offering the user greater flexibility of accuracy level. For instance: users can choose to scan in black and white, which is faster and produces smaller files. Or utilise 'Fast Processing', which is 70 percent faster than the standard mode - if you're scanning a high-quality document, you don't need to use all of FineReader's reading skills.

Stoepetie told me that Abbyy has added new languages, including Arabic, to FineReader 11. It's also improved its document recognition technology and added support for OpenOffice documents and epub files. In fact, one interesting new function is that you can scan a document and send the results to your Amazon Kindle.

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The mobile space is an interesting area for OCR software to move into. Stoepetie was honest enough to admit that FineReader is too complex to be built into a smartphone application, and that Abbyy is currently limited to products such as its business-card reader for Android and iPhone. But he said that one major improvement in FineReader 11 is improved image-enhancement technnology, so that users can take a smartphone photo of a document and then scan it with FineReader.

Other improvements in FineReader 11 include enhanced pdf conversion, an improved and simplified compression mode and screenshot reader. There's also a style editor that shows a scanned document's fonts and lets you then change them on your scan.

We'll be reviewing Abbyy FineReader 11 soon.

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