Different document formats and document conversion has got be considered one of the everlasting problems on a computer. It can be many things: you want to edit a PDF but can’t, you want scan a document, then only import selected parts from it into a program like Excel (an invoice, for example), or you might just want to take a bit of text from the internet and edit it. You would normally need several different programs for all these things, however the new Fine Reader Express from ABBYY wraps all those functions into one and allows you to edit and convert any text you want, from something in .jpg form to a PDF.
I like apps that are simple. I’ve said this many a time in the past, and fortunately, FineReader Express lives up to that simplicity. You’re not presented with thousands of options as you open the app, you’re presented with four which will give you a quick start: converting to a text document, converting to a spreadsheet, converting to HTML and converting to a PDF.
When you select one of the these options, the rest is fairly intuitive. It does the conversion and then you’re presented with whatever you’ve imported so that you can edit it only use the parts you want. None of the menus are complicated, and it really is possible to convert something in several seconds, which is some of the genius of this app.
They couldn’t really have made the layout much better. Clear, concise and straightforward. Perfect.
For an app like this, layout is important but functionality is key. Does it actually work? In this case, definitely. It doesn’t take very long to convert a file, several seconds depending on how fast your computer is, and you can be editing it and saving it in minutes.
Having the ability to read text from a photo is phenomenal, and with OCR technology it is surprisingly accurate. It is highly unlikely that you will see mistakes, unless of course you have it setup in another language to the one you are using. One that might slightly differ however is the layout. While it claims that it doesn’t change (and in most cases that’s true) I tried converting a PDF to a Word document, and while the content was all there, it was in a slightly different format. This isn’t major and it only happens in certain cases, but it’s just something to bear in mind.
The other possible slight negative about this is the saving formats. By default it’s .rtf, which isn’t the most common text format about. While you can save it in other formats, it would be much easier if something like .doc was the default file format.
A feature that’s very nicely built into FineReader Express is being able to import directly from a scanner, right from the application. You don’t have to use another program to get the photo from the scanner, you can do it all one and it’s something that if you scan often will save you a lot of time.
The last key feature is being able to export a table to a spreadsheet, a functionality many of these apps doesn’t have and it’s nice to see it built in. Combined with the editing functionality, it means that you can have the table and nothing but the table on a nice, clean Excel spreadsheet, perfect for the number crunchers!
If you often find that you want typed, paper documents on the computer in digital format, then without a doubt this is the app for you. It allows you to edit, convert and import seamlessly, and in that regard it’s faultless.
If anything could make this app better, it would be changing the default file format to something more mainstream and possibly some improvements with regard to keeping the same layout in the conversion, but these are minor and I would highly recommend this app.
I know this is way more complex to integrate, but if ABBYY could find a way to convert handwriting to text as well, it would be absolutely mind blowing. This is in no way a criticism of the app, just something they could add to make it even more awesome than it currently is.
Price: $99.99 (Mac App Store Link)
- Makes it easier than ever to convert and edit text.
- Nice, user friendly layout and design.
- Accuracy with OCR technology is pretty incredible. 99% chance of zero mistakes.
- Spreadsheet export option very useful.
- Different default saving format would be nice, but this is very minor.
- Some occasional layout conversion problems, again nothing to seriously worry about.