I’ve dealt with a lot of mobile scanning apps in the past, but for the most part I’ve found that scanning apps for the iPhone or iPad do not provide nearly as accurate of results as an actual dedicated scanner. As such, at least in my opinion, iOS scanning apps must be able to do something beyond merely grabbing text to really be worth their salt. Fortunately, TextGrabber + Translator ($2.99, link) matches that guideline perfectly.
Developed by ABBYY, TextGrabber + Translator adds language translation and social sharing to the typical list of iOS scanning app features. The result is an affordable essential all for travelers, businessmen, or anyone who might be presented with documents in a foreign language.
TextGrabber + Translator uses your iPhone or iPod touch camera to capture text from books, magazines, road signs, menus, or other text, analyzes that text via OCR, and produces fully readable and editable text that can be translated to and from over 40 different languages.
While the translated text probably isn’t perfect or completely grammatical, it’s main purpose is to provide the user with a decent general idea of what a passage of text says – and according to the head og the linguistics department at the local university, it achieves this goal very well (at least in Spanish and German – that professor’s specialties).
Besides the ability to capture and translate text, the app also incorporates a number of sharing features, allowing you to email or text your results, or share them on Facebook, Twitter, or Evernote. The app is also extremely easy to use – it only requires a few clicks or taps, and is extremely intuitive.
Despite the overall usefulness of TextGrabber + Translate, the app is not without its weaknesses. While the app is able to capture text almost perfectly on matte paper under good lighting conditions, capturing text on glossy paper or in questionable lighting results in quite a few errors in the apps OCR. Even so, I found that the app was able to perform reasonable well under most normal lighting conditions – such as in an office, outdoors on a bright day, or in most stores or restaurants.
I was somewhat disappointed that the app does not preserve the formatting of what is being scanned. For instance, if you are scanning a two paragraph selection, the results is a single mashed-together paragraph that is significantly more difficult to read. I also found myself wishing that there was a version of the app available for the iPad.
While TextGrabber + Translate is not without its flaws, it does offer decent recognition and translation in most situations, and absolutely holds its own as an essential utility that no international businessman or world traveler should ever be without. That being said, the app still has a lot of room for improvement.
- Excellent accuracy under most lighting conditions.
- No iPad version.
- Doesn’t work well in glossy surfaces or in dimly lit environments.