A good optical character recognition (OCR) application is fast and easy to use, but more important is its ability to accurately recognize text. Although IRIS’s Readiris Pro 7 is both sprightly and a breeze to use, it has a long way to go before it’s as accurate as the Mac’s current OCR leader, ScanSoft’s OmniPage Pro X.
Like OmniPage Pro X, Readiris Pro runs natively in both OS 9 and OS X; is compatible with TWAIN-compliant scanners; attempts to maintain the original document’s layout; lets you manually draw text, graphic, and table zones; recognizes a host of languages; and can export files in text, RTF, HTML, and PDF formats. But unlike OmniPage, Readiris can’t import PDF files, has difficulty filtering out background artifacts such as a graph’s bars and screened-back images, and sports an overactive spelling checker.
We tested Readiris Pro 7 the same way we tested its competitors, OmniPage Pro X and Abbyy’s FineReader Pro 5 (see Reviews, June 2002). Readiris’s relative weaknesses were readily apparent after we processed press release, which contained a light, swirling pattern in the background, through both Readiris Pro and OmniPage. OmniPage questioned 30 characters, 4 of which required correction. Readiris questioned 261 characters, 69 of which needed to be corrected. (Fifty of these errors seemed to be generated by the background pattern.) Invoking Readiris’s despeckling feature — which filters out artifacts — didn’t help. An option similar to one found in FineReader Pro 5, which lets you instruct the spelling checker to be less vigilant, would be welcome in Readiris.
More annoying still is that it’s difficult to tell how much progress Readiris’s spelling checker has made in a document. Although the Dictionary window displays the text surrounding a questionable character, it gives no clue as to how much more text needs to be checked. OmniPage highlights the area it’s checking in an overview of the document.
Readiris didn’t fare much better when processing a Macworld page that contained a colored table. Where OmniPage was able to pull most of the text from the table and ignore the colored data bars, Readiris questioned each bar as if it were a character. To work around this problem, you could designate the table as a graphic by manually drawing a graphics box around it, but then the table isn’t editable when you export it to other formats.
But Readiris isn’t a complete washout. In our magazine-page test, it correctly identified the graphic, text, and table zones. And when processing a straightforward press release that contained no background images, the program easily recognized the text and accurately exported it as an RTF file.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Fast and easy as Readiris Pro 7 may be, it falls flat when asked to perform its most important function: recognition. Only users with very meager OCR requirements will be satisfied by this program’s work. For a more accomplished OCR application, look to either of its current competitors.