Column: Some editing software keeps visually impaired in mind
For years the world of PDF (originally developed by Adobe) was divided between readers and editors. Most people only used a PDF Reader to look at documents in the PDF format.
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For years the world of PDF (originally developed by Adobe) was divided between readers and editors. Most people only used a PDF Reader to look at documents in the PDF format. The readers were free, with the value of not having to use an expensive word- processing program to review documents.
As the PDF format became open-source, other companies produced readers and editors modeled closely on what Adobe had originally developed. Things are much more complicated now, particularly for business and educational institutions, which need to comply with requirements to make documents understandable by people with various handicaps.
This is particularly challenging to ensure use by those with limited or no eyesight. This is particularly important for educational institutions and government agencies that must meet these requirements. All of this makes for great complexity in designing and editing documents into the PDF format. Things such as titles, headers, images and tables in documents must be understandable by standard audio output readers for the limited-sighted.
ABBYY FineReader (version 15) is a comprehensive reader, editor and Optical Character Recognition system that also can create fully “508”-compliant PDF documents. (Section 508 is a federal law mandating that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities.)
Attempting to manually achieve this is not technically difficult, but challenging unless you are familiar with document formatting and tagging. ABBYY FineReader can do this for you.
At the more common level, ABBYY FineReader handles conversion from and to all major Microsoft Office applications and provides full Optical Character Recognition of text and even graphics. It also can convert to OpenOffice Document Format, which is used by Google and other open-source document tools.
ABBYY FineReader really makes it on good Optical Character Recognition, as that can produce a mess that is uneditable. I’m also impressed with the formatting ability and ability to interact with Excel and PowerPoint. These are reliable and useful tools.
In essence, a program that makes it easier to digitize, retrieve, edit, protect, share and collaborate on all kinds of documents in the same workflow is going to be a prime tool for any business. In my own job managing information at Hawaii Community College, a program such as FineReader is indispensable.
However, it’s also valuable on a personal level.
My co-writer on this column, Rob Kay, used FineReader in a family genealogical research project that saved him an enormous amount of time. He had obtained hundreds of documents (some over 100 years old) from archives in Europe that had been digitized as JPEG files. In order to work with the docs, he needed to convert them into PDF files. This was done in a matter of minutes with FineReader.
In addition, some of the documents had to be scanned. That’s where FineReader’s OCR language support came in handy.
The program provides OCR (recognition of machine-printed characters) for more than 180 languages, ICR (recognition of hand-printed characters) for more than 100 languages and dictionary support for more than 40 languages.
His documents were in German and Dutch, and were recognized by the OCR software, which allowed Rob to enter the data in translation software programs and get as accurate a rendering as possible.
Chances are you’re not going to use this for a genealogy project, but given the preponderance of different languages in use in Hawaii, your business already may have to deal with documents in Japanese, Chinese, Korean or other tongues. That’s where this program will shine.
Reach Mike Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rob Kay is a freelance writer and can be reached at robertfred email@example.com.