ABBYY FineReader Amazement and Disappointment

I’ve spent much of the past three days giving myself a crash-course in ABBYY FineReader on my (Windows) work laptop, and have been really impressed with its speed, accuracy, and ability to greatly streamline the process of making scanned PDFs searchable and accessible. After testing with the demo,I ended up getting approval to purchase a license for work, and I’m looking forward to giving it a lot of use – oddly, this seemingly tedious work of processing PDFs of scanned academic articles to produce good quality PDF/UA accessible PDFs (or Word docs, or other formats) is the kind of task that my geeky self really gets into.

Since I’m also working a lot with PDFs of old scanned documents for the Norwescon historical archives project, tonight after getting home I downloaded the trial of the Mac version, fully intending to buy a copy for myself.

I’m glad I tried the trial before buying.

It’s a much nicer UI on the Mac than on Windows (no surprise there), and what it does, it does well. Unfortunately, it does quite a bit less — most notably, it’s missing the part of the Windows version that I’ve spent the most time in: the OCR Editor.

On Windows, after doing an OCR scan, you can go through all the recognized text, correct any OCR errors, adjust the formatting of the OCR’d text, even to the point of using styles to designate headers so that the final output has the proper tagging for accessible navigation. (Yes, it still takes a little work in Acrobat to really fine-tune things, but ABBYY makes the entire process much easier, faster, and far more accurate than Acrobat’s rather sad excuse for OCR processing.)

On the Mac, while you can do a lot to set up what gets OCRd (designating areas to process or ignore, marking areas as text or graphic, etc.), there’s no way to check the results or do any other post-processing. All you can do is export the file. And while ABBYY’s OCR processing is extremely impressive, it’s still not perfect, especially (as is expected) with older documents with lower quality scan images. The missing OCR Editor capability is a major bummer, and I’m much less likely to be tossing them any of my own money after all.

And most distressingly, this missing feature was called out in a review of the software by PC Magazine…nearly 10 years ago, when ABBYY first released a Mac version of the FineReader software. If it’s been 10 years and this major feature still isn’t there? My guess — though I’d love to be proven wrong — is that it’s simply not going to happen.

Pity, that.

📚 Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

66/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Technically a time travel book, but the time travel itself is kind of the least important part, little more than a hand-waved MacGuffin necessary to get the characters in the right places. From there, you have the dual stories of near-future and historical pandemics. And, of course, any pandemic-centric tale can’t help but be read somewhat differently now than it would have been five years ago. In some ways, the near-future part seemed rather prescient, referring to a prior flu pandemic that would have hit in the mid-2010s, only about a decade off from our COVID reality, or the presence of protesters blaming the government; in others, it now seems sadly naïve (now that we know that most people’s reaction to a pandemic too quickly turns to “meh” or outright denial rather than taking it seriously). Both stories are excellently handled, often with a subtle dry humor in the “present day” portion balancing the tragedies of the historical portion.

Me holding Doomsday Book

Year 50 Day 209

Me, wearing a black face mask, sitting in an auto dealership lobby, with my work laptop open on my lap.

Day 209: The joys of remote work: on the one hand, I don’t have to take time off when the car needs to be serviced. On the other hand, I don’t get to take time off work when the car needs to be serviced. On the gripping hand, blogging about this means I’m not really working at the moment…. (Don’t worry. I’ll go back to being responsible after this is posted.)

Year 50 Day 208

Me sitting in a chair with my legs under a blanket and stretched out in front of me towards a wood burning fireplace with a fire burning in it. Christmas stockings are hung over the fireplace. I have a MacBook open on my lap, with a couple document windows visible.

Day 208: It’s quite chilly outside, but I’m quite cozy in front of the fire, working on correcting OCR scans of old Norwescon program books to upload to the convention archives while my wife dozes in the chair next to me. Not a bad way to spend the final day of this Thanksgiving break.

Year 50 Day 207

Screenshot of my DJ broadcast stream. I'm in the center, wearing headphones and looking up. Behind my head is an audio waveform; to either side of my head are album covers as if they were on physical turntables. A green border near the edges of the frame includes my DJ Wüdi name and my social media addresses (djwudi on Twitch, Mixcloud, and Facebook). Behind me is a sci-fi cityscape. Text on the lower part of the screen says 'Difficult Listening Hour 2023.11.25 Who knows? No plan. Just getting back in practice. Now playing: The Chemical Brothers: Where Do I Begin (Copycat)'.

Day 207: In a few months I’ll again be DJing the Thursday night dance at Norwescon 46, so to make sure I’m not entirely rusty when I set up that evening, it’s time for me to start practicing again. Whenever I do this, I broadcast to Twitch, and so this is what I look like when I’m streaming. Obviously, it’s very serious business.

I’m actually rather proud of the look I came up with some time ago, after a few rounds of tweaking and playing with ideas.

The “turntables” to either side of my head display the art for whatever track is playing (and they rotate as if they were physical turntables), and the audio waveforms behind my head are the waveforms of the playing tracks; deck A (the left side) on the top, and deck B below. Those elements are all pulled from the UI of DJay Pro, the DJ software I use.

The sci-fi cityscape behind me is actually a video clip. I have a small library of interesting looping video backgrounds that I can choose from.

The text in the bottom third is pulled from a text file that I keep open on my screen; as I’m mixing, I take a quick moment to update the text file with the name of whatever track I’m playing at the moment. I think there are ways to automatically pull that info from DJay, but I’ve never quite liked the look of the ones I’ve seen, and this works for me.

The caricature of me on the lower right was drawn for me a number of years ago by Sharii Chankhamma. In the original, I’m wearing an “NSFW” t-shirt; for streaming, I’ve created a small library of shirt designs that randomly update every 15 seconds.

Today’s mix is now available on my Mixcloud page if you’d like to give it a listen, along with many, many hours of other mixes I’ve uploaded in the past. And more will come — I may not do this every week, but I will need to make sure to get some more practice in over the coming months, so I’ll be popping up from time to time.

Year 50 Day 206

Me sitting on the floor in front of a couch, with several Target shopping bags packed with wrapped Christmas presents and one large wrapped box near me.

Day 206: We spent much of the day taking down fall decorations and putting up our Christmas decorations (colored lights out front instead of the orange lights we’ve had for the past month, swapping out the fall gnomes by the front door for Santa, a snowman, and Christmas gnomes, and putting up the Christmas tree inside). We also wrapped a bunch of presents for a family for the annual giving tree program at work, something we enjoy doing every year.

Read more

Year 50 Day 205

Me in front of a table set for dinner with fall-colored table settings (brown tablecloth, orange dinner plates and napkins, green salad plates and bowls) and yellow candles. There is sculptural artwork on the wall of fall leaves mounted on a wood backing. I'm wearing a black t-shirt with a simple design of Bigfoot carrying a turkey.

Day 205: Happy Thanksgiving, or Friendsgiving, or stuff-your-face-giving, or if nothing else, happy Thursday! We had a nice day of cooking all the usual goodies, and now we’re stuffed full of food and it’s time to spend the rest of the evening moving as little as possible.

📚 Here There Be Dragons by John Peel

65/2023 – ⭐️⭐️

Possibly could have been an interesting take on the Preservers, or a fun TNG-crew-in-a-medieval-society romp, but was marred by bad character decisions (we must stay undercover in a medieval human society, so Geordi and Worf obviously can’t come, but sure, bring the Bajoran Ro and the android Data, that totally makes sense) and overly unfortunately stereotypical plotting decisions (Ro, of course, is nearly immediately stripped naked and placed in jeopardy of sexual assault, and Troi is later threatened with the same, because what other peril would women face?). Even the titular dragons barely make an appearance. Any interesting bits are far overshadowed by the rest.

Me holding Here There Be Dragons