IRIS Readiris Pro 10 review

£72
Price when reviewed

The neat front end that greets you when you first load Readiris Pro 10 will be familiar if you’ve used IRIS’s previous versions. It’s a neat interface, however. Three panes – one for scanning and recognition commands, one for a document preview and one for previewing individual pages – keep the screen clear of clutter. The toolbar on the far right of the screen allows you to manually designate areas of your scans as images, text, tables, barcodes and, for the first time, handwriting.

Before we raise expectations too far, we should point out that Readiris isn’t up to the standard of handwriting recognition on most PDAs. It will only recognise block capitals, for instance. Writing in a careful, straight line, we managed to get a respectable recognition level of 89 per cent (166 characters, 16 mistakes) after a couple of scans to help the OCR engine learn.

The learning features of Readiris continue to the more standard page-recognition technology. Check Interactive Learning in the Learn menu and, each time the software comes across a word or figure it doesn’t understand, it will ask you to look at the image and its best guess; you’re then free to either OK the guess or enter your own interpretation. Each time it comes across that pattern, it knows what to do.

The PDF features of Readiris will be useful for anyone who publishes or archives electronic material. The ability to convert an image or paper document to a searchable but uneditable PDF will be all that’s needed for archivers, but the ability to turn a PDF into an editable document is a real advantage for everyone else. Scanning a 30-page PDF with a variety of column formats, images and tables took a reasonable four minutes, 41 seconds, plus two-and-a-half minutes to recognise the document.

Recognising printed documents and PDFs was nearly flawless at 300ppi. It’s no reason not to run a spellcheck, though, particularly when dealing with pages that are folded or bent downwards near the edges, but we were pleased with the overall quality of the recognition; when scanning the magazine page, for instance, it more than matched IRIS’s quote of 99 per cent accuracy from scanned sources. However, skewed and lower-resolution documents brought the accuracy rate down: lowercase As became Os, and double Ts were mistaken for double Ls.

But the program isn’t just compatible with Word. You can scan tables into Excel or PowerPoint, and Readiris is the only package here that supports OpenOffice Writer versions 1 and 1.1. You can also scan a document and save it as an HTML file.

Readiris 10 isn’t completely without its frustrations, however. The auto-zoner is correct most of the time, but it still gets confused when confronted with images including lots of straight lines (such as screenshots of Windows). This makes the wizard mode something of a lost cause, as it robs you of the opportunity to correct the auto-zone mistakes. The fact that Readiris doesn’t automatically save your settings is also unintuitive and gives the software a clunky, unfriendly feel. You also need to remember to click on ‘Append dictionary’ to keep the dictionary from losing everything you’ve taught it.

These quibbles aside, there can be little arguing with the blend of value and features offered by Readiris Pro 10. It does virtually everything a home user or SMB could want, and it’s competitively priced at just £72.

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