How can I make scanned doc­u­ments eas­ier to read?

Computer Active (UK) - - Best Free Software -

QI vol­un­teer for a fam­ily his­tory so­ci­ety. We tran­scribe old doc­u­ments that have been scanned to PDF, then en­ter the data into spread­sheets. Some of our el­derly vol­un­teers have dif­fi­culty read­ing the faint scans, so I’m won­der­ing is there soft­ware that en­hances text in a PDF?

Keith Grif­fiths

AA­dobe’s pop­u­lar Ac­ro­bat Reader ( https://get.adobe. com/uk/reader) has great text-en­hanc­ing tools. Its Ac­ces­si­bil­ity Setup As­sis­tant (click Edit, then Ac­ces­si­bil­ity) lets you cus­tomise set­tings to make all scanned doc­u­ments eas­ier to read. For ex­am­ple, you can se­lect ‘Use high-con­trast colours for doc­u­ment text’ (see screen­shot); choose a read­able colour com­bi­na­tion such as bright green on black; dis­able text scrolling for higher con­trast; and set the zoom level to a whopping 6,400 per cent. The free ver­sion may be the only tool you need, but there’s a catch - the Mcafee ‘Op­tional of­fers’ on the down­load page. Untick both be­fore you click ‘In­stall now’.

If you’re pre­pared to up­grade, an Adobe sub­scrip­tion (from £1.77 a month) comes with ex­tra tools in­clud­ing OCR (op­ti­cal char­ac­ter recog­ni­tion, which con­verts scanned words into ed­itable text), Word ex­port, and Pdf-en­hanc­ing plug-ins.

The most pow­er­ful Reader al­ter­na­tive is Foxit Phan­tom­pdf (­it­soft­­i­tor), which costs a one-off $103 (£78) af­ter a free 14-day trial. Foxit has OCR and Ex­cel ex­port, so it can ef­fec­tively do your tran­scrib­ing for you. There’s even a Read Out Loud tool that re­cites any text it can recog­nise, but you’ll need text-to-speech sup­port on your PC.

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