How can I make scanned documents easier to read?
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?
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 ( www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf-editor), 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.