Review: TextGrabber and Translator, by ABBYY (universal)
TextGrabber and Translator, by ABBYY
$5.99 (universal), ***1/2
• Character recognition via optical imaging
• Integrated translation
• Multiple export options
• Accuracy in foreign language seems suspect
• No option to keep any formatting
Scanning and text grabbing has multiple applications that may be of interest. The idea of always carrying a portable scanner has some merit. So there are many iOS apps that use the built in camera as a scanning device. TextGrabber and Translator has the included functionality of translating text (to or from multiple languages. The app is a universal binary, but I have included pictures from the iPhone. Honestly, using this with an iPad seems a little unwieldy.
Figure 1 - take a picture, hit "read", scan the text! It's that simple.
The concept is simple – take a picture of text (from any source), and the app will “grab” the text, reading the characters and converting them into text that can be edited or exported. The grapping process is simple (I was using an iPhone). Simply aim your camera at the text and snap a picture. Once the picture is taken, you have the option of cropping only to the text you want. Hit “read”, and the device will then scan the image to recognize the characters, and put them into an editable format.
Figure 2 - Most words are recognized in the image, but some are not.
The utility of this kind of app is, in my opinion, based on two characteristics – how accurate is the optical character recognition, and what options you have with the text after it is “recognized”. The character recognition seems pretty good. In the trials I ran, it usually recognized about 24 out of every 25 words (96% of the text). I tried it on some signs, some book text, and even a computer screen. The biggest problems were with things like italics or on a book where the first letter of the chapter is in large font. Once you have the text recognized, it simply exports it into a memo-pad like interface. I was a little disappointed to see limited retention of the formatting (things like paragraphs and new lines). This was especially true when you had long paragraphs of text – the sentence breaks almost seemed random (sometimes in the middle of a sentence).
In addition to scanning the text, you have the option of translating it – either from English to a foreign language, or from a foreign language to English.
Figure 3 - Multiple language settings are available in the settings menu.
To scan a foreign language, you have to select that language as one of the ones to recognize (you can have multiple active languages at once, so you don’t need to continue to go back and forth). To achieve the translations, the app uses Google Translate, so the effort is only as good as that website. I tried a few English to German translations, and then the reverse (after selecting German as a language to recognize). The character recognition in a foreign language seemed to be worse than in English – I got more mistakes on fewer words. In addition, the translations seemed spotty – sometimes there were complete words missing. You also can’t identify if a word is translated (it doesn’t highlight or italicize words that it can’t translate) so you are on your own for recognizing them.
Figure 4 - Foreign language recognition and translating seemed a little spotty at times.
Once you have your text, you have a number of export options – standard social media options, Evernote, search, copy it to the clipboard, email, or send it in a message. There is no built in functionality for any word processing app (although Evernote was included), but I guess with the “copy” you can simply paste it into the app you desire.
Figure 5 - Export options seemed routine.
All in all, this utility app seems to have some, limited benefit, but is probably mostly just a fun “look what I can do” kind of app. The scanning and character recognition seems reasonably accurate, and the translation may be helpful for something quick, but it seems limited as a useful tool with multiple applications. It would have been nice to see a few more features for the $5.99 price. If you are focusing on English only and just want something to easily import text so it can be edited, this app may be of used. Three and a half out of five stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that – opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.