Arab Awakening: Bringing a New Language to PDF Transformer+

6772e_only_Faces_231x220_Pikhenkoby Maksim Pikhenko, ABBYY Head of PDF Tools Development Group

One of my most rewarding experiences has been my association with ABBYY’s Research Center for Arabic Languages. As a developer I was tasked by the Center with enabling PDF Transformer+ to collaborate, edit and work with PDF documents in Arabic – no small job given that the PDF software would have to understand all the rules of the language in order to work correctly and allow users working with PDF documents with pleasure. For example, changing one letter in one word can make a sentence grammatically incorrect and, to an Arab speaker, change the view of the entire sentence. In addition to this, in Arabic most letters can be placed within a word in three different ways – changing their view with each different placement.

At first, I was blissfully unaware of such subtleties and their importance. After all, ABBYY’s OCR engine is renowned for its stellar accuracy in recognizing Arabic. But applying it anew required learning those subtleties – which included their effect on cursor control in a language that reads from right to left. In such a context, something that seems simple – like applying backspacing – can cause unpredictable movement within a document unless key recoding is applied. So as you can guess, I had a bit of a learning curve – since text editing in Arabic required learning about the mindset of those who speak and write the language, not just versioning software code!

Given all this, it is no wonder that finding PDF software that works well with Arabic is rare. Our primary goal for the future is to make PDF Transformer+ work as well with Arabic as Microsoft Word does, and even better! We’ve already achieved great results in editing Arabic with this version – and we know that we can accomplish still more. In all, it was wonderful working with the Research Center. Even more so since I learned to appreciate Arabic as one of the world’s most mathematically structured languages and therefore one of the world’s most logical.