The December General Meeting: Candidates, PDFs, and Door Prizes!

By Raffaella Bushiazzo

Almost sixty people attended our General Meeting on December 2nd, “… the last event of a great year,” in the words of Vice President Yves Avérous. We closed 2006 with 56 corporate members and 507 individuals, for whom we provided a variety of workshops, presentations on practical topics, Happy Hours all over the Bay Area, and other social events.

NCTA President Tuomas Kostiainenopened the General Meeting at 1:30 with a few announcements on upcoming events and introduced the candidates for NCTA board elections: himself for President, Yves Avérous for Vice President, and Raffaella Buschiazzo, Afaf Steiert, Alison Dent, and Michael Schubert for Directors. Those elected will serve on the board of directors for two years.

PDF and Conversion Software
Representatives from three different companies participated in this presentation. Dealing with PDF files is problematic for translators. When we receive source files in this format, we need to convert them to a format in which the text can be edited. There are some conversion programs on the market that work pretty well, while others don’t. In this session we tried to present the best solutions available today.

Joel Geraci, who has been working for Adobe Systems (www.adobe.com), maker of Adobe Acrobat, in a variety of roles for as long as the company has been around, opened by explaining that Adobe Acrobat was designed as a publishing tool. It was not meant to be used for extraction of text and it is not a data interchange application. Even though the new Adobe 8 handles files far better than previous versions because of its improved optical character recognition (OCR), the product was still not originally conceived for this purpose.

ABBYY (www.abbyyusa.com), maker of PDF Transformer and FineReader, is an OCR company that specializes in converting images into text. Ilya Evdokimov, Business Development Manager at ABBYY USA, showed us how its main product, PDF Transformer, works. In three simple steps, by pushing three buttons on a screen, the program converts PDF files into editable files and reproduces the original PDF page layout. The accuracy is up to 99%, which can become 100% with good quality documents. PDF Transformer is currently available in 177 languages.

The third speaker was Robert Weideman from Nuance Communications (www.nuance.com), maker of OmniPage and PDF Converter. He presented PDF Converter Professional, which is a full PDF client application. This product simplifies the process even further because it opens a PDF file directly without having to export it. Once opened, the PDF file is ready to be edited. Another advantage of this product is that captions and graphs can also be edited. It is also able to read a PDF file aloud thanks to its text-to-speech technology function. Mr. Weideman presented another useful piece of software called FormTyper, especially designed to fill the fields of forms in PDF files. He specified that it is a good companion program to Adobe Acrobat.

The discussion continued with a long and prolific Q&A session during which the audience raised very specific issues from their everyday professional experience in dealing with PDF files as translators. In one of the questions, Robert Killingsworth summarized in a couple of lines the translator’s dilemma: “As a translator all I need is a text!” However, if a PDF file is locked with a password, it is practically impossible to unlock it. Both ABBYY and Nuance Communications are careful to follow Adobe’s security policy to the letter. So, as translators, we may need to investigate other means to get at the source material necessary to do our job.

Other goodies
NCTA also provided the audience with copies of tips and suggestions from Jost Zetzsche’s Tool Kit. They were very helpful, as we have come to expect from Jost’s presentations.

The meeting ended by raffling off seven excellent products from our corporate presenters as prizes. The lucky NCTA members were Donald Couch, Ed Tsumura, Alison Dent, Sylvia Korwek, Raquel Brewer, Steve Goldstein, and Christian Rozotto. After the presentation we had a delicious buffet, and then worked as a team to stuff and stamp the December mailings to members as we networked and made plans for future projects and events.

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