Our favorite OCR programs, Adobe’s Acrobat and Nuance’s PDF Converter for Mac, choke on the “Fraktur” or Old German type script that was widely used pre-1945. (Indeed, even though early-20th-Century German typographers were among the pioneers of clean, highly readable sans serif Roman fonts, the Third Reich’s national nostalgia jag seemed to spawn a resurgence of this medieval-looking stuff).
If you don’t know what we’re talking about, we want a program that will convert documents written in Old German lettering into editable text. The kind of lettering we mean is the Germanic script used in newspaper mastheads, or on the signs at your local German restaurant, if you’re lucky enough to have one. We want to OCR that stuff, but, “Wait!” as Ron Popeil would say, that’s not all. We want to do it on a Mac. (We only use a PC when absolutely necessary, or when the application program is so cool that it makes the platform irrelevant: check out SpaceClaim).
You might wonder who was ever sadistic enough to typeset tons of documents in this stuff (documents meant for instruction of average-IQ people, no less). We are looking at a 1940-vintage document now, so that probably answers the question. (There are times when you can go there, Mike Godwin be damned).
That document sample looks like it was copied by hand by a gang of medieval monks, but it’s actually from a privately printed manual for German submachine guns.