How Automated Proofreading Is Replacing Obsolete Diff Checker Tools

by Marvin Magusara  | September 5, 2017

Packaging serves as the face that products show to the world. That’s why colorful and well-thought-out designs are meant to grab customers’ attention. Packaging is also supposed to convey a message that is associated with each brand. Therefore, mistakes in packaging are expensive – not only financially, but they can also do incredible harm to your brand’s reputation.

According to official Food and Drug Administration numbers, the majority of product recalls are caused by labeling errors. How can companies accurately keep track of the quality of millions of products being packaged every day? It’s definitely a challenge, but that’s why proofreading is crucial in order to release products into the market with complete confidence.

Over the last 20 years, companies have come to realize that human inspection is inherently prone to error. There’s no arguing that, as safety regulations are continuously increasing, automated inspection has become the gold standard for the industry.

Early on, ”diff checker” and ”text compare” tools were the ultimate proofreading solution in the market, allowing for comparison of characters between two documents and spotting changes in the text before they reach the printer and to ensure data integrity.

With the advent of sophisticated machine vision systems and automated proofreading software, technology is progressively becoming more powerful, efficient, and easier to set up and use. Vision systems with ”smart camera” formats don’t even require PC-based processing anymore, and modern text inspection tools can even generate progress reports, outlining all errors corrected for faster approval times. Meanwhile, plain old document comparison software continues to fall behind when it comes to innovation.

Challenges of Text Comparison Tools

Text comparison tools have actually been very useful when it comes to boosting accuracy and decreasing proofreading time. However, these solutions are facing a number of limitations that turn them more into proofing aids, rather than stand-alone proofreading tools. But, to understand these limitations, it’s vital to know how the tools work.

At its heart, the comparison tool compares lines or blocks of text within two documents. This already raises the first limitation; most engines require that someone, i.e., the user, highlight the block of text they wish to compare in both the original document and the finished work that’s being proofed. In other words, it’s a long and tiring process; Just imagine the effort it would take to do this for a 30-page document! You may not be physically tired, but, mentally, your eyes see the same thing, like tricky riddles, leading to careless mistakes that you otherwise wouldn’t miss.

There is also the issue of proofing reports. Most diff checkers won’t generate reports, detailing which parts of the document have been run through the engine and, most important, which areas have not, possibly resulting in failing to proof complete blocks of text.

Another limitation is font compatibility. When these tools compare text files, they do so by recognizing font character codes in each of the documents. However, what happens when the fonts in source documents are not the same as fonts used in the artwork? The system ‘thinks’ there is an error between the two documents, but in reality it’s just a false positive, resulting in the worst thing that could happen to a proofreader: having text masked with font incompatibilities that allow real errors to get through the process undetected.

This is also the shortcomings of tools such as Grammarly, which is the go-to tool for most freelance writers working remote writing jobs. They are fine for simpler proofreading tasks, but if you work in the packaging, legal or publishing industry and need to proofread print or artwork copy, you would require something much more sophisticated.

Over the last decade, a lot of work has been done to address this font irregularity issue, resulting in the development of Unicode fonts to achieve a universal standard. Plenty of document comparison software has already incorporated Unicode, allowing them to use different typefaces in source and artwork documents without having to deal with characters being confused or not recognized. In addition, Unicode fonts were also created to provide better coverage for characters in different languages, which led to a significant improvement of artwork operations.

Within blocks of text, these tools have to figure out the way to ”read” sentences and phrases. They usually apply a very straightforward approach: They assume a linear layout and then compare text in that sequence. Here, we encounter a different problem related to the way applications create such layouts, particularly when it comes to tables.

For example, there could be incompatibilities with the way Microsoft® Word® builds text, compared to the way an artwork application does it. This often leaves users with two choices: breaking all the text down for an individual, cell level comparison or simply manually proofreading all the tables.

Finally, a key shortcoming of these text comparison tools is their inability to ”read” text solely in graphical form, with no associated fonts. As an example, this could happen with illustrations. In this scenario, a manual proofread must be performed.

End-to-End Inspection

Compared to traditional diff checkers, automated proofreading solutions stand out as being vital components in today’s packaging workflows. These systems not only provide far better artwork and proofing services but a complete, end-to-end inspection of the entire packaging process.
While there might be a perception of difficulty behind them, the truth is these programs are quite easy to adapt to current practices.

Ease of use is a pressing concern in our market, therefore all major automated systems are specifically developed so that regular designers, proofreaders, operators, and prepress professionals can use them without major difficulties.

Modern Proofreading Software

Automated text inspection software speeds up revision cycles using advanced text and artwork verification technology. Current systems can simultaneously compare documents at rates as high as 1000 characters per second, while also ensuring the integrity of all the work, centralizing inspections, and spotting errors early in the process.

In addition, these systems can also inspect printed products by comparing them with approved artwork files, ensuring the final packaging is a complete replica of the verified digital work.

GlobalVision’s text inspection tool, for instance, is a flexible solution that can operate on any computer system or platform. At the core of this adaptability is the use of Unicode, which is common to all computer systems.

When it compares two documents, the software reads the Unicode of every character at the same time. If the characters share the same Unicode value, the system ”reads” this as if no change was made. On the contrary, when two Unicode characters are different, the system creates a third document outlining the differences found, which will then become the report that the user receives.

GlobalVision also integrates text inspection with the rest of the workflow, allowing users to share or print reports for approval.

Graphics and Artwork

Automated graphic inspection software can compare two artwork files pixel by pixel, using image-overlaying techniques that superimpose your files in order to spot even the slightest difference between them. These systems can detect things like broken texts, barcode errors, Braille errors (for pharmaceutical packaging), color deviations, and much more.

Modern software can even create detailed reports that include the number of differences found, their locations, and even take snapshots of them. In addition, contrary to popular belief, these systems don’t make any changes to your files; they just make you aware of all differences, so ultimately, responsibility for all modifications to your work lies with you.

Compare PDF files

One of the main advantages modern automated proofreading services provide is that they can also compare PDF files. Here are some of the best-in-class, right now:

GlobalVision – Text Inspection Tool
● Adobe Acrobat – Compare Files Tool
● Draftable Online Compare

Compare Documents

When it comes to document comparison, these are some of the top services available:

GlobalVision – Text Inspection Tool
● DocsCorp – compareDocs
● Microsoft Word – Compare documents Tool

Conclusion

While they might be useful for a quick and easy proofreading task, ”diff checkers” are definitely not tools made for the packaging industry. They lack the innovation and smart-tech that automated proofreading technologies own, and they are full of limitations that could jeopardize package quality.

If you own a packaging line with complex, changing needs, you’ll want to use a system that can adapt to them, but also provide an integral boost to your entire workflow. Using process automation technology is not only the gold standard in today’s market, but the only alternative to complying with current demands placed by the customer.