Excellent challenge. My VB is weak, but I’ll noodle it awhile and let you know if I come up with anything. Most likely a programer-type will beat me to it, though. While the soundex routine is a good idea, I was thinking more along the lines of a simple substitution table. For each letter parsed, you would look up the possible replacements from your table (“I” could be “i”, “!”, or “|”, say) and permute accordingly. One question: are you attempting to account for character run-together in the OCR process, or are you assuming word length is preserved? For example, “Smith” could erroneously scan as “Srnith, adding a letter.” Wouldn’t make a huge difference in your coding, I would think, but the table would be larger.
Do you mean without purchasing Acrobat? You are aware, aren’t you, that that’s basically their marketing strategy. Reader’s free to gain market share, but if you want to manipulate the content, you gotta pay up. Having made my disclaimer, the answer is, “it depends.” I know a few tricks that work in some circumstances and not in others, having to do with the nature of the table. However, I’m a little uncomfortable sharing publicly, because although I see no copyright violation, I don’t want to be accused of posting dirty tricks. Email me if you want to discuss.