Last Updated on December 5, 2023
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the conversion of images of text into machine-encoded text. Often, OCR is used in processing paper documents to allow them to be read and manipulated by computers. New technology is bringing OCR capabilities to a wide variety of applications and replacing traditional typed material with what could essentially be thought of as high-resolution images which are searchable and exportable to many different file types.
The goal of this FAQ is to answer common questions about OCR software and related technologies, but also make it easy for readers who may not have any prior knowledge or experience with OCR software fundamentals. Read this FAQ to learn everything you need to know about Optical Character Recognition software!
How does OCR software work?
The OCR software reads each letter as a separate unit and searches for distinguishing features that tell it which character it should be. For example, in English we write the letter “i” with two angled lines at the top and one horizontal line at the bottom; the software uses this kind of information to determine that i is being read and where exactly the I belongs on a digital version of the page.
Because of its ability to analyze an image and make sense of what it finds there, OCR is commonly used in things like scanning books into e-books or searching for certain details in pictures. It’s also helpful in image editing software because you can use it to search for text within a picture and then replace the text with another word or phrase—you could take a picture of your friend’s face and use OCR software to find all references to her name and replace them with your own, letting you create professional-looking photos of yourself among famous people.
By choosing the right program to run your OCR operation, you also have options for editing and enhancing the scanned files. You might choose to correct any errors that show up in the files during scanning by looking at each file individually, then copying and pasting corrections where they’re needed. If you don’t want to do that much work or if you have hundreds or thousands of files to correct, you can use OCR to edit them all at once by running the same check for errors on each file’s text. In addition to making corrections like these, you might also be able to apply filters or effects to the scanned text files.
How does OCR software convert scanned documents into editable text?
There are two kinds of OCR scanners.
Optical character recognition (OCR), in its simplest form, allows you to convert images of text into editable files. It has many different uses, from quickly digitizing a paper book or magazine for reading on an e-reader to extracting the legalese from a scanned contract for analysis. However, there are some things you should know about OCR before you dive in.
Is simply a scan that you upload to an online service that then converts it into editable text.
These services tend to be fast and free—a win-win! But they do tend to be more error-prone than offline OCR, which is used when you have a large number of scanned pages that need to be converted into clean text.
While these programs are slower and more expensive than their online counterparts, they tend to have fewer errors and can save you time if you’re working with large volumes of data.
Programs use optical character recognition technology to find words as they’re being scanned and then put them into text boxes so that you can edit them if needed.
The difficulty with this process is that each page needs to be processed individually; if your document has three pages with 100 words each, you’ll have to scan and process 300 pages to extract data into your computer.
The upside is that offline OCR programs are much more accurate than their online counterparts. They also tend to give you more control over how the text is processed; for example, some programs allow you to specify how many errors they’re allowed per page before they stop processing it, while others let you manually correct the text after it’s been processed.
Many offline OCR programs are also much faster than their online counterparts, which is a big benefit if you have a large amount of data extraction.
What software is needed for OCR?
To do text OCR you need software that can take a picture of text and convert it to ai based OCR software. There are plenty of OCR tools out there, as well as ways to install the same tools on your Mac or PC. Here are a few:
ABBYY FineReader is a commercial desktop application for Windows and Mac; it’s available in several different versions, with the highest level of accuracy at a cost of $299.
CuneiForm it’s a free OCR software and an open-source command line tool for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. It’s available for free download from their website.
ExactCapture is another open-source application for any platform that uses Java on top of Apache Tika/Imaging to identify text in images. You can download it from their website.
GOCR is also an open-source tool available for Linux and Mac OS X; it’s also free OCR software to download from their website. You can use any combination of these tools to run OCR on your documents, or you can upload them to one of several free services that will perform the OCR translation for you and make the results available in a variety of different document formats.
Can I use OCR to digitize handwriting?
Yes, you can use OCR to digitize handwriting. However, there are a few things that you should take into consideration before attempting this task. The more legible the handwriting, the better your results will be.
If the original document is too faint to read by eye, it probably won’t be able to be converted correctly by OCR. You also want to make sure that any lines on the page are straight and not slanted in any way, as this can throw off the OCR’s accuracy when trying to map one character to one specific location on the screen.
When digitizing handwriting with OCR, it is important to scan at a high resolution so that every detail of the document can be saved. It’s best to scan both sides of a letter or receipt if it fits on one side of the paper. In addition, use high-quality paper when saving your documents so that they don’t get damaged over time.
Will OCR software work on handwritten documents?
The short answer is yes, OCR (optical character recognition) will work on handwritten documents. But there are some caveats to consider…
Most important is the condition of the document you’re trying to digitize. If letters are unreadable, it may be impossible for the OCR program to figure out what’s written. Also, if there are lots of misspellings or weird abbreviations, those might trip up the software as well. It’s best to try and use a clean transcript of the original document so there are no surprises.
What type of documents can OCR identify?
Here are some of the kinds of documents that can be converted by OCR:
- Handwritten notes or scribbles
- Old records
- Tattered paper
- Old books
- Old newspapers
What type of accuracy can be expected from OCR software?
The answer depends on what kind of image you’re scanning. On a good day with a high-quality scan of a fresh print book, the OCR will be 99% accurate for words of three letters or more. That means one out of every hundred characters will be incorrect but the rest will be fine.
If you’re working from an older print book with faded text or a printed manuscript or handwritten document, expect to see about a 90% accuracy rate for words of three letters or more—so about 10% of your characters will need some fixing up before you can use them.
Does OCR software work for any language?
While there have been some attempts at OCR using languages other than English, they haven’t really caught on. Part of it is because the majority of the text that’s available digitally is in English.
For example, taking a picture of a book cover is useful for getting more information about the book, but if it’s written in a language you don’t know, there’s no point.
Another issue is that different languages use different fonts and character sets that can change how the characters are encoded.
And finally, the amount of characters used in each language varies greatly, which means that the amount of space that a character takes up on a photo can also vary greatly from one language to another. That makes it difficult to compare an image with its corresponding text.
A better solution for people who want to know what something says in a language they don’t speak is to take advantage of online translation sites.
You can upload or enter something into a box, then choose your desired language (which may include dialects like Spanish or French), and click “Translate”.
There are plenty of other sites out there too—the one we use most often was created by the European Union and has both web and downloadable versions. It handles many European languages including Dutch, French, German and Italian.
What files can I upload when using OCR software?
Most OCRs are designed to convert image files, usually PDFs or JPEGs, into text documents. If you’re uploading a scanned document that is in a different format than that, then you need to make sure the OCR will be compatible.
Most modern versions of Microsoft Word can be saved as PDF files, so if you have a Word document and want to scan it into your computer using your Mac’s built-in scanner, you should be able to open the PDF file with an OCR without any problems.
Keep in mind that DOCX (Microsoft Word 2007+) and RTF (Rich Text Format) files are essentially the same things—so if your document is in either format, it will work fine for an OCR as long as it’s a word processor file rather than a spreadsheet or presentation file.
What are the benefits of using OCR software?
The benefits of using OCR over handwritten text are many. For example, if you have a document that has been damaged, it can be converted into a more readable format without having to retype the whole thing.
The software can recognize many different languages and characters, including Greek, Cyrillic, Russian, Chinese, Japanese Kanji characters, Hebrew, and Arabic scripts. OCR software is also very good at recognizing handwriting. Because the original image is preserved in the conversion process, it gives you an accurate reproduction of what the original document looked like.
In addition to making documents easier to read and converting them into a searchable file format such as PDF or Word, OCR technology can be used for many other purposes.
For example, a company might want to scan its old paper records into a digital database in order to make them easier to access and analyze with Excel or some other program.
How automated OCR capabilities for data entry benefit business operations and workflows?
Businesses that transform photos and PDFs (usually created from scanned paper documents) using OCR skills spare time and money that would otherwise be spent managing unsearchable data. Once transmitted, organizations may use OCR-processed text data more quickly and easily.
Businesses can gain from OCR technology in the following ways:
- Elimination of data input by hand
- Savings in resources since more data can be processed more quickly and with fewer resources
- Reduced errors
- Rearranging the actual storage area
- Increased output
Are OCR solutions improve information accessibility for users?
OCR technology is frequently used to automatically convert image file like PDFs, TIFFs, and JPGs into text-based, machine-readable files. Digital data that have undergone OCR processing include bank accounts, contracts, bills, and more.
- Combed through a sizable library to locate the right document
- Viewed, with internal document searches available
- When changes need to be made, edited
- Repurposed and transmitted to other systems with text that was retrieved
Once the user knows how to use OCR software, they are more than likely going to be able to make significant gains in their business ventures. There is no question that this type of technology can assist the user in ways that were not possible before. In order for a business to bring in a profit, the data that is collected must be precise.
When dealing with large quantities of data, OCR software can prove invaluable as it is able to read the text for you and provide instant accurate data. While it does take time to learn how to use this type of software there are ways to train yourself on it.
There are many different types of OCR software available, and it is important that you find the one that works best for your business. There are some programs that will capture every little detail of a document without missing anything while others may leave out some information. It is important that you find the right program for your needs.
If you are dealing primarily with documents and want to save time, then an OCR software program may be the answer. There are many different types of OCR software available, and it is important that you find the one that works best for your business.
What are the benefits of using OCR software for PDFs?
As with any type of software, there are a number of benefits to using OCR software for PDFs. The main benefit is that the text can be extracted from the document and made searchable, allowing for more efficient and streamlined searching. For instance, if you were looking for a certain quote from a document or needed to find specific data points in a report, you could use OCR to make that information easily searchable and quickly located.
Where can I find good software for OCR?
You can find good OCR software for free online, but there are some limitations. For example, you may need to enter your own dictionary of words beforehand in order for your OCR software to recognize them. You also may not be able to save your converted document as a .rtf file (rich text format), which makes it difficult if you plan on editing the document with other programs. A better option is to buy OCR software—but there are many different programs out there with varying functionality and features.
How much does a typical OCR system cost?
On average, home users will pay about $2000 for a professional-grade OCR software that can handle volumes of up to 20 pages per minute. That price includes the equipment and installation by a certified technician. A more advanced system with more features and faster processing speed can be found at an average price of $4000. Businesses with high volume and high-speed needs will pay more: $5000 to $10,000 for equipment and installation. The most advanced systems will cost about $20,000—but if you need that much power, chances are you already know it.