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Use OCR software (Optical Character Recognition) to convert scanned documents to editable MS Word, Excel, HTML or searchable PDF files. Compare and download desktop and server OCR solutions from ABBYY, IRIS and Nuance.
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Optical Character Recognition Guide

During your foray into the world of document scanning, you've probably come across the term "OCR". You may even know that it stands for "Optical Character Recognition". But what is OCR, really, and what do you need to know about it to make the best use of this sophisticated and valuable tool?

We're here to give you a run-down on Optical Character Recognition, answer any questions you might have, and recommend the best OCR software for your scanning project. Let's begin!

What is OCR?

The primary purpose of Optical Character Recognition is to quickly and automatically convert scanned images of machine-printed (typed) text - which to a computer are no more meaningful a collection of pixels than any other image, such as a landscape photo - into actual text data that you can search through and modify. The exact mechanics of this process are complicated, but suffice to say that an OCR engine will look at pixel data and search for patterns resembling letters, numbers, and other symbols and create a digitized record of these symbols.

Types of OCR

There are two major types of Optical Character Recognition:

•Full Page OCR - Converts the entire page into one of the below mentioned formats:

  • Plain Text - Only basic text information on the page is retained in a consecutive order.
  • Formatted Text - Text information is retained in consecutive paragraphs, saving font size and style. This can also conserve tables in a tabular format, such as spreadsheets.
  • Exact Copy - All information on the page is retained, including graphics, and placed on the page in such as way as to most closely recreate the original document.
  • Searchable File - Text information is retained on a hidden layer behind the scanned, image, allowing the file to be searched while retaining the appearance of the original.

•Zone OCR - Recognizes strings of text located on particular areas of the page. This is usually for the purpose of indexing and document management. The information can be used to name a file, save it to a particular location, or archive particular pieces of data into an organized format, such as a database.

Levels of OCR Software

OCR - Optical Character Recognition

OCR Software comes in many different types, which vary in price range based on their features, speed, and accuracy. For instance, you can get a freeware such as SimpleOCR that will serve in a pinch, but it will only be able to convert BMP, JPG, and TIF images of English or French text into plain text documents of TXT or DOC format, one page at a time.

On the other hand, you can invest a few hundred dollars in a Corporate version of a high end software that will be able to watch particular folders for incoming documents in a variety of image formats and languages, then automatically recreate exact copies of all of the pages therein in a format of choice.

You can also find Professional Versions of these software, which will bridge the price gap and include many of the features of the Corporate editions but still require some user input during conversion.

Improving Accuracy

Document Scanners

Although some OCR engines are better than others, no software can guarantee 100% accuracy. This is because there are other factors in play, including scan quality. Recognition software will not be able to do its work if the scanner is not properly digitizing the page.

It is recommended to scan at a resolution of 300dpi for best results. Black & White (Bitonal) is preferred over Greyscale or Color modes, and although most modern scanners are fairly well configured out of the box, you may want to adjust your Brightness and Contrast settings for your particular documents.

If you do not have a scanner that has the necessary speed, quality, or other features that you require to scan your documents, you can always find a large selection of scanners right here at ScanStore!
We even have a handy scanners guide to help you find the perfect scanner for your specific requirements and price range.

Limitations of OCR

OCR software is also limited in what it is able to recognize. Most OCR software are only designed to recognize machine printed text, as opposed to handwriting. While there are ICR software that can recognize handwritten information, they tend to be enterprise level solutions for forms processing work, rather than full page recognition.

Similarly, most OCR software are only able to convert traditional machine fonts, not cursive scripts or calligraphy. There are many fonts out there, and OCR engines depend on common, separated letter shapes to recognize the text, so fonts that are unusual or flow together will not be recognized.

Find Out More

Interested? Here's how to find out more.
First, visit the Optical Character Recognition page on ScanStore and look at the various software choices available. Second, contact a ScanStore representative that can help answer any remaining questions you might have. Third, download one of our available 30-day demos, so you can see the software in action on your own computer.

OCR Software FAQ Topics:
OCR Software FAQ How do I keep a running count of the number of pages scanned?
OCR Software FAQ Can you use OCR to read data from documents if it is not in the same place on every page?
OCR Software FAQ Can I scan a page with tables or form fields and have the output saved to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet?
OCR Software FAQ What is a product that will allow me to create forms and scan completed forms (handwritten) into a database or spreadsheet?
OCR Software FAQ Assuming a load of 500 documents per day, which Forms Processing software would you recommend in regards to value, reliability, and ease of use with a mid-volume scanner?
OCR Software FAQ We want to automatically scan different forms, recognize what form it is, and file it for later retrieval. What software do we need?
OCR Software FAQ Does ScanStore provide outsourced document scanning, OCR or forms processing services?
OCR Software FAQ Can I scan a completed form into my computer and change the information, written text, or layout of the scanned document?
OCR Software FAQ I am looking for a software package that will allow me to scan a PDF document and fill in the blanks for electronic invoicing. It appears that your software will allow me to do this. However, I am also looking to have our invoices electronic requiring customers to sign the invoices using an iPad. Will your software package allow a free hand signature as well?
OCR Software FAQ I would like to scan a document, then fill or type in the blanks. Will OCR software allow me to do this?
OCR Software FAQ Please let me know if the price stated in the Web site in US$ dollars?
OCR Software FAQ Is it safe to use my credit card on How do you protect my information?
OCR Software FAQ What is your return policy? If the product has a problem on delivery how do you handle that?
OCR Software FAQ Can scanner capture the image of document with shaded part of the document and still recognize information from that section with OCR, ICR or Barcode?

OCR Software FAQ All FAQ Topics


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