What is Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software?
OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software automates the traditionally laborious process of extracting data from printed or written text.
The OCR software converts the text - such as scanned documents or image files - into machine-readable data within editable computer files that can be used for efficient data processing.
Find out how it works and what your options are, so you can choose the right OCR software for your business.
How does OCR software work?
The process by which OCR software extracts data from text and converts it into editable files begins once the file is uploaded, with the software working to improve its overall quality – files are typically skewed or contain “noise”, such as a varying brightness. This step in the process is vital as blurry or skewed images are difficult to interpret.
The software then removes any lines, which helps to ensure characters are recognised accurately, before analysing the structure of the image. This includes detecting text positions, white space, and prioritising important text areas or sections.
The character recognition stage begins by identifying individual words and entire lines of data. In doing so, the software prepares for the analysis and correction of errors. There are typically errors in each file caused by broken or blurred characters. The OCR software addresses this by breaking down and resolving any errors, allowing it to accurately interpret the relevant characters.
Once the original file has been processed, cleaned, and fixed, the OCR software can perform its primary function: reading and translating characters. Each image of each character is converted into a character code. Having been interpreted in full, the file can be saved in the desired format.
Difference between classic and professional OCR software
There are two types of OCR software available to potential users: classic and professional.
- Classic OCR software: typically designed for personal use, this software offers sufficient features for individuals seeking a simple OCR solution. Consequently, classic software does not include as many input, output and workflow options as professional software. For example, Easy Screen OCR is a free OCR software that relies on a cloud-based, Google-powered recognition engine – this means you need an active internet connection for the software to work. This can be used to convert text from screenshots, allowing users to extract data from websites. Easy Screen OCR supports more than 100 languages and is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS and Android operating systems.
- Professional OCR software: designed for use by businesses, professional OCR software has more advanced functionality that allows organisations’ to accurately convert images from virtually any scanner source into the required editable digital file quickly and in bulk. From a business perspective, this is typically used to process and convert digital files such as receipts, contracts, invoices, and financial statements – making data processing more efficient.
How to choose OCR software?
To choose the right OCR software, you must match your intended use with the relevant functionality. Ask yourself the following questions: What type of desktop platform am I using (Mac or Windows)? Am I going to use the software for personal or professional use? What type of file do I require? Are precision, accuracy, and speed a priority?
Freemium open-source versions of the software are available online, which are suitable for personal use but may not offer adequate functionality for professional use or difficult-to-read images. Some websites also provide free services for uploaded images; however, security levels are typically low and conversion speeds slow.
Windows operating systems typically have a basic OCR software programme integrated into the standard photo-fax viewer application, which is compatible with a standard PC-capable scanner. Whereas the Mac operating system does not have the software built-in. Some HP printers (HP Deskjet All-in-One, PhotoSmart All-in-One, and Officejet) also have OCR functionality.
Businesses that intend on using OCR software must, therefore, take the time to understand which software is available – for free and to purchase – that is both compatible with their operating system and offers the required functionality, such as:
Layout analysis: this enables the software to automatically detect all columns of text, tables, and images.
Split function: split long documents into multiple shorter documents to make uploading and management more efficient.
Search function: this facilitates convenient searches through keywords, filters, and titles.
Language recognition: process, edit, and save documents in multiple languages.
Multiple format support: create and save files in multiple formats, including MS Office, PDF, and JPG.
Digital signature: create digital signatures on documents from remote locations for increased security.
Collaboration: this allows team members to manage comments.
Generic and focused OCR software is available to purchase for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Jenji, for example, enables users to convert, review and save receipts and invoices on mobile devices – both iOS and Android – offline, before synchronizing automatically whenever they have connectivity.
For more details about OCR software, don’t hesitate to contact the Jenji team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be glad to assist you in setting up your project.