Where to Find Free OCR Software

Where to Find Free OCR Software

There’s something to be said for owning physical copies of books. It’s nice to flip through information easily without ever waiting for loading times or being caught in the fear of losing your place. However, when you’re trying to do a job where you have to combine the physical with the digital, things can get frustrating very quickly.

Typing out everything from your physical book into a digital version can be extremely time-consuming and leaves you open to making many mistakes. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, you probably don’t have the time to sit there and type out a whole chapter’s worth of material. Scanning the information only gets the page from the book on to your screen, but doesn’t insert anything into the files you need. Lucky for you, there’s a lot of software out there to help.

What Is OCR Software?

Optical Character Recognition or OCR is a software that’ll scan text and convert the information into a document that can be edited. The software works with a stored font library, comparing the information on the page to the fonts at its disposal and printing out the closest approximation it can find. Many scanners these days come with free OCR software already built-in.

There are a few problems with this amazing technology, though. To scan properly, the text needs to be clear and generally free of stains, creases or anything that obscures the words. Because the software works by comparing fonts, handwritten texts will often not convert well or be recognized at all. Sometimes, the quality of the conversion depends on the software you pick out, and there are a lot of free ones available.

SimpleOCR

There is a free and paid version of SimpleOCR, both being different but also both being fantastic and easy to use. The software looks outdated but the simplicity you find with this tool is better than many other free OCR software options out there. You can read the information directly from a scanner or go with more advanced options, like removing images or certain text features. There is even a validation stage to correct problems in the text.

The paid version offers a handwriting recognition software, which could be very useful. One of the downsides to SimpleOCR, though, is that it has a lot of problems reading multi-column layouts of text. Otherwise, this software can read normal text layouts like a dream.


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OneNote

If you use any of the features in Microsoft Office, you’re likely already familiar with OneNote, the self-proclaimed digital notebook. If you drag a scanned picture into OneNote, you can right-click on the image and select Copy Text from Picture.

The program will copy the text to your clipboard, allowing you to paste the information anywhere you want. OneNote can also copy the text from multiple pages all with one click. One of the best free OCR software available was right there waiting to be used by you this whole time.

Google Docs & Google Drive

Even if you don’t have access to Microsoft Office, you always have some form of access to your Google Drive. After uploading a file to your Google Drive, you’ll find that you can open the image or PDF with Google Docs. By doing so, the text will move over to an editable format on a Google Docs sheet.

There are stipulations that the file can’t be over 2MB and should be at least 10 pixels or higher, but anything else can be converted over easily.

PDF Options

If you don’t need to copy information from the form and just want to digitally add things and send it off to someone, then maybe you should consider a PDF editor instead of OCR software. You can change a page that was scanned over as an image to a digital form that you can fill in the missing information of.

Depending on how often these forms are used, you can even remove the password protection to allow for more convenience and faster work. Though not OCR software, PDF editors work very similarly to get all of the information you need into one place.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

A lot of time and energy can go into transitioning text to a digital format. When you’re messing with that much information, there are bound to be critical mistakes that’ll either be completely missed or fixed later, adding more work for your project. If you were unaware that OCR software existed, you might find yourself in a difficult place.

You were not the first person that had to deal with this sort of problem and you won’t be the last. You could do things the old fashioned way or you could use OCR software to take away a majority of the work. Even if the software doesn’t work perfectly for the information you need to move over, it’s better than doing everything from scratch. So the next time you find this problem, don’t forget that OCR is always there to help you.

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Kayla Matthews is a technology writer and the editor of Productivity Bytes. Her work has been featured on Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, VICE, VentureBeat, The Daily Dot and WIRED, among others. Follow her on Twitter to read her latest posts.

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