Scan and Edit graphic text with Free OCR

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology allows you to edit text in graphic image or scanned document. It is widely used to convert books and documents into electronic files, to computerize a record-keeping system in an office, or to publish the text on a website.

OCR makes it possible to edit the text, search for a word or phrase, and apply techniques such as machine translation, text-to-speech and text mining to it.

Microsoft Office includes Microsoft Document Imaging OCR, however, several other freeware alternatives exist which do the job too, including the application software that came with your scanner or all-in-one device. Essentially, to scan and then convert an image to text using OCR, you need to follow standard steps:

  • Place the document on the scanner bed.
  • On the computer, use the scanner’s application software and OCR as type.
  • Select intended area to do an OCR scan, and check the preview.
  • Scan and then save the text file, and you can edit the same in any word-processing application.

You can also choose to install an application to perform OCR instead of the scanner’s default program.

FreeOCR.net

FreeOCR can scan from most TWAIN and WIA scanners and can also open scanned PDF’s and multipage TIFF images. Free OCR includes the Windows compiled Tesseract free OCR engine also known as a Tesseract GUI. FreeOCR is freeware, including for commercial use. FreeOCR requires the .NET Framework v2.0. FreeOCR v4 is soon to be released.

There are several free online services on the Web that allow you to perform an OCR on an image or scanned document within your browser.

  • NewOCR.com is a free online OCR service. NewOCR.com analyses the text in any image file that you upload, and then convert the text from the image into text. The service gives you unlimited uploads and layout analysis (multi-column text recognition). The friendly service requires no registration, and supports 29 languages, although the site is pretty basic and amateurish. The service takes any JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, and multipage TIFF up to 5 MB as well as multipage PDF documents up to 20 MB.
  • Free-OCR.com is another free online OCR tool. You can upload your image files (JPG, GIF, TIFF BMP or PDF) not larger than 2MB, no wider or higher than 5000 pixels and there is a limit of 10 image uploads per hour. Free-OCR can handle images with multi-column text and also supports 29 languages. One odd restriction is that it takes only the first page of a PDF document while performing OCR.
  • Free Online OCR service allows you to recognize text and characters from PDF scanned documents (including multipage files), photographs and digital camera captured images. It allows users to select 32 languages to recognize multilingual documents and converts directly to several formats like PDF, DOC, XLS, RTF, HTML, and TXT. You can choose to store the OCRed files online in your secure workspace, or download them to your PC.

I’m sure this list ain’t exhaustive. Why don’t you add more such services and applications as comments to this post, if you know of any more?

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Abhishek Baxi writes on the Windows ecosystem and hosts an online show - Microsoft Talk (MSTalk.in) and owns the Windows Phone portal - I Love Windows Phone (ilovewindowsphone.in). He lives at www.baxiabhishek.info and talks incessantly on Twitter.