Best Free OCR Software


Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software is used for creating a real text version of an image that contains text. An OCR program is very useful when you have a PDF or other text list in the form of an image, that cannot be used in a text editor as it's a jpeg or something similar. There are two ways to create a PDF: as a standard type in a (proprietary) text format, or as an image format PDF. If the PDF was created as the image type, text cannot be extracted and reused except with an OCR program. With the advent of excellent digital cameras, photographed images can be used quite readily.

In the past, a choice of free OCR programs did not exist, and a commercial option was normally used. However, there are now five or more freeware choices.

Note that very few OCR programs of any type can handle screenshots, as the quality is surprisingly poor. The human eye 'fills in the blanks' but apparently OCR software is not that capable yet, and needs a higher resolution. It will usually be found that perhaps 75% of a screenshot will OCR OK, but that may leave a substantial amount indecipherable - however, this depends on factors such as what font was used, and of what size.

Free OCR programs are based on Tesseract, now owned by Google. In the 1990s Tesseract was one of the top 3 rated OCR engines. Today it is still around, being specifically useful for capturing text in demarked areas, but not so much for duplicating full pages with complications like columns and tables. You will normally have to mark each column separately to process it and to avoid confusion within the program. Still, Tesseract based OCR is a labour saving tool for most casual users and is therefore, worhwhile.

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FreeOCRFreeOCR is a good scanning and OCR program that lets you extract text from popular image file formats such as jpg and tiff files. It also extracts text from scanned PDF documents, and allows images from scanned PDF documents to be selected and placed on the clipboard.

You can save the scanned results as a plain text document or even export directly to Microsoft Word file format. In a complex page, multiple columns will need to be processed individually, and images are transferred via standard copy and paste.

FreeOCR requires the .Net Framework to run and the installer will automatically scan, detect and download the framework for you. The framework is usually already included in the later versions of Windows such as Vista and 7.


Other free OCR programs to be reviewed:

  • SimpleOCR, an effective program that does the job.
  •, a free online OCR tool to extract text from any image you supply, free and no registration required.
  •, a free online OCR to extract text from image (JPG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, GIF) and convert into editable Word, Text, Excel, PDF, HTML output formats.
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

Quick Selection Guide

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Extract text from scanned images and PDF documents.
Indecipherable for a low resolution.
405 KB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Win XP to Win 8


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by lsim on 10. March 2014 - 9:51  (114922)

I tried the most recent version, which at the time I am writing that post is 4.2.2.

1. Program installed flawlessly on my Win7 64bit Pro.
2. Easily downloaded and added the language I was interested - Bulgarian.
3. Loaded a scanned B&W book page in TIFF format.
4. OCR module crashed every single time.

My conclusion: The program is useless if one needs to OCR Bulgarian language text.

Comparison: FineReader online ocr (only 10 pages free) returned me perfectly scanned page with only a signe error.

by not recognized on 3. February 2014 - 13:29  (114207)

the freeocr.exe that you download from paperfileDOTnet is an installer 405kb big. attempts to run it triggered a malware alert from avast, which blocked the download of files from a supposedly 'mal' URL

[Links removed] don't provide a contact form or email address.

dodgy as hell imho

anyone know better?

ps tried to download from softpedia, but all they have there is a less than up to date version of the same installer.

DAMN IT. it looks like exactly the application i need; supports multiple languages via extensions! has anybody else got this working?

by Bob F. on 29. August 2013 - 13:49  (110392)

Hi jluisrey,

I'm a topical stamp collector I'm looking for OCR that will allow me to process the text and move the images ( the Stamps ) but most important it keeps the position and placement of both on the page then I might change some text and remove one image for example do you think this OCR program can do this?

Thanks Bob

by shawnz on 12. July 2013 - 15:06  (109170)

"FreeOCR is a good scanning and OCR program"

There was some discussion about making a page for scanning software. Will it happen?

by runbei on 24. April 2013 - 5:32  (107303)

Before you install Free OCR, for your safety, read the comments on CNET - it appears to be full or crapware and malware that cannot be fully removed from your computer and is very difficult to avoid during installation. What's a better alternative? Cuneiform / Open OCR is no longer available.

by Nico Prinsloo on 20. October 2013 - 5:52  (111602)

Yes, be careful. They nearly caught me. When you accept the terms of service, you don't accept the TOS of Free OCR but of other software. Only declined the TOS twice before I actually got the Free OCR terms.

by Fairportfan on 24. March 2014 - 6:38  (115247)

Almost got me too.

However, i am running Unchecky (which was recommended here a few weeks back), and it caught and prevented what i missed.

by Barrett Linton on 22. March 2013 - 13:51  (106468)

How to convert PDF to Word while maintaining the page layout? I have text in a table and it all gets messed up with not format-aware conversion services.

by JF (not verified) on 30. July 2012 - 17:58  (96901)

Tried the 3 programs mentioned:

Free OCR was OK but didn't allow for my language (Danish) where we have a lot of æ, ø and å...

Free OCR was good (allowed different languages)

Online OCR was a little better the latter (also allowing different languages).

Tried to enter Cuneiform - but didn't succeed (much in Russian).

by Kissol on 30. July 2012 - 19:22  (96904)

Hi JF, PDF X-Change Viewer has OCR feature that is excellent. It support several languages (you can download a package with languages if yours isn't in default install).

by JF (not verified) on 31. July 2012 - 8:33  (96927)

Thank you!

by JF (not verified) on 30. July 2012 - 18:02  (96903)

Correction to my post:

The first Free OCR is the first program mentioned (not online).

The next Free OCR is the online service mentioned.

by memonio (not verified) on 20. April 2012 - 5:30  (92313)

I just check and run CuneiForm in English and it's amazing.
Thanks to the Russian guys for this great piece of software.

And... Pass the Vodka ! :)

by dtse (not verified) on 1. February 2012 - 9:54  (88134)

FreeOCR only works on a page a time, even it loaded the whole file.
Recently I have messed up FreeOCR so I have to uninstall it. When I tried to re-install it, I found that their website ( has problems (Exceed bandwidth limited).

Anyone know if there are other sites that I can install FreeOCR? Thanks.

by ghiebert on 1. February 2012 - 15:15  (88140) worked for me today. Maybe the issue is resolved.

by Jojo Yee on 1. February 2012 - 10:14  (88135)
by Mom (not verified) on 1. January 2012 - 4:31  (86304)

Huh? WHat about Cuneiform? Why don't u have it in the topic?

by ghiebert on 1. January 2012 - 5:31  (86308)

Great suggestion, a departure from Tesseract. Will have a look.

by Mom (not verified) on 1. January 2012 - 6:10  (86311)

Ok. I can introduce to u some other great free soft done by russians, if u want to. SIncerely, many great russian software aren't so famous :(
Well, it may caused by our poor eng skills :) lol.
Btw, Happy New Year! :)

by ghiebert on 3. January 2012 - 13:35  (86466)

I would love to hear more. You can post those program suggestions into the freeware forum, or provide a link here so that we can investigate!

by RichardN on 26. November 2011 - 14:28  (83941)

I recently had a need to ocr a number of jpeg items and used It did a good job and works with a range of document formats. Simply upload the file and it will produce ocr output. Some extra features available if you register.

by ghiebert on 3. January 2012 - 13:31  (86465)

Yes, online OCR services exist, and according to one reviewer, they are good for 'quick and dirty' plain text conversions. There are limits to file sizes and/or the number of pages you can do per hour, and other limitations. Past that, you can subscribe to a paid service. I do not know at this time which engines are being used, but will try to find this out.

by allencch on 25. June 2009 - 5:55  (24354)

IrfanView can integrate with kadmos OCR plugin.

by Jojo Yee on 4. May 2009 - 2:38  (21025) is a good choice to extract text from scanned PDF documents.

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