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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FreeOCR 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.
Installer Warning: During installation of this application, watch out the online installer that may offer some unwanted third-party software. See Installer Warning for more details.
Other free OCR programs to be reviewed:
- SimpleOCR, an effective program that does the job.
- Free-OCR.com, a free online OCR tool to extract text from any image you supply, free and no registration required.
- OnlineOCR.net, 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.
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