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.

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.
  •, 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.
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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.
Watch out the online installer that may offer some unwanted third-party software. See Installer Warning.

This software category is in need of an editor. If you are interested in taking it over then check out this page for more details. You can then contact us from that page or by clicking here.


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Very good results with FreeOCR. Very accurate. Terrible results with SimpleOCR: it chopped off the right hand half of every image, and had hundreds of errors. Useless - avoid this .

Hi team ,

We need to convert the scanned pdf/tiff files into OCR enabled and searchable files for text recognition and field recognition.We found the software of free ocr like (freeocr541.exe) in your website ( but We have not found any library, samples & api documentation of (free ocr)in your site .Please provide us the sdk and Api Documentation ?
is it possilble to extract the text from the pdf/tiff files to XML

I downloaded this software today, v5.4 March 15, and the malware is all gone. No ads, no banners, no toolbars, nothing sneaky or nasty. So far, so good!

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.

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?

"FreeOCR is a good scanning and OCR program"

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

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.

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.

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.

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.