OCR, What is it?

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, which is a key feature in the document imaging domain that is meant to identify text from non-text inside a digital image. OCR allows you to convert different types of documents, PDF files or images captured by a digital camera into editable and searchable data.

OCR actually started as a discrete military research. It first developed in 1914 and around the 1960s, a time where the public was barely using wire telephones; some national post offices were using OCR to sort out grandparent’s handwritten mail. Software cannot handle data unless it is encoded as text-piece-of-information which is why we use OCR to extract text from images. The text within an image file is only known as “text” when human beings are able to decipher the information.

So how does Optical Character Recognition work?

Well the process is generally three easy steps. First the document is scanned and an analysis of the document is conducted to determine the structure of the document image. Next the document is recognized. During this step the analysis of the document will divide the document into several elements including tables, images and blocks of text. The lines are divided into words and then into specific characters. Once the characters are sorted out, the program compares them with a set of pattern images determining what the set character is. After processing various possibilities of what the character might be, the program will make a final decision presenting you with a text. Which brings you to the last step, saving the document in a convenient format or having the data exported to one of the Office applications such as Word or Excel.

Some OCR software comes with an Automated Task mode that will aid in routine tasks that are completed regularly. This mode will help in the fact that you won’t have to go through the whole process every time.

For OCR to be accurate, it depends on a few things: printed text is easier to be correctly recognized than handwritten text, if the language/character set of the to-be-recognized text is previously known and settings are done accordingly, OCR results are much better, the pages of the document should have the correct orientation, and image quality may need to be enhanced in order to optimize it before the submission process.

How can OCR benefit you?

Optical Character Recognition software allows you to save a ton of time and effort when creating, processing and repurposing various documents. You will now have the ability to take quotes from books and magazines and use them in your work or papers without having to retype the information. Also with a digital camera and having the OCR software you can capture text from the outdoors such as on banners, posters, and timetables and use that captured information for your own purposes. This data conversion takes less than a minute and the final recognized document looks just like the original.


OCR technology is seen in Biel’s Psigen software. Click here to see how Psigen is the next generation of document processing software.