Exploring OCR: Definition, Uses, and Benefits

Exploring OCR: Definition, Uses, and Benefits

In this blog post, let’s take a look at what OCR is, how it is used, and what sort of benefits it provides.

Definition of OCR: What is it?

OCR is an acronym that stands for Optical Character Recognition. It is the name of the technology that is used for scanning characters (letters, numbers, symbols, etc.) on physical surfaces and images.

OCR

The main function of this technology is to recognize characters and present them to the user in an editable digital format. For example, if there is a lot of text written on a physical document, such as a report or an assignment, you can use OCR to import it all into digital text format, where you can modify it easily on your PC or mobile device.

OCR basically works by looking at markings and impressions on the image/surface that is given to scan. The markings that it finds are then checked against a database of existing characters. If the markings match any of the characters in the database, they are copied down accordingly. In this way, entire documents can be scanned and converted to text form.

Understanding the Role of AI in OCR

If you do some searching on the Internet about OCR, you will find many sources discussing its relationship with OCR. Since we want to make this post comprehensive and encompassing all the basic concepts, let’s add a bit about the role of AI in OCR.

AI

Nowadays, a lot of OCR-assisted tools and software come with AI. The AI element in these tools/software allows them to be smarter and more flexible in analyzing and understanding the characters. For example, a non-AI OCR tool could struggle to recognize a “V” if it is slightly disjointed at the bottom or if one of the slants is shorter than the other, etc., because it would be different from the exact character stored in the database.

On the other hand, an AI-assisted tool would have more diverse and accurate criteria for character recognition. The placement of the two lines at an angle joining at the bottom would be enough to tell the tool that it is a “V.”

How exactly is OCR used?

Before we move any further, we should talk about the forms in which OCR is utilized. Clarifying this right now will help make our further discussions in this post more understandable.

OCR

OCR is, as we’ve mentioned above, a technology. It is not a device or software in itself. Rather, it is a technology that is used by devices and software to equip them with the ability to read characters on physical surfaces and inside images.

Nowadays, OCR is typically used in the form of online web-based tools or downloadable mobile applications.

Uses of OCR

Now, let’s move on to look at some of the uses of OCR.

  1. OCR can be highly useful in data entry

One of the most common uses of OCR is in data entry. In many different office settings, the need to extract text written inside a physical document can occur. For example, the details on a business report or a receipt may be needed on a computer for editing/saving purposes.

In situations like these, the normal and traditional way to copy the text over is to manually type it out. But this can take up a lot of time, and the overall process is very arduous.

With OCR, on the other hand, the text can be extracted in a matter of seconds and then copied over digitally wherever it needs to be. Thanks to this, the process of data entry can be significantly quickened.

  1. OCR can be highly useful for students

Another benefit of using OCR for image-to-text conversion is that it makes note-taking a lot easier for students.

The application of OCR for students is somewhat specific but fairly common. A lot of times, especially in the case of older students, it is considered an easy way to save lecture notes by taking a picture of the board or by snapping photos of the pages of a book.

In cases like these, the written information is saved in the images and can only be perused by the student. Should the need arise for the student to use the information in any of their assignments or write-ups, they will have to manually copy it.

But with OCR, any images and pictures that the student may have of their lectures or study notes can be quickly scanned. The text and characters inside them can be quickly extracted and copied over to a device where they can be easily edited.

Benefits of Using OCR

The two use cases of OCR that we have mentioned broadly cover the entire utility of this technology. There are other specific uses as well, but these two are the major classifications, i.e., the use in data entry and the use in academics.

Now, we will move on to looking at the benefits of using OCR.

  1. It makes the text extraction process quicker and easier

As we mentioned earlier, the alternative to using an OCR tool for text extraction is to do everything manually by hand. This can take up a lot of time. Even a single page of writing can take up to 15 minutes to be extracted from an image to digital text form, i.e., by looking and typing.

On the other hand, when you use a tool for the same purpose, the process can be done very quickly. If you use a good tool, a single image can be converted to text in a matter of a few seconds.

The time that you save in this process can be spent in some other lucrative way.

  1. It helps to make the text extraction accurate

This is another benefit of using OCR for text extraction. In the manual method, you can get tired after a few minutes and start making mistakes. Then, you would have to look for all of those mistakes once you are done and fix them.

On the other hand, if you pick an intelligent AI-assisted OCR tool, you won’t have to worry about this problem. Sure, you should always check the output given by an online tool, but if you’re using a good one, there won’t be many errors for you to fix.

  1. It helps you organize your documents

A lot of online OCR tools and apps offer various features, such as the option to directly upload a file from the local storage and to save the extracted text as a TXT file, etc.

You can make use of these features to systematically organize the text documents that you get from the tool. In other words, you can store a selection of images of PDFs, etc., in one location on your device. You can then upload them all from there one by one and keep track of them all.

As the images are changed into text, you can start downloading them one by one to the device in a specified location as well.

This basically helps you to organize all your documents and text files so that you can access and use them easily afterward. Granted, this is something that you could manually do, but then again, it would take up a lot of time.

Recommended OCR Tool for 2024 and Beyond

Now that we have looked at all of these benefits and perks of using OCR tools let’s talk about one in specific that you can use in 2024 and beyond.

Recommended OCR Tool: Imagetotext.info

The tool that we’re going to recommend is called Imagetotext.info. It is free to access, and you can use it even without signing up.

However, there are some features of the tool that you can only get access to when you become a paid member.

Working of Imagetotext.info

The working and performance of this tool are accurate and remarkable. As far as we have used it, the images that we provide are converted to text accurately. To give you an idea, here is a small demonstration. We’re going to input this image into the tool:

How to filter text from text from image with python? - Stack ...

Source

Here is how the tool processes this text:

Imagetotext.info

As you can see, the text is accurately extracted and displayed to the user. While this particular image was simple and clear, the tool performs well with other types of slightly difficult images as well.

Features of Imagetotext.info

Here is a brief look into the features that are provided by this tool:

  • It is free to use
  • It does not require registration
  • It allows you to fetch files from your local storage and from Dropbox
  • It lets you download the extracted text

Wrapping up

OCR is a useful technology that can be helpful for various types of individuals in their work. In the post above, we’ve looked at what this technology basically is, how it works, what benefits it provides, etc.

The thing about OCR is that you can get the true benefits if you are able to find and pick a good tool. That can be a tad bit difficult considering the number of tools available online. To help you with that, we have also mentioned a recommended tool that you can easily use on the Internet.