What is OCR?

What is OCR?

OCR is short for Optical Character Recognition. It’s a technology that allow you to convert different kinds of documents, such as PDF files, scanned paper documents or images captured by high end digital cameras into searchable and editable data.

Let us assume that you have a paper document, such as brochure, magazine article, PDF contract or some other information. A scanner can only take a photo of this document and can’t make this information available to you for editing in a program like MS Word. 
 
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Scanners just create a snapshot of your document or image. It’s nothing more than a basic collection of colored or black and white dots. This is called a raster image. If you want to repurpose and extract data from camera images, image-only PDFs or scanned documents, you need good OCR software. It can single out letters on your image, and put them into words. Similarly, words are put into sentences. This allows you to edit and access the content of your original document. 
 

Key Benefits of OCR

 
When a printed page is available in a machine-readable text form, you can perform all kinds of tasks without experiencing any problems. You can easily search through it with appropriate keywords. Moreover, you can also incorporate the image in a basic web page, edit it with a standard word processor, store it in less space, compress it into a ZIP file or send it via email.

Your options are endless. This can save mountains of time in copywriting documents over from PDF to work for example, which, for highly technical documentation, can take hours, or even days! 
 
In addition to this, high-end screen readers can decode machine-readable text. These tools use speech synthesizers to read out text on a screen. This helps visually impaired people understand everything on the document. Since the 1970s, people who have been in the industry have understood OCR, and its key benefits. 
 

How does OCR work?

 
Let us assume that the English language was simple, and included only a single letter – A. Even then, OCR would be a tricky concept. The primary reason is that every person would write A differently. Even printed text would cause an issue because documents are printed in different fonts. 
 
There are two simple ways to resolve this problem. You can either recognize the characters in their entirety or detect the individual strokes and lines. OCR helps accomplish this task. Thus, it’s able to identify the text on a document.
 

What Technology lies behind OCR?

 
The exact mechanisms allowing people to recognize objects are yet to be fully understood. However, there are three underlying principles, including integrity, purposefulness and adaptability. These principles lay the foundation for OCR devices. There are many companies that offer high-end OCR devices, measuring instruments and medical imaging instruments working on these principles. 
 
The software program of the device analyzes the document image’s structure. It divides the document into specific elements, such as tables, texts, images and more. All the lines are properly divided into words and characters. When the characters have been singled out, the software compares them with a pre-defined set of pattern images. This explains what the character is, and what it means. 

Based on this explanation, the software analyses variants of line breaks, and keeps continuing the process unless all the text has been broken down. After processing a huge number of hypotheses, the program presents the recognized text. 

When it comes to OCR in printing, there are various solutions that might fit your needs. Konica Minolta for example are experts in this field and have incorporated OCR into some of their hardware, offering a really efficient solution for businesses who want to save time and cut costs.

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