OCR or Optical Character Recognition is a sophisticated software technique that allows a computer to extract text from images. In the early days, OCR software was rather crude and unreliable. Now that massive processing power is involved, it is often the fastest way to transform text in an image into something that can be edited with a word processor.
These ten apps offer different approaches to the OCR task, no cost and for different platforms. If you’ve been looking for a way to turn images into words, you will almost certainly find the best free image recognition software you need.
FreeOCR is a basic free OCR program that offers all the basic features you can expect from this type of software. For starters, if you have a TWAIN scanner (which is pretty much all of them), you can directly scan and extract text from paper. Image import also works as expected. This also includes multi-page TIFF and PDF documents.
FreeOCR uses an open source engine originally developed by Hewlett Packard and subsequently released by Google for everyone. It is known as the “Tesseract”. Tesseract has several useful features, but one of the most interesting is its automatic layout detection system. This means you don’t have to waste time tediously drawing rectangles around individual blocks of text.
SimpleOCR is a basic OCR package that can convert printed documents to text right from your scanner. The name SimpleOCR in this case is literal. If you have documents that show any kind of complexity, such as columns, or do not have perfectly sharp scans, SimpleOCR cannot do the job.
Sure, Simple Software will happily sell you a more complex solution for a few dollars, but if you just want OCR for some building blocks of text, this is an option that won’t cost you a dime and is so easy to use. as the name suggests. As a bonus, it supports handwriting recognition!
Easy Screen OCR is a small, best free OCR software based on the cloud based recognition engine powered by Google. As you would expect, this means that the software requires an active Internet connection to run. If that’s not a problem, you will find a very useful tool here.
This OCR application is designed to extract text from screenshots, allowing you to copy text from websites or any other text displayed on the screen. What’s especially cool about this is the support for over 100 languages. If you want to translate (for example) Japanese text, you can simply take a screenshot and Easy Screen OCR will do it. If this is something you need to do often, the ability to set your own keyboard shortcuts will also help.
While this is not a traditional OCR application, there are many workflows these days that involve extracting text from the images you are working with. Easy Screen OCR simplifies this task with just a few keystrokes.
Unfortunately, the latest software version (1.4.2 and higher) requires a subscription fee after 20 uses. However, older versions of the software are still free to use.
Capture2Text is an interesting little application with a narrow but very useful feature. It is used to recognize text from what is currently on your screen. You press a hotkey, select the area of â€‹â€‹the screen that you want OCR, and then it sends the result directly to the clipboard so you can paste it into your text editor.
Capture2Text is portable, so you don’t need to install it. Just run the executable and you can use it on any Windows system from version 7 and up. The software is also open source, so you can copy and modify it as you see fit, as long as you comply with the terms of the GNU license.
This is by no means unusual, but if you want to quickly extract text from images you are processing, this is a great program for that.
A9t9 (Windows 10)
If you’ve never visited the Windows Store, you might be surprised to find that there are indeed many free open source apps out there. The a9t9 app is a real gem and doesn’t require any additional commitment. There is no ad, and it promises quite high OCR performance.
The A9t9 supports a fairly long list of languages, although not as extensive as some of the other options on this list. If you’re a Windows 8.1 (or later) user who needs OCR right now and doesn’t want to spend money, just press one button in the Windows Store app and in a few seconds a9t9 will process your images into documents that you can edit.
Adobe has tons of mobile apps in the wild. Some of them are pretty good, while many seem to be little more than experiments. Adobe Scan falls into the first category. This is the ultimate camera scanning and text recognition app that will work on both Android and iOS. It’s free and you don’t need to subscribe to any Adobe services.
Of course, the final document is a PDF that you can only edit directly with the paid version of Acrobat, but copying the text into any text editor of your choice shouldn’t be difficult to be honest.
One of the best features of Adobe OCR software is its ability to recognize handwriting. Of course, quality handwriting will be better recognized. Don’t expect him to decipher what you can’t read yourself. As with your doctor’s prescriptions.
There are several more reasons to try Adobe Scan. The ability to automatically scan, recognize text and contacts from a business card is very cool. In fact, if you spend a lot of time meeting people, it can save you a lot of time.
The app also has, as you’d expect from the creators of PhotoShop, a small set of retouching tools. This way you can clean up the images before trying to extract text from them.
When the first phones with built-in digital cameras hit the market, the quality offered was truly awful. The resulting images weren’t useful for anything, and you certainly couldn’t make out small details such as text.
Today, sophisticated cameras, even in budget models, offer high-resolution images that are good enough to be used as replacements for document scanners. For example, the Google Drive app lets you take pretty good scans using just your phone’s camera.
Microsoft’s Office Lens app not only lets you scan documents, it also lets you recognize them on the fly. Thus, you can take a picture of someone’s business card and immediately prepare the text for copying to your contact list.
Office Lens is a standalone application, but its functionality is built into other MS Office applications, so if you already use them, you may not need to download this independent application. Again, the sometimes targeted, lightweight application is exactly what the doctor ordered.
OCR in English (iOS)
English OCR is a free OCR app for iPhone and iPad that makes it pretty easy to quickly take a snapshot of a document and digitize text in photos. It is released under an open source license, but the developers use advertising to cover the development and maintenance costs of the application.
There is a paid “Pro” version which has exactly the same functionality as the free version. The only difference is that the Pro version removes all ads. So if you are comfortable with multiple ads, you don’t need to invest at all.
Read between lines
The prospects for a paperless world have not yet materialized. This means that OCR technology will remain an important part of the bridge between the digital and analog worlds.
Armed with the above OCR apps, you’ll never have to painstakingly retype a document again, and most importantly, they won’t cost you a cent.