OCR Software

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Buyers Guide

Last Updated: October 19, 2021

Imagine that you want to pull some text or data from a graphic or a printed contract—what are your options? Spend time retyping the entire thing and then correcting mistakes? Or simply use a tool that can convert the document into a digital format in several minutes? If you want a tool, then you've landed in the right place.

Optical character recognition software, or OCR software, helps you convert different types of documents such as scanned paper-based documents, PDF files, or images into editable and searchable text.The file can be saved in a new format such as DOC, RTF, XLS, PDF, HTML, TXT, etc. OCR software also allows you to export data directly to office applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe Acrobat.

The entire process of text extraction and data conversion from the original paper document, image, or PDF takes very little time compared to doing it manually, and the final document looks just like the original.

In this buyer's guide, we’ll explain what OCR software is, its common features, its benefits, considerations to take into account when selecting a tool, and the latest trends that software buyers should not miss.

Here's what we'll cover:

What is OCR software?

OCR (optical character recognition) software is designed to help businesses convert different types of document formats, such as scanned paper documents, PDF files, or images, into editable and searchable electronic data files.

OCR solutions make it possible to recognize text in these documents and images by scanning them, processing content in the documents, and converting them into editable file formats like plain text, or Word or Excel documents. Documents processed with these platforms typically include client forms, invoices, and staff paperwork.

Various teams can use OCR solutions in their day-to-day operations such as accounting, human resources, and data entry teams to obtain important information from mass quantities of paper and digital files.

PDF conversion in OCR Gateway Software

PDF conversion in OCR Gateway Software (Source)

Common features of OCR software

Below are some common features of OCR software:

Text extraction Process various documents and image types and extract text from images (JPG, BMP, TIFF, GIF) into editable files.
Document conversion Convert documents and images into editable file formats such as plain text, Word, or Excel.
Data validation Validate extracted data after the conversion.
PDF conversion Convert text and images from your scanned PDF document into editable file formats.
Data import/export Import and export files to/from your existing computer system.
Multiple language support Support, recognize, and process files in multiple languages with a single OCR tool.
Document archiving Electronically archive converted digital documents that can be easily accessed for future use.
Mobile document capture Capture text from documents and images using a mobile device and convert pictures to documents or different formats.

What type of buyer are you?

Before evaluating OCR software, it’s helpful to determine your business size and requirements for the tool:

  • Small and midsize businesses (SMBs—up to 500 employees): Small and midsize businesses with comparatively smaller teams and fewer clients will have to handle a limited amount of paper-based documents. These could include small retail shops or clinics. Your small or midsize business could opt for a free OCR tool or a basic version that’s reasonably priced and is good enough to process a small number of files.
  • Large enterprises (over 500 employees): Large enterprises that operate globally and have large teams and client bases will need to process a large number of documents. These businesses could be large banking and insurance businesses. Look for an enterprise OCR solution that provides functionality for multiple formats and language support, handwriting detection, role-based permissions to access the documents, and simultaneous processing of multiple document batches.

Benefits of OCR software

Here are the key benefits of OCR software:

  • High accuracy: Manual data entry and data logging pose many challenges, and inaccuracy is just one of them. OCR software can help you capture, scan, and process the exact text from an original document, reducing the chances of human errors or inaccuracies.
  • Reduced costs: OCR solutions can help businesses that carry out tasks like data/text extraction cut down costs. This is mostly helpful for departments such as HR and finance that deal with a large number of paper-based documents such as invoices and receipts. With OCR software, all the text from paper-based documents is converted into digital formats which helps reduce printing, shipping, and copying costs. In addition, OCR software enables businesses to store files in digital format, thus reducing the need for physical space to store paper documents.
  • Enhanced productivity: Manual data entry from non-editable documents, such as paper-based forms, takes a lot of time, energy, and effort. OCR solutions offer features such as text recognition, data extraction, and document conversion to automatically convert non-editable documents into editable file formats such as Word, Excel, or plain text. That means your team members don't need to manually enter the data into the systems, which saves time and leads to better productivity.
  • Improved data security: Paper-based forms can be easily misplaced, stolen, or destroyed by fire or moisture. With OCR software deployed, your files are scanned, analyzed, and stored in a digital format that cannot be destroyed. Further, all records are stored in a centralized database that can be accessed only by authorized users. OCR software also offers user authentication and data encryption capabilities to prevent mishandling or unauthorized access.

Key considerations when selecting OCR software

  • File formats: OCR is all about converting documents and images into different file formats. Make sure you look for an OCR solution that supports the different file formats your organization works with. Whether it’s TIFF, PNG, PDF, JPG, JPEG, or any combination of those, make sure the OCR software you’re planning to purchase supports all of them.
  • Features and cost: The overall cost of OCR software tools varies based on the features it offers. Make sure to identify your organization’s specific needs and which software features can help meet them. If you need help with processing just a small number of files, go for a free OCR tool or a basic software version that’s reasonably priced. But if you want premium features such as multiple formats and language support, handwriting detection, and simultaneous processing of multiple document batches, you'll have to opt for an enterprise solution that will be more expensive.
  • Accuracy: OCR software vendors may promise you between 97% to 99% accuracy, but these rates are mostly based on character errors, not word errors. Consider text and scanning specifications before you make your purchase decision. For the text part, ask about the availability of special fonts (typewriter) in the software which includes the capability to recognize handwritten documents with any degree of accuracy. As for the scanning part, getting a quality image is the first step in having the best and most accurate OCR experience, so don’t forget to ask about things such as resolution, brightness, straightness, and discoloration before purchasing the OCR software.

Market trends to understand

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) in OCR technology: AI-enabled OCR tools can not only scan text and convert it into different file formats but also make sense and meaning out of it. These OCR systems aren’t restricted to a fixed number of character sets and can accumulate knowledge and learn to recognize any number of characters. Therefore, combining AI and OCR is proving to be an effective strategy for both data capture and management. Many vendors have already implemented AI into their OCR software offerings, and more are expected to follow.

Note: The application selected in this guide is an example to show a feature in context and is not intended as an endorsement or recommendation. It has been taken from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.