One of the greatest advantages of digital formats is the ability to search through your documents for specific words or numbers. While it may not seem that important, the ability to hit CTRL+F and instantly find a name or title or serial number in a file that may be hundreds of pages long is a huge time-saver.
However, when you take a photo or a raw document scan rather than creating it digitally, all you have is an image of the text. You may be able to read the text clearly, but the computer you’re looking at it on only processes image pixels.
That’s where Optical Character Recognition comes in.
OCR is a technology that enables the conversion of scanned or photographed documents into editable and searchable text. It is a key component of document digitization and plays a crucial role in transforming physical documents into machine-readable data. Here’s how OCR technology works and why it’s beneficial:
How Optical Character Recognition Works
- Document Scanning: The process begins with document scanning. Physical documents like paper files are scanned using specialized document scanners or cameras.
- Image Processing: The scanned document images are then processed to enhance their quality and prepare them for OCR. This may involve removing noise, adjusting brightness and contrast, and straightening skewed or tilted images to optimize OCR accuracy.
- Text Recognition: The OCR software analyzes the processed document images and identifies patterns, shapes, and contours that resemble characters. It recognizes and interprets these characters as individual letters, numbers, symbols, and words. The software employs sophisticated algorithms and pattern recognition techniques to accurately identify and segment text elements.
- Character Conversion: After the text is recognized, OCR software converts the identified characters into machine-readable formats, such as ASCII or Unicode. This conversion enables the extracted text to be manipulated, edited, and searched using computer-based applications.
- Document Output: Once the OCR process is complete, the output is a searchable and editable digital document. The original scanned image is typically retained alongside the recognized text to provide visual reference if needed. The recognized text can be saved in various file formats, such as PDF, DOC, or TXT, allowing users to edit, store, and retrieve the digitized document efficiently.
Benefits of OCR Technology
- Improved Searchability: OCR technology enables the conversion of scanned documents into searchable text. This allows users to quickly search for specific words, phrases, or information within a document or a collection of documents. It significantly enhances information retrieval capabilities and saves time spent manually searching through physical or digital documents.
- Enhanced Data Extraction: OCR facilitates the extraction of data from scanned documents, such as invoices, forms, or receipts. It automates the extraction process by recognizing and capturing key data fields, such as customer names, addresses, invoice numbers, and amounts. This reduces manual data entry errors, improves accuracy, and increases operational efficiency.
- Editability: By converting scanned documents into editable text, OCR enables users to make modifications, corrections, or additions to the content. This is particularly useful when updating or repurposing documents, creating new versions, or extracting specific sections for further analysis or presentation.
- Improved Accessibility: OCR technology improves accessibility for individuals with visual impairments or reading difficulties. By converting text into digital formats, OCR allows the use of screen readers and text-to-speech technologies, making documents accessible to a wider audience.
- Better Preservation: OCR aids in preserving and managing large volumes of historical or archival documents. By digitizing and making them searchable, OCR ensures the long-term accessibility and preservation of valuable documents while minimizing physical storage requirements.
Without OCR, scanned documents are just images, but with it, they become truly digital documents which can leverage all the benefits of digital formats, like searchability, easy editability, and format flexibility.
In order to help you get the most out of your documents, we offer OCR on all of our scanning projects, no matter how big or small. After your files are digitized using our top-of-the-line scanning equipment, our dedicated quality assurance team will make all the necessary adjustments to ensure OCR compatibility. When our OCR tools are finished with your documents, you’ll be able to search any section instantly, making it easier to find important information quickly.
Get in touch with our scanning experts today to learn more about how document scanning and OCR can enhance your document management, saving you time and money with lightning-fast searchability and far more efficient document storage.