Handwritten documents are common for most businesses, especially ones that deal with manual invoices. But how do you process them quickly when they are in bulk and fonts are not so clear. You probably would want to leverage an OCR handwriting recognition software.
But what exactly is it, and how does it work? Furthermore, you would also want to know how automation in that regard helps you save time. Let’s get answers to all your questions in this article.
What is Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Technology?
Optical Character Recognition is the process of converting images of printed text into machine-encoded text. The term "optical" refers to the fact that the technology uses images of printed pages as input. Images get scanned and converted into electronic information, which you can store, interpret, and use to create a searchable database or document.
An OCR system is a software program you can use to convert a physical document into digital form. Besides helping businesses with document processing needs, OCR is also beneficial for children and adults who face difficulties reading written texts. In the past when OCR got launched, people used it extensively to digitize hard copies of historical documents.
How does the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Technology work?
OCR technology uses a combination of Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision, and Machine Learning to identify letters, words, and phrases in images. It then translates them into editable text.
Here’s how OCR works.
The underlying concept of OCR is to convert images into machine-readable text by extracting the characters from the image. Converting an image into text happens in two stages: segmentation and classification. Segmentation involves dividing the image into individual characters or words before classification. The classification step includes applying a suitable algorithm to each segmented character to determine its identity.
The main advantage of using OCR technology is that it is fast and reliable. OCR software can read and process large batches of images at once, saving time and money associated with manual processing. The results are precise and accurate because the program recognizes small letters, numbers, and symbols.
Essential Techniques of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software
Here are the three techniques used by an OCR software to process images.
It is the first step in the OCR process, which involves preparing images for OCR scanning and using an algorithm to detect and correct defects in the image. The most common problem is noise, which can be due to a low-resolution camera or poor lighting conditions.
AI Character Recognition
AI character recognition is a machine learning technique that allows the OCR software to recognize and identify characters in images. It can detect the type of font used in a document to identify and separate each word in the text. This technique involves pattern recognition and feature recognition to identify characters and their attributes.
The AI component of the OCR software corrects errors at this step before releasing it as the output. Developers can train the AI with a list of possible terms and limit its ability to ensure it sticks to the given input.
Types of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software
Here are some of the most common software based on their application and use.
Simple OCR software
A simple OCR software stores fonts and text image patterns as templates in its database. So, when it sees a character, it compares it with its library of known characters and determines if it matches one of those patterns. If so, it outputs that character as text. The process is optical word recognition when the system detects texts on a word-to-word basis.
Intelligent character recognition software
It looks for curves, intersections, and loops that are vital image attributes to analyze and deliver the output. Intelligent character recognition software finds use in applications where you need to understand different types of images. The software can handle both text and handwriting in one application.
Intelligent Word Recognition
Intelligent word recognition software processes whole word images, unlike character-based OCR. These programs can recognize handwritten, typed text, and scanned documents.
Optical Mark Recognition
An optical mark recognition software helps identify watermarks, symbols, and logos within a document.
What is Handwriting OCR?
Handwriting OCR is all about extracting relevant data from digital documents. It even works on documents whose quality is not at a desired level. Handwriting OCR is an evolved version of traditional OCR that lacked behind on many fronts.
Traditional OCR systems initially got trained on symbols and fonts to identify variations in machine-printed texts. However, the system posed several limitations. While they could extract text from paper, there was no way they could read handwriting. It was primarily because of the variations that come with handwriting.
Challenges Associated with Traditional OCR
As we have already seen, variations in handwriting were one of the limitations of traditional OCR systems. Organizations working with such systems had to adjust to limitations and finish their work in ways they can. Traditional OCR systems handled almost the entire workflows related to documents. In case of complicated handwriting, businesses had to do a manual analysis and data entry.
However, a combination of automated and manual processes posed several challenges for businesses. Some of these included accuracy issues because of mistyped texts. Another concern was privacy and security issues. It was especially critical for sensitive and regulated industries and government institutions.
Handwriting OCR had still not become mainstream, leading to people believing that OCR had only limited capabilities. The evolution and emergence of handwriting OCR thus simplified things and overcame existing challenges.
How Does Handwriting OCR Work?
Handwriting OCR systems are miles ahead of their traditional counterparts and achieved a lot more. Here are the various elements of a handwriting OCR system.
Knowing Computer vision, AI and ML
There are several advanced technologies available in a handwriting OCR system like computer vision engines, artificial intelligence, and machine learning algorithms. A handwriting OCR tool would go beyond merely identifying the shapes of the letter. It would leverage the advanced technologies to read and understand the text with human capabilities.
Machine learning algorithms help a system learn and train itself for the future without any instructions. The system uses patterns and extrapolations based on its analysis. Meanwhile, the computer vision aspect of the handwriting OCR system uses automation to eliminate manual tasks.
Handwriting OCR gets the capability to mimic human reading capabilities with the help of advanced computer vision engines and machine learning models.
Making the Machine Learning Models Capable
As with any machine learning model, it will only be as good as the way it got trained. It is thus imperative to have a broader dataset. It ensures better training of the model and increases its effectiveness. However, quality should hold importance over quantity when you have a large dataset.
The training phase involves well-defined workflows that ensure a seamless process. As the algorithm gets trained over time, its quality will improve significantly. Achieving quality parameters requires a vast amount of quality data and significant time investment.
Getting the AI to Work
When you get done with training the algorithms and describing your workflows, it is time to get the AI to work and seek results. It is advisable to define the dataset you want the handwriting OCR system should work on. The dataset will also help you create a model you can suitably refine over time.
Things to look for When Investing in a Handwriting OCR Software
There are several OCR handwriting recognition tools out there, which can make it difficult for you to choose. It is thus critical to invest your time in researching the best possible solution. Here are some things you need to keep in mind.
The technology used by handwriting OCR software can make or break the quality of its output. The more advanced the technology, the better will be the results. There are various technologies that handwriting OCR software uses. Some of these typically include optical character recognition (OCR), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML).
OCR leverages image processing, while AI uses machine learning. A handwriting OCR software with advanced AI capabilities can recognize different types of handwritten text, including those written in cursive script or by children. Moreover, such software will recognize text written in a language other than what it got programmed for.
The software should accurately read the text written in your document and do so without any errors. You can measure the accuracy level of a handwriting OCR software by the number of characters it can recognize out of 100. If a handwriting OCR software can only identify 80% of the characters correctly, you may have difficulty using it.
The accuracy level depends on many factors, including the type of document you scan and the handwriting. If the document does not have clearly visible writing, it will be difficult for an OCR program to scan it.
Ease of Use
You want a program that does more than transfer text from images. It should be able to convert handwriting into digital text easily and accurately. The tool should recognize different types of handwriting and make sense of what's written on the document. It should also have some built-in features for correcting errors in case something goes wrong during conversion.
Ease of use also comes down to how easy it is to learn to use the software quickly and efficiently without spending much time figuring it out. It will help you save time converting documents and other files into digital format.
The market for handwriting OCR software is expanding rapidly. As a result, there are more options than ever with several companies offering their unique versions of the software. It can be tough to sort through the various tools and determine which one will work best for you.
If the service provider has been in business for more than three to five years, it is likely they know what they are doing. It is also critical to check whether they could meet the needs of their clients successfully. If they have met the most wants of their clients and solved different business cases, they are likely doing something right.
The price of the program can vary widely depending on the features offered by the various service providers. Some companies offer their products at a lower price because they have fewer features than others. Some other companies offer more features at a higher cost.
It is also best to compare prices among different companies before deciding to go ahead with the purchase. However, avoid going ahead with the cheapest option and look for solutions that will give the best returns in the long run.
Any good handwriting OCR software will offer reliable support services with its product. These services allow you to contact customer care directly for assistance with software-related issues software.
It is essential because issues might prevent your system from working with the handwriting OCR software. Even if you can't get help from the company's support team, they will usually be able to point you in the right direction. It will help you resolve the problem on your own.
Top OCR Software to Recognize Handwritten Documents
Here are the various software programs you can use to scan handwritten documents.
VisionERA is a leading OCR handwriting recognition software you can use to read, scan, and interpret handwritten documents. The platform has the backing of leading technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) algorithms, and natural language processing (NLP).
VisionERA will help your business overcome redundant and manual processes as an ideal solution to automate your workflows. It will help you process documents 20x faster and allow your team to experience 3x productivity. The platform also offers insights that help you promote an environment of data-driven decision-making.
Integrating VisionERA into your workflow will ensure no document is hard to read, and you will not have to waste your time behind it. With a 100% performance guarantee assurance, VisionERA will integrate with your business effortlessly without any third-party dependencies.
It is a software program you can use on platforms like Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Besides being a note-taking program, it also acts as a handwriting OCR app. All you need to do is import pictures of whose handwriting you want to recognize. You can right-click the picture to get the ‘copy text from picture’ option.
The command allows you to extract letters from digital images and convert them into editable texts. As a cloud-based program, you can use Microsoft OneNote for free and get the results in seconds. You can expect the application to deliver the desired results even if you have hard-to-read text as the input.
Google has a range of tools that can help you detect handwritten text and turn them into editable information. One of the first apps on this list is the Google Drive application. When you use it on your phone, you can click the ‘+’ icon and choose scan. You will get a PDF file as an output. While you cannot edit it in the drive, it is searchable. It is also a simple solution to index any handwritten document.
Now, you may also want to look for a solution that makes your extracted documents editable. One of the best ways of doing that is by using the Google Docs application. You can scan your input document and convert it into a PDF document. The next step is to open Google Drive and find the scanned file.
You can then open the file with Google Docs by right-clicking on it. The PDF document will open as a text file whose content you can copy, edit, or paste elsewhere. You also get the option to auto-save the editable version in Google Drive.
Another option in Google’s suite is the Google Lens app. It is available for iOS and Android systems and allows you to search for real-life objects by scanning them. The same is possible with written text, which you can achieve by pointing your camera at it. When you finish scanning, wait for the system to decode the information. You can then tap and complete the information search process.
It offers a website of the same name and works as a simple OCR platform to quickly scan your desired documents. All you need to do is visit the website, upload the input file, choose the desired output file format, and download the result. The entire process does not take more than a minute to get completed.
You also do not need to register yourself on the website if you want to access only the basic features. When submitting your input, you only have to enter the captcha to confirm you are not a bot.
It offers cheap plans and is easy to use for anyone irrespective of their experience using OCR software. Another advantage of Online OCR is that the software can recognize a range of languages.
It is a desktop-only tool that comes as a freeware solution to process handwritten documents. It can recognize up to 1,20,000 words and allows you to add additional words to the database. SimpleOCR claims 99% accuracy and makes it possible to identify formatted text.
When using the tool, you can also choose the option to ignore the existing formatting. If the handwritten documents do not have clear handwriting, you can also use the noisy document or despeckle feature. The tool also offers a speedy solution as it can process an entire document or parts within minutes.
You can also select the option to choose the documents in a batch and process them at once. The accuracy is better for documents with printed text instead of handwritten.
TopOCR is another handy handwriting recognition tool available for Windows users. You can upload images captured through a digital camera or a regular scanner. The platform offers a two-pane format for easy viewing of the source file and the result. You can find the original image on one side, while the other has the converted file.
TopOCR offers reliable results for documents with text written from left to right. The tool has less accuracy for documents with text spread across columns. TopOCR gives results for 11 input languages and supports exporting the output files in PDF format.
TopOCR offers a free trial version you can use to run the tool and see if it suits your business needs. However, it is essential to know that the system will only work for Microsoft Windows users.
FreeOCR is another Windows-only software you can use to process handwritten documents for your business. It works well with input files that have a PDF file format. It offers a quick conversion speed and decent accuracy. The tool allows you to scan files from almost every Twain scanner.
It can also open input files in image formats, multi-page tiff images, and scanned PDFs. The output is plain text that you can export as Microsoft Word documents. FreeOCR leverages the advanced Tesseract OCR engine to read and scan handwritten documents.
Use Cases of OCR Handwriting Recognition Software across Industries
Here’s how an OCR handwriting software finds its use across the different industries.
The insurance industry is a big market for OCR handwriting recognition software. In the insurance industry, this includes processing claims and policies. For example, if an insured person files a claim and sends it to the company’s headquarters, the company will scan the document and upload it to their servers for processing.
The document then gets converted into text using OCR technology. Companies can process more claims than they could if they had manual operations. Insurance companies also use this software to reduce the cost of storing and managing paper-based records. They can store all their records in digital format and access them from any location.
The healthcare industry is one of the largest users of OCR software. Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities use this technology to keep track of patients' records and medical history.
Patient records often remain in papers, making it difficult for medical professionals to find specific information quickly and efficiently. OCR software converts printed text into digital information that anyone can access anytime.
In healthcare applications, OCR helps convert medical records into digital format by capturing the handwritten notes in each patient’s record. This helps reduce the administrative costs related to managing paper documents and improving patient care.
For example, when a doctor writes down patient information on paper, it is often difficult to read or understand by other physicians unfamiliar with the patient’s history. OCR can scan these handwritten notes into a digital format so that they no longer remain limited by the quality of handwriting or language barriers.
OCR finds use in financial services to automate data entry, document processing, and regulatory compliance. For example, an OCR-enabled financial services application can automatically digitize and store paper documents by scanning them into the system.
It can then extract information from the documents and use it for other purposes. For example, OCR software can help with regulatory reporting or account reconciliation needs.
An OCR-enabled app is also ideal for processing incoming documents such as cheques or statements from customers and vendors. It will extract relevant information from these documents and translate it into digital data that users can store in a database or process further by other applications.
The logistics industry has a lot of paperwork. From shipping manifests to bills of lading, any company that ships goods need to be able to read and interpret these documents. An OCR software can help users understand this information, making it easier to know about their shipments and where they need to go next.
Logistics companies also do not have time to input all the information into their systems manually. OCR helps by automatically scanning these documents, converting them into digital data, and saving them as digital files or PDFs. You do not need to hire staff to input data into your business systems.
OCR handwriting recognition software is one of the best software solutions for document-heavy businesses. They can leverage the tool to read and understand handwritten documents and convert them into editable PDF documents. As there are several solutions in the market, choosing the best one can be tough. Remember to research well and understand your business needs thoroughly before investing in an OCR handwriting recognition software.