Scanning documents is an essential activity for every business. It assumes more importance for document-heavy industries like healthcare, insurance, and logistics. There can be different documents to process, from one-pager invoices to multiple-page reports. Now, if you are looking to make your life easier, you would want to invest in a comprehensive optical character recognition (OCR) software.
But how do you go about choosing the best OCR software? With so many options to choose from, finding the right one can indeed get tough. Fortunately, this guide is here you help you find the best OCR software for your business.
What is Optical Character Recognition?
Optical character recognition (OCR) technology is a type of computer vision that identifies and extracts printed text from an image. This technology helps convert scanned images into editable text, which you can save as a Word or PDF file.
OCR technology also helps extract information from documents that may be too damaged to read. For example, you may have an old business document detailing vital information. However, it has got crinkled and torn over time. With the help of OCR software, you can pull out the relevant information from the document to investigate it further.
The basic idea behind OCR is that machines get trained to recognize specific patterns in images. In the case of OCR, those patterns are characters written on paper or displayed on a screen. There is a need to give examples from real-world data sets to train the algorithms to recognize these patterns.
For instance, developers may want the algorithm to recognize handwritten numbers. They would give it examples of handwritten numbers and tell it how each one should look when algorithms have finished processing them.
What is the History of Optical Character Recognition?
It was 1974 when Ray Kurzweil launched his company Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc. He launched an OCR product that identified patterns in a given text irrespective of its font. Upon subsequent research, Ray found that one of the best ways to grow the technology was to make it friendly for the blind.
He created a reading machine that read text aloud to the blind. Six years down the line, Ray sold his company to Xerox in 1980. Xerox had a particular interest in bringing to the masses the technology that enables the conversion of written text into a computer-based format. Over the course of the decade, OCR started gaining relevance.
One of the popular use cases of OCR at that time was turning historical newspapers into digital formats. There have been steady advancements in OCR since then with the continuous growth of technology. What started as a basic pattern-identifying solution in texts has the backing of cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies today.
OCR leverages several advanced methodologies to simplify and automate document scanning activities for businesses now. If not for OCR, every business would have to do manual data entries. It would have been an immensely time-consuming activity, which would remain prone to errors.
How does OCR work?
An OCR software uses inbuilt scanners to process physical documents. The software copies all the pages and converts each document into a new version with two colors or a black-white combination. Each document’s sections get divided into dark and light areas when the scanning process gets completed.
Light areas get identified as background, while dark ones as characters that need further analysis. The software works in dark areas to detect alphabets and numbers. The software analyses individual words, characters, and blocks to ensure precision. Feature recognition and pattern recognition functions help identify characters in the text.
An OCR software gets training for pattern and feature recognition, with examples in various fonts and formats. It helps recognize characters in any image or document. Similarly, OCR uses relevant rules to identify specific letters and numbers as part of feature recognition.
Feature recognition is complex as it involves identifying curves, crossed lines, and angled lines. The letter ‘D’ would get trained in the system as a single line with a curved, semi-circular line. When the software identifies characters, it converts them to ASCII codes. The tool would then work on it further to produce the desired results.
Steps in the OCR process
Here are the various steps involved in the optical character recognition process.
A scanner analyzes images and documents to convert them into binary data. Next, the OCR software conducts image analysis to identify light and dark areas.
The OCR software ensures there are no errors for further analysis by reducing errors from the images. It would fix alignment problems, smooth edges, remove digital image spots, clean lines, and boxes, and identify language script.
It involves pattern matching and feature extraction. Pattern matching includes comparing isolated character images with stored ones. These are glyphs, and the process works well if there are similar fonts and scales. Feature extraction involves decomposing glyphs into features and using them to find the best available matches.
The system automatically converts the extracted data into digital files. OCR software can also produce output files in PDF format.
What is the Importance of OCR?
OCR is a powerful tool for organizations looking to improve their efficiency and effectiveness by eliminating the need for manual inputting. An OCR software scans volumes of paperwork effortlessly, which may take extensive time and space. This paper-based information is then ideal for integration into your existing business processes.
OCR also allows you to make better decisions faster by improving access to vital information stored in printed documents. By making it easier for decision-makers to access this information, OCR helps increase productivity and efficiency in your organization.
The Best OCR Software to Process your Documents
Here are four best OCR software your business can use right away.
VisionERA is a proprietary intelligent document processing (IDP) platform offered by AmyGB. It is one of the best OCR software and works in three stages: decode, decipher, and decide. You need to upload a document or a complete batch to begin the process.
In the first step, the software will pre-process the documents to improve their quality for better extraction. A series of algorithms detect and remove noise from pictures and apply filters to enhance overall contrast and color depth. After this process, it becomes possible to obtain a clear picture, auto classify, and index them for further steps.
In the second step, the NLP uses its deep learning network to extract relevant data. The primary role of this step is to identify and pull necessary data to make a decision based on this information. The validation and verification of information depend on triangulation and business logic.
The last step is uploading the data to the relevant application. This step also involves downloading the data in Excel files. You can expect excellent speed and accuracy at which your documents get processed.
Here are some standout features offered by VisionERA.
- Plug-n-Play and drag-and-drop capabilities
- DIY configuration of user interface using drag and drop
- Platform independent and cloud-native configuration
- Human-AI interface for 100% accuracy
- Scalability and flexibility
- Self-trainable ML algorithm
- IDP insights board
- Competitive pricing
It is second on our list of the best OCR software. As a cloud-based service platform, Ocr.space allows you to scan and convert images into PDF files. It only takes a few steps, and you get the output in editable PDF files. It leverages optical character recognition technology and allows you to upload input files in various formats. These include JPG, PNG, WEBP, and PDF formats. You can also share URLs that redirect to source files.
Here are the various functions offered by the platform:
- Auto-enlarge documents to improve their quality
- Scan receipts with the help of a table recognition system
- Change image orientations as necessary
- Make PDF files searchable for quick navigation
- Get OCR engine options for output
You can use their free online OCR service if you do not have many documents to scan. There’s no need to register and create an account to use the free service. OCR.space also makes it easier to convert a document with multiple pages. But you need to be aware of the file size restrictions, which is 5 MB.
They also offer a free OCR API that you can leverage to work on several files at once. It will help you extract the text in JSON format. You can send as many as 500 requests within one day using the same IP address.
The premium version offers you advanced functionalities, including reduced response times for scanning your documents. There are also no file size and other limitations that come with a free version. You can also get the premium version of OCR.space as software you can install on your system.
Microsoft Office Lens
Microsoft Office Lens is the official app of Microsoft Office. It is one of the best OCR software to get clear and readable images as the output by inputting printed documents or written texts. The app works in just a few clicks to give the desired results. You can open the app and choose between document mode and blackboard mode.
The first option lets you crop images and colors to prepare them better for scanning. Meanwhile, the blackboard mode allows you to crop images and delete glares. You can use the app on your mobile phone to click photos of documents, whiteboards, receipts, handwritten documents, QR codes, and more.
You can also import images from your devices. The application scans your input files and improves their quality while scanning. The result is editable documents that you can save, share, collaborate, and export. As the app uses OCR, you can expect better clarity and readability.
Docsumo is another best OCR software that allows you to extract data from images and PDF files. It works even on complicated layouts as it leverages advanced deep learning tools. You do not need to do any manual process as the tool automates everything for your convenience.
All you need to do is import the files you want to scan and get started. It is essential to remember that Docsumo supports only scanned images and PDF file format with a document size of up to 20 MB and four pages. The tool will process and extract the information. You can then review and make changes that you feel are necessary.
The tool allows you to download the output files in various formats. These include TXT, CSV, JSON, and Excel. There are also no privacy concerns as the tool will delete the input files from the server once the process is complete. The other notable features include extracting information from tables and converting files from PDF to Excel format.
Docsumo also offers a Chrome extension that you can use to copy, save, and share webpage content with others. The extension also enables screenshot capabilities and extracts text from them. You can review the text before sharing them with others.
Here are Various Benefits your Business can enjoy with OCR tools.
Improved productivity is the first benefit of using OCR software. With this technology, users can scan and convert documents into text files with ease and in minutes. This makes it easy for them to use the extracted information swiftly to move ahead with processes and workflows.
OCR allows you to reduce costs by automating the document scanning process. It saves money and time because it eliminates the need for manual labor and reduces errors caused by human error. For example, it can be costly if your company has employees who scan documents manually. Those workers will need salaries and benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, among other expenses.
Increases Accuracy and Consistency
OCR software improves accuracy and consistency when it comes to document scanning. It is critical for businesses that need to keep records organized. OCR allows you to search information contained in a particular document as well. All scanned documents get converted into text files that computers and humans can read.
Reduces the need for Physical Storage of Documents
An OCR software reduces the need for physical storage of documents as you can convert them into electronic format. You can then store them in a digital database. OCR also ensures that documents get stored as text files on servers. You can access documents through a computer regardless of their location.
Offers Better Data Security
Data security is one of the most vital things to consider when it comes to your business documents. With OCR software, you can ensure your data remains safe and secure because it will get converted into a digital format. You can rest assured no one can access your information without your permission. It is especially critical if you deal with sensitive documents or files.
When you use OCR software, you can promote text searchability for everyone. Users can find specific information within the text without manually searching through the document. It is helpful when dealing with large volumes of documents, especially if they are in a foreign language or contain unfamiliar terminology.
Enables Document Editing
One of the advantages of using OCR software is that it enables you to edit documents. You can fix errors, change formatting, and add or remove text. This can make your documents more professional-looking and easier to read. With OCR, you get the freedom to adjust the spacing and font size of your document and highlight areas in different colors. You can even insert text boxes, tables, and images.
Promotes disaster recovery
One of the overlooked benefits of using OCR software is its ability to promote disaster recovery. Many businesses rely on their internal storage systems to store essential data. But what happens when they get damaged or destroyed by fire or other disasters?
If you have an OCR system, you can access your data through a different source, such as a server. It is helpful if your data is in a database that uses proprietary software and can only get accessed by the computer it's stored on.
OCR Use Cases across Industries
Here’s how various industries are leveraging OCR for their internal document processing needs.
Optical character recognition software helps the banking industry by allowing banks to process financial documents quickly and accurately. Banks can seamlessly process critical documents like cheques to gather account information and process mortgage applications.
Recognition of characters is a vital component of many internal banking processes. However, the process can be time-consuming and expensive when done manually. OCR software allows banks to perform this task much more efficiently and economically, which helps them focus on other aspects of improving their operations.
OCR software helps the insurance industry by allowing them to quickly and easily scan documents. It thus reduces the time it takes for them to process claims. Insurance companies need to process documents quickly and accurately to keep up with the growing demand for their services.
OCR allows insurance companies to scan paper documents and convert them into digital files for easy storage and accessibility. They do not have to wait hours or days for data entry operators to process documents manually. Insurance companies can reduce their costs because they don't have to hire as many employees.
Legal documents can be a real hassle to read. Not only do they have a lot of technical jargon but they're also often written in tiny font and hard to read. That's where OCR software comes in.
OCR helps the legal industry by allowing users to scan complex and lengthy legal documents and convert them into editable text. The ability to edit documents easily is critical for lawyers, who often need to alter or delete a document's sections to make it more relevant to their case.
In addition, OCR software converts scanned documents into PDFs or other formats that legal professionals can easily share with clients or other parties involved in litigation processes.
OCR software helps the healthcare industry in many ways. First, it allows doctors and nurses to improve their efficiency. Instead of typing information manually, they can scan it into their computer and move on to the next patient. It can be helpful when they need to see several patients with similar symptoms or conditions.
Secondly, OCR helps medical professionals find information quickly and easily. If a doctor or nurse wants to look for a patient's prior diagnosis or treatment plan, they can scan through the files much more quickly than if they had to flip through each one manually. Finally, OCR helps reduce the time spent searching for information in paper files.
The logistics industry is a large and complicated one. To ensure everything runs smoothly, you need a technology that can act as a central hub for all of your supply chain data. OCR allows logistics personnel to scan any document and turn it into an editable format. They can keep track of all the documents and records in a centralized repository.
OCR also allows integrating this information with other systems like ERP or CRM systems for easy data access. It becomes much easier for businesses that want to improve their overall efficiency by ensuring every part of their operation works smoothly.
The above points will help you in your search to find the best OCR software. While there are several options to choose from, you need something reliable that your team can trust with their time and efforts. VisionERA is one of the best options that is a sure way to increase your internal operational efficiencies and skyrocket your team’s productivity levels.
It serves several use cases and is ideal for every document-heavy business. Whether you have a large or small-scale business, you cannot ignore the benefits of automation. And with scope for customization according to your business needs, you do not have to worry about anything.
Contact us today for a free demo of VisionERA. You can also send us a query using our contact us page!