How Does OCR Software Work?

Posted by Kristen Bowers on Jan 21, 2019 5:47:08 PM

How much time have you spent looking for a stray piece of paper in the files or stacks of paper?

By digitizing your hard copy documents with optical character recognition software into space-saving, easily organized and searched electronic files, you can save much as 40% of your time as you work more efficiently and productively.

What Is Optical Character Recognition?

In simple terms, optical character recognition software (OCR) takes scans of typed, handwritten, or printed documents and converts them into machine-encoded electronic files. Whether the documents are government papers, receipts, invoices, reports or anything else, the digitized texts can be easily stored, edited, searched, shared, and displayed.   

At first glance, OCR may seem like a relatively simple procedure, but a lot of complexities are involved. When converting type, a good OCR software solution has to read and recognize the many different kinds of typefaces, with their individual weights and design characteristics.

Most programs use special detection tools to do this, with some even relying on neural networks for the work, which are computer programs that mimic the capacity of the brain to recognize and extract patterns automatically.

The OCR Software Handwriting Challenge

Recognizing and accurately converting handwriting is more challenging than typed documents for OCR software, due to the vast differences in people's writing styles. With incomplete letters, messy scribbles, and letters running into one another, handwriting is more easily recognized by the human brain.

That said, advances in OCR software are making it better at the task. That is helped by using paper forms with separate boxes or faint guidelines, known as comb fields, forcing people to isolate letters and form them more clearly. (Think of the forms that you fill out to renew your driver’s license.)

When it comes to OCR software’s handling of handwriting in smartphones and computer tablets, these devices have the advantage of being able to tackle each character as it is drawn, rather than being presented with a finished page of scribbles. For example, as you write a capital A, the touchscreen software can use feature extraction to sense the angled strokes connected by a horizontal bar, to recognize the letter.

What Does a Professional OCR Process Involve?

To do OCR on an industrial scale, handling a high volume of documents quickly and accurately, requires:

  • Getting the best-quality copy of a printout

  • Scanning with a high-capacity sheet-fed scanner (rather than a flatbed one)

  • Generating a black-and-white version of a colour or greyscale page, which makes it easier for the OCR software to recognize letters

  • Using advanced OCR software to recognize text letter by letter, word by word, and line by line

  • Correcting mistakes with the program’s error-checking features

  • Automatically analyzing the layout for multiple columns of text, graphics, tables, and other features that can be reproduced in the electronic document

  • Proofreading by a human, which is vital since OCR software is never perfect, no matter how sophisticated

With more than 40 years of experience, MES Hybrid Document Systems is trusted by companies large and small as they make the shift from a paper-based filing system to an electronic document management one.

Contact us today for a free quote on how your office can go paperless.  

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