OCR Software

The Best 6 Free and Open Source OCR Software

The Best 6 Free and Open Source OCR Software

With the digital revolution firmly underway worldwide, several key business processes are undergoing full-scale revamp to become highly atoned with technological innovations. One of the critical improvements in the recent era highlights physical documents' transformation to machine language-based text documents, alongside text from scanned images. 

All of the above is possible, thanks to Optical character recognition (OCR) software and systems. Through this blog, GoodFirms highlights the critical applications, features, and advantages and documents’ transformation, along with the working of OCR software. This blog delves into how OCR solutions affect the bottom line for a business. 

So what are you waiting for? Please read on below to figure out how some of the best free and open source OCR solutions fit in with your business and how they make a positive impact.     

Introduction to Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Considered a significant boon for businesses worldwide today, OCR is the science and technology behind the conversion of printed text within images, non-editable electronic documents (PDF), and hard-copy records into various machine-searchable and editable data formats. The formats include data storage in Word, Excel, and PDF - besides others. 

Optical character recognition finds application when text within an image needs extraction into a format that the user can then read or edit. Optical Character readers are complex programs that rely on patterns within the images that resemble alpha-numeric text. The algorithm then creates a record of characters in machine-language text in the specified format. 

OCR technology is rooted in the late 1800s, thanks to the efforts of Charles R. Carey, who invented the first retina scanner. A century later, Ray Kurzweil developed the first OCR program to recognize text in any form. The start of the 21st century saw the proliferation of multiple WebOCR applications taking advantage of the cloud computing revolution. HP and the University of Nevada developed the first cross-platform and free OCR engine ‘Tesseract,’ which later Google bought and is the origin of many free and open source OCR software. 

Applications of OCR 

An OCR tool is essential if someone - either a university student or a detective - needs information in various formats extracted into plain, editable text. A field relying on OCR systems is healthcare, where millions of paperbound transcriptions, prescriptions, and patient records are undergoing digitization. The OCR software solutions will take the alpha-numeric text out of scanned images of these hard-copy records and store them in relevant formats in centralized databases. Patients and healthcare workers have quick access to it. 

In the banking world, the Optical character reader converts billions of bytes of banking information (Cheques, deposit data, etc.) into easy-to-access electronic data, 99 percent accurate and available 24x7 without degradation, thanks to automated tasks. One of the essential points to remember here is that OCR helps preserve data in electronic forms, especially for historical data records that need preservation to prevent complete loss.

An OCR app can be a crucial tool, helping to crystallize fraud in either banking transactions or other legal issues. The extracted text from the software can be cross-checked with other records to legitimize records. Another industry where OCR systems are growing in popularity is logistics and supply chain. The software can read and extract meaningful information about products, such that delivery, sales, and production dates, for business efficiency.  

Besides the above, OCR apps - free and open source OCR software and paid version - are already widely used in the travel, cinema, and entertainment industries, with their implementation set to grow widely.  

What is OCR Software?

A suite of digital tools, optical character recognition (OCR) software, helps users convert the text in images, and other forms of non-editable documents, into machine-encoded text, which can be further edited and stored electronically. It is applicable for data entry fields, where hard copy documents - Legal records, Business and ID cards, data printouts, etc. - can be converted into digitized text. It can further be processed, edited, searched, and stored electronically in databases.   

Besides this, the software has a host of additional functions such as document storage, Grayscale conversion, text processing, etc. Optical character reader software combines cognitive computing, Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networking, Text Analysis, and Mining. Whether it is free and open source OCR software or premium versions, all OCR software solutions provide the same functionality.    

Working of OCR Software

The entire optical character recognition process consists of four essential steps: most OCR software solutions do efficiently. Despite being inherently complex programs, the OCR online systems have streamlined functions.  

Pre-Processing  

Before scanning for text within an image, it needs to be ‘pre-processed.’ This usually means removing errors within the image. The text within the image is easily scannable, and. Some of the most important preprocessing steps are as follows - 

  • Deskew
  • Despeckle
  • Binarization (Making the image Black and White)
  • Line Elimination
  • Zonal selection of image for conversion
  • Word and line detection 
  • Script analysis and recognition
  • Character Isolation (Segmentation of artifact-based characters into individual ones)
  • Normalization  

Feature Extraction 

After pre-processing, the next step involves extracting the text. OCRs usually deploy two different techniques for feature extraction: 

  • In the first technique, The algorithm detects a character by analyzing lines and strokes from scripts.
  • In the second technique, an entire character is directly compared with known alphabets in scripts to develop a character.  

The feature extraction stage also involves a binary matrix creation process, where the actual character extraction occurs. The matrix involves 1s (Black) - highlighting the character - and space around as 0s (White). Each name is an individual matrix, with the algorithm creating a circle around it and calculating the radius from the circle’s center to the most distant 1 in the matrix. Splitting the circle into equal sub-sections then follows. 

Why is the above step done? The algorithm uses this circle, and its subsections, to analyze different scripts and characters within those scripts to arrive at the most identical character from a script, font, and size. The comparison refers to a central library of characters from different scripts.

Post-Processing: 

This stage involves comparing a character to a lexicon (or dictionary) of words from languages. Online OCR libraries ensure that the software can maintain high accuracy levels by detecting words seamlessly, like Google’s Tesseract library. 

The extracted text could either be a string of text or a single character is output onto a file, usually a word document (.Doc), a PDF, or a simple Text file (.txt). OCR systems are programmed to ensure the extracted text maintains the same font and size as the original text in the scanned image.  

Error and Grammar Correction 

Here, various techniques ensure the words extracted make sense, eliminating all grammatical mistakes, and syntax is appropriate.

OCR Procedure

OCR for Business needs

OCR software solutions bring unparalleled advantages for businesses looking at improving processes. First, any OCR software scythes off thousands of hours of manual work in manual data entry. By combining the power of automation with OCR’s technology and accuracy, hundreds of thousands of documents can be converted to their required formats in a single day, without human intervention. It helps redeploy labor for maximum productivity and helps the organization grow businesses in other sectors. 

Second, OCR helps businesses lower dependence on their physical document inventory. The digitization of these records, and subsequent storage in data warehouses, helps organizations search, edit, refer and cite necessary transcripts, which they may not have otherwise been able to do, which allows them to improve business processes. 

Third, an OCR Tool gets firms to lower accrued costs. The trimming of expenses is related to the physical handling of documents and manual processes involved in converting them to digital form. Even business processes that seemed too costly to run can be optimized to digitize records to make them more profitable. 

Fourth, the adoption of OCR technologies prepares companies better for future trends in document and image processing. In this way, companies develop a competitive advantage over their rivals -  in terms of services offered and value generated from clients or within the organization.   

Features of OCR Software

The ubiquity of OCR scanner Software makes it an essential tool in many business houses today. Besides just standard image processing functionality, an OCR Tool must possess the following functionalities:

OCR Core Feature

Advantages of OCR Software

Thanks to the wide-spread application of OCR Software solutions, their benefits are taken for granted. A well-structured OCR system is a big boost for businesses - not just limited to customer services. Here are some of the essential advantages of the OCR Scanner highlighted -

Benefits of OCR Software

Top Free and Open Source OCR Software

OCR Software Comparison Table

*- Limit on File Size Upload

** Free Trial

#1 FreeOCR 

A free and open source OCR software, FreeOCR runs on Google’s Tesseract OCR PDF engine, one of the leading OCR technologies, the latest version being Tesseract V3. The software runs specifically on Windows operating system computers, with the newest version of the software (v5.4.1) supports multiple versions. The software requires a desktop document scanner that runs on the Twain or the WIA driver for image conversion. 

The Optical character reader (OCR)Reader can open most scanned PDFs as well as Tiff images. FreeOCR’s promoters have also promised a searchable PDF conversion in the future. The OCR Scanner Software’s image to text converter has very high accuracy and page layout analysis so that there’s no need to use a zone selection tool.

Free OCR Demo

Source - FreeOCR

Key features of FreeOCR are as follows - 

  • Multi-Language Support
  • Batch Processing
  • Image Pre-Processor 
  • OCR zone selection
  • Image Scanner
  • PDF Converter
  • Microsoft Word Exporter

#2 SimpleOCR

A free OCR Software, SImpleOCR guarantees a 99% accuracy in converting an image or paper document into electronic text form. Exclusively Windows-based (versions 1-10), the PDF OCR Software needs a TWAIN driver-supporting scanner as a prerequisite before it can start scanning and converting images. 

Simple OCR Demo

Source - SimpleOCR

Some of the essential features of SimpleOCR are as follows: 

  • Huge Dictionary 
  • Despeckle (To filter out ‘noise’ from the document)
  • Format Retention
  • Plain Text Extractor
  • Simplified Error Correction
  • Batch OCR
  • Zone OCR
  • Multi-Format Input support 
  • Multi-Language Support

#3 CVision OCR Engine

CVision OCR is a free and open source OCR software that promises its users easily searchable text in DOC and PDF formats. The OCR System’s bundling with CVision PDFcompressor makes it useful for high volume, high accuracy document processing and conversion. It is a  Windows and Windows Server system-based software, and promises reduced processing of hard documents, emphasizing automation of specific tasks. 

Free Online OCR can be used to digitize both past and present documents for quicker retrieval, compliance checks, and access. An Optical Character reader supports over 110 languages and promises extreme file compression, saving resources, and cost. Furthermore, the processing speed of the OCR software is about five pages per second!

CVision Demo

Source - CVision OCR Engine 

Key features of CVision OCR Engine are as follows - 

  • Convert to PDF
  • Indexing
  • Multi-format outputs
  • Multilingual Support 
  • Image Pre-Processing
  • Batch Preprocessing
  • Intelligent Text Layer Processing
  • Easy Share options
  • Zonal OCR 
  • PDF Encryption and Security
  • Text Editor

#4 OnlineOCR.net

Free Online OCR solution, OnlineOCR.net helps extract text from images and PDF format and convert them into editable formats such as Word docs, Excel, and Text forms. All the user needs to do is upload a document, choose the favored language, and into what format the user would like their text (Word, PDF, etc.), and press the ‘CONVERT’ button. The process takes a matter of minutes, with the OCR online’s accuracy and language integrations (46 dialects supported), making it a smooth facility to use. 

Even though the software is free to use, certain premium features will only be available once the user registers themselves on the platform.

OnlineOCR Demo

Source - OnlineOCR 

Key features of OnlineOCR.net are as follows - 

  • Automatic Image Rotation 
  • Batch Processing
  • Image Pre-Processing
  • Multiple Image Formats
  • Multi-lingual Support
  • PDF Converter
  • Full-page Image Deskew
  • Black and White Image Creator
  • Non-Text Colour Retention

#5 FileCentre Automate

Formerly known as FileConvert, this PDF OCR software converts hard copied text and images into searchable PDFs and other computer text formats in bulk. FileCenter Automate, as the name suggests, automates the entire OCR process so that you are left attending other vital tasks. In this OCR tool, PDF OCR online is compatible with Adobe Acrobat and several other western languages. 

The basic version of the software allows for the conversion of 500 pages every day. The company boasts of over 50,000 happy customers in the 15 years of its existence. One of the best OCR software, FileCentre OCR, is integrable with multiple third-party applications for seamless resource transfer (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.). At the same time, it offers the ability to run on a computer server or cloud service.

FileCenter Automate-Demo

Source - FileCentre OCR

Key Features of FileCenter Automate are as follows - 

  • Indexing 
  • Text Editor
  • PDF Converter 
  • Zone Selector
  • Image Pre-Processing
  • Multiple Image Formats
  • Efficient Document Storage 
  • Flexible Job Scheduler (for task automation)
  • Network Scanner
  • Folder Watch   

#6 OCR.Space

An online OCR software, OCR. Space uses images taken from any camera-devices into editable text. Users may upload the pictures on the website (taken in .JPG, PNG, GIF, and PDF formats), choose the language of conversion, and the form in which one will use the documents. The only restriction laden on the users is to ensure that all uploads are below 5 MB in size. 

The OCR Scanner Software has its API, which allows for OCR task automation and built processing on images. Users may subscribe to a PDF Pro plan, which removes the limitations on the number of documents scanned and the uploads’ size. The OCR Online is implementable as an on-premise or a cloud solution.

OCRSpace Demo

Source - OCR.Space

Key features of OCR.Space is as follows - 

  • Batch Processing
  • ID Scanning
  • Image Pre-Processing
  • Multilingual Support 
  • Multi-format support 
  • Text Layering
  • Convert-to-PDF 
  • Zone Selection 

The OCR industry is kicking up a storm with their novel solutions and products such as PDFPen, Easy ScreenOCR, and Square 9 Softworks to provide the right technology in their OCR tools to eliminate and automate several rudimentary tasks you may have. One of the most popular software in the OCR software industry is Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, which we will take a look at below. Though not a free and open source OCR software, the acrobat is a prevalent option owing to its functionality and industry recommendation.    

Adobe Acrobat DC

A timeless software out of the legendary enterprise firm Adobe’s stables, the Acrobat DC is a software version that helps users manage, convert, and share documents in PDF form. Acrobat efficiently and seamlessly integrates OCR software into its solution set. The PDF OCR software can not only extract information from images, and other documents instantly post upload, but it can also recognize the text in its exact formatting. It allows the converter to maintain format (font, spaces) as the original document, owing to its custom font generation. 

The newly created smart PDFs, from the Adobe Acrobat OCR text extraction process, contains searchable and copyable text while maintaining the original documents’ status quo. The software is available on a Free Trial basis.Adobe Acrobat Demo

Source - Adobe Acrobat DC

Some features of Adobe Acrobat DC are as follows - 

  • Batch Processing
  • ID Scanning
  • Image Pre-Processing
  • Multilingual Support 
  • Multi-format support 
  • Indexing
  • Convert-to-PDF 
  • Zone Selection 
  • Metadata Extraction 
  • Text Editor   

Conclusion

The OCR industry was worth over $6.2 billion in 2019, as per significant research experts. With the same experts forecasting a 13.7 percent rise per annum in the revenue of OCR technology producing companies, it is evident as to the sheer potential the software offers multiple industries. Organizations, big and small, require easy access to digitized documents, which OCR effectively contributes to. It is worth noting that OCR software - both free and open source OCR Software and paid premium versions - contributes seamlessly to business process improvement and overall bottom-line development.    

Check out the most innovative and applicable OCR software on the GoodFirms' portal. We love to hear about your take on our article - leave a comment below, and we will get back to you. 

Do you have specific feedback about any software we have mentioned on our list? Let us know what you think on our feedback portal. If you are interested in learning about other software, then be sure to read our dedicated Software Directory - where your quest for any software will be successful.    

Jason Adams
Jason Adams

Jason Adams is a writer with a keen interest to continue learning and develop his research abilities. An avid reader and an eye towards growth, he is associated with GoodFirms, a frontline, and evolving reviews and rating platform.

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