Understanding OCR

When shopping for a multifunction printer or using the one you already have, you may find a reference to OCR technology or software. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, but what is it? And why do you want it?

OCR Text

An OCR-optimized font for easier recognition.

Optical Character Recognition takes the images from a scanner or other input source and identifies the text. It then attempts to “recognize” the characters and convert them into editable text files. The result is like the difference between a picture of a printed document and the actual word processor file itself. You can’t copy or edit the text from the picture, only view it. Here are a few of the major benefits of using OCR software to convert paper documents into editable, digital documents.

Benefits of Optical Character Recognition:

  • Easy editing – Once the OCR software has converted the text, you can copy and paste it into other documents, correct spelling, and more.
  • Searching – Looking for that single receipt from years ago is difficult among boxes of papers, but digital documents can be searched for specific keywords quickly and easily.
  • Less paper, less space – Once documents are converted to digital versions, you can recycle the originals, saving space in your home or office.
  • Easy backups – Backing up digital files can be as simple as copying them to a disc or external hard drive, unlike paper documents which must be physically copied.
  • Accessibility – Users with vision impairment can convert documents to text so that they can be read aloud using voice-over technology.

OCR software packages can be purchased on their own, to be used with almost any scanning device, but the price for some of the better packages can be fairly high. In many cases, OCR software is included with many multifunction or all-in-one printers, however, saving buyers the extra cost.

Models like the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600, for example, include an automatic document feeder and a flatbed platen for scanning. Once paper documents are scanned into the computer, users can select the OCR option within the software to create a digital file with editable text. Some laser multifunction devices even have OCR built into the machine itself, enabling them to make editable PDF documents of scanned files without the need for a computer.

While OCR technology has been around for many years, accuracy continues to improve, making it a more viable option for users. If you think you might benefit from converting old paper documents to digital files, look for an OCR option the next time you are shopping for an office machine, and you can reap the benefits of this amazing technology. In the meantime, if you already have a scanner, you can even use online OCR tools to handle the conversion for you.

Greg Gladman
Greg Gladman has two degrees from the University of Cincinnati and prides himself on managing the operations and customer service at Ink Technologies. With a mind like a vault, he is full of useful and useless information, making him an asset to the company and to his Tuesday night trivia team. When he is not working, he spends his time bowling and playing golf. Greg dedicates much of his free time to raising money and awareness in support of the fight against blood cancers.

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