As humans many times we struggle to read a friends handwriting. This was more difficult during the postal handwritten letters days. But with computerization OCR has become more efficient and easier.

It is vital that machines and humans have a better understanding of each other to have the information passed to one another. Computers have their own devices we talk to them through devices like keyboards and mouse.

You can’t just write an old style letter with scribbles and expect the computer to read it with no confusion. That is why we have optical character recognition system (OCR).,   OCR is a type of software that automatically recognizes texts.

 

What is Optical Character Recognition (OCR)?

Optical character recognition or optical character reader ( OCR) is the mechanical or electronic conversions of images, texts, handwritten or printed into machine coded text.

When you read words on the computer screen, your eyes and brain are doing the work of OCR.  Your eyes recognize words, images, colors, patterns, etc. Your eyes act like the scanner by scanning whole group words at the same time. Computers can do this too but not as quickly as the human eyes.

Computers need to work harder than humans to scan any document, text, etc. So if you want a computer to read an old book or text, you need to present it with a picture of that page which is generated with an optical scanner.

Pages created through the scanner are in the graphics file usually in JPG format.   Whether its a picture of a page or Eiffel tower it’s completely meaningless for a computer if it is not scanned.

To convert all the paper documents in computer readable format, you need scan all the docs with a good scanner.

 

Benefits of OCR

  • No more retyping

As humans, we can make errors like accidentally erasing an important digital file such as the proposal of invoice, but you have a hard copy of the same. You can replace the file by using an OCR software to scan the original paper or any recent draft.

  • Quick digital searches

OCR software converts scanned files into word processing files giving you the chance to save each file with a specific name. Example: You saved a specific file with a unique name now you don’t have to search them. They can be easily found by searching their name or account in moments without going through the extensive slot of files.

  • Edit text

In case you have scanned your document using OCR you have the option to edit the text within the word processing program of your choice. Scan the files that may need to be updated in the future to help expedite the editing process.

  1. Typed family recipes
  2. Rental agreements
  3. Resumes
  4. Contracts
  • Save space

You will have empty cabinets with digital documents and you can use this space for other official purposes.  Turn the paper documents into editable digital files.

  • Accessibility

OCR software is useful for easy accessibility of any document.  With computer voice over utility vision, impaired people can scan books, magazines, incoming faxes and other documents easily into word processing programs.

 

How does OCR work?

Well as all of us have different styles of writing any alphabet or word it becomes equally tricky for the OCR to scan. If you go for printed text, then you will see every document will be printed in different fonts and style. For example letter, A can be printed differently in styles. The exception to this is it any style writing the letter there is one common factor there is an angle formed in every font at the top with a horizontal line in the middle.

There are two different ways to solve this issue.

Pattern recognition

Suppose if everyone writes the letter  A in the same format a computer that can recognize it would be easier to find. You would be just comparing your scanned image with a stored version of the A if both match then that’s the document. It is like the tale of Cinderella “if the shoes fit you.”

So how do you write the same way? In 1960″s there was a special font developed for called OCR-A was developed that could use on things like bank checks and so on. Every letter printed was exactly of the same length at the same angle. This called a monospace font.

The strokes of this font were carefully designed.  The problem arises when most of the world does not write in OCR-A format.  Technology took the next step and taught OCR programs to recognize written text, letters in some common fonts.

That means they could not recognize any printed text. But they could recognize any font you send them.

Feature detection

Feature detection is known as intelligent character recognition (ICR). This is a more sophisticated way of spotting characters. In a normal OCR, the computer recognizes the angles of letter A in caps with a horizontal line between them. So you can use this rule for a pattern recognition OCR. But most of what the world prints aren’t in OCR format especially when it is a handwritten format. In the feature detection character, most neural networks use pattern recognition. Computers are programmed that automatically extract patterns in the brain- like way.

How optical character recognition improves document management?

There are a ream of paper in your office and imagine you have to search for the same manually. This will be a task for you. You must be thinking of scanning everything into a computer with conventional means.

Well, you won’t be having an easier time with conventional means. Use the OCR software and you will be able to work with the documents as you work with Microsoft Word or PDF files. Modern imaging and document management have made it possible for us to search document annals of any size in a matter of few moments.

With digital copies, you can enjoy control, accessibility and the ability to audit them as necessary. You don’t need employees to review every document manually. Document retention and storage can be fully automated or purge old

Digital documents have greater control and searchability. OCR gives you the benefit of better compliance management.

Document management software reduces the chances of mishandling or misidentifying documents containing sensitive information. Enjoy complete control over your documents with digital documents form.

 

How does handwriting recognition work?

Some characters make up for the neatly laser-printed computer text. Printed computer text is far easier to scan than a scribbled handwritten note. When it comes to the handwritten notes human brains have beaten the computers. We do get a rough idea of what’s written on any handwritten note.

Making it easy to recognize

When it is difficult for computers to recognize handwritten notes. There are mail sorting devices where computers acknowledge zipcode on an envelope. This helps to identify a small amount of written text made for basic letter and numbers. If people write the codes legibly leaving spaces between each character using upper case.

You must have seen there are forms designed with OCR that have separate boxes for writing each letter or number. Sometimes they have faint guidelines like a unique color, pink called the dropout color for efficiently separating text written by people.

 

What does OCR involve in practice?

Most of the people don’t use OCR in their industry. These are industries are scanning not hundreds but millions of documents every day that is a crazy amount. And still, these industries are not using an OCR yet. We do need to scan a printed book page to edit it and use in any one of articles on our website.

This is what everyday OCR looks like.

  1. Printout– You need to get the best printout you can of your existing document. The accuracy of the OCR depends on the quality of the printout you take. You can improve the print quality of an old printout by photocopying it. Do not make the printouts drink your coffee.
  2. Scanning– You use an optical scanner for printouts. For OCR it is always better to use sheet-feed scanners than flatbed scanners as you scan pages one after another. Modern OCR programs will are capable of scanning each page automatically. Whereas if you are using a flatbed scanner, you will insert each page one by one. With a good digital camera, you can create images of your pages.
  3. Two color- OCR involves two colors black and white version of the color or a grayscale scanned page. Similar to a Fax machine. OCR is a binary it recognizes things that are there and not there. Therefore this is the first stage in the scanning process.
  4. OCR– The OCR programs process each image character by character, word by word, line by line. In the 90’s you must have noticed that the OCR programs were slow enough to watch them reading. The modern OCR is far more instantaneous.
  5. Primary error correction– Some programs give you the opportunity to correct and review your document. Like they will highlight any spelling mistake or error and indicate the misrecognition so that you can change it immediately. There are better versions of the OCR programs that have extra checking features to spot any of the mistakes. Some OCR’s use near-neighbor analysis.
  6. Layout analysis- If you have a good OCR program it will automatically detect multiple columns of text, tables, split, images, etc.
  7. Proofreading– The best OCR programs cannot be as perfect as human eyes. Therefore the final stage in OCR is proofreading by a human. The old-fashioned style of proofreading.

 

Conclusion

Install an OCR and you will have no stacks of paper documents in your office. You can convert all your old data into digital format.

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