Remote working is here to stay and it’s forced businesses to transition to cloud-based, paperless technology to manage productivity, collaboration and data storage.
However, transitioning to paperless isn’t always quick or easy for companies. It means uploading documents into a digital format – a task that might be overwhelming and costly. Plus there’s the added consideration of mobility on smartphones and tablets.
OCR technology is a great solution for businesses transitioning to paperless, and a valuable addition to any document management system.
But the options for OCR technology can be overwhelming, making it hard to find the solution that’s right for your company. In this article, we discuss:
- What does OCR mean and what are OCR apps?
- Why are OCR apps great for businesses?
- What are the best free OCR apps?
OCR: What it means and how it works
OCR stands for “optical character recognition.” Essentially, OCR is a technology that recognizes text within a scanned document and encodes it into a machine-readable format to create a digital file.
OCR picks up on characters like letters, numbers, and symbols. It can be used to digitize types, printed, or handwritten characters. After a document is processed using OCR, the text can then be edited with word processors.
Before OCR software was developed, the only option for turning hard documents into digital files was to retype them. Initially developed to digitize newspapers, OCR technology is now used on a widespread basis by organizations from major banks to search engines to accessible software.
OCR Apps will do work for your business
Is your company working to transition to paperless? Do you work with documents such as PDFs, receipts, invoices, handwritten notes and other printed items? If so, OCR will help your business go paperless and:
- Save time – With OCR, you’ll never again have to waste time retyping information from paper documents or handwritten notes. Instead, simply scan the document and let the technology turn it into an editable document.
- Make fewer mistakes – OCR is not only a time-saver, it’s also a more accurate and reliable solution. OCR significantly reduces the risk of making costly mistakes that can occur if imputed manually.
- Save space – Are you looking to improve business organization? Without hard copy documents, there will be less clutter and physical barriers to take up space, cause stress, and distract your team from what matters most.
- Find information faster – When you digitize documents using OCR, they become much easier to search. No more flipping through binders of information trying to find what you’re looking for.
- Make hard copies editable – Ever wish you could make a quick change to a printed document you have before sharing it with someone else? With OCR, documents can be scanned, edited at will and shared.
- Automate data entry – Say goodbye to manually entering forms or expense receipts. OCR lets you input data by simply scanning it in a fraction of the time.
- Be prepared for the unexpected – Sure, food, fires and theft are rare, but they can wreak havoc on your company if you don’t have a backup plan. Saving copies of important documents using OCR is an important part of a disaster recovery strategy.
9 Best OCR apps to try
It’s clear that OCR technology has many benefits for businesses. If you’re ready to give it a try, here are the best free OCR apps to try for iPhone and Android operating systems.
Charli is an enterprise-focused content services platform that uses state-of-the-art AI to unlock more value from your company’s content. With built-in OCR technology, it can handle PDFs, documents, web links and more.
Charli is great at digitizing content. But it’s capabilities don’t end there. After using OCR to scan in your content, you can then do things like: generate high-quality content summaries, extract highlights, organize and share content, and automate content-driven processes.
Charli can be easily integrated with over 500 applications, including ERP, CRM and cloud-based systems — making it incredibly easy to send your content to Charli from anywhere.
2. Microsoft Lens
Microsoft Lens (formerly known as Microsoft Office Lens) can be used to convert images to Word, Powerpoint, PDF or Excel and save to OneDrive, OneNote or your local device. It lets you trim, enhance and edit documents, receipts, handwritten text, whiteboards and even Gallery images.
If you’re already a Microsoft user, this handy OCR app is free and will fit into your productivity workflow.
3. Text Scanner
This OCR app recognizes text from an image with 98-100% accuracy and can provide translations in nearly 100 languages. It allows users to crop the image before OCR, as well as perform multi-image scans. All scans are organized inside of a folder and can be easily shared.
Designed to be user friendly and fast, this OCR app can be used to scan documents and QR codes. With just one tap, you can turn documents into high-quality PFDs or JPG and send them to email, Google Drive, DropBox and other cloud services.
It also allows you to enhance your scans by applying color, grayscale or black and white filters, and features smart file naming. SwiftScan has been awarded Editors’ Choice by Google Play.
5. Adobe Scan
With over 1.5 million downloads on the Google Play App Store, Adobe Scan turns your device into a portable scanner that lets you scan anything and save it to multiple file formats including PDF and JPG.
Its advanced image technology automatically recognizes text, detects borders, removes imperfections and sharpens scanned content. It can also touch up scans or even photos from a camera gallery. After the scan is complete, you can save it to your Adobe Document Cloud for access and sharing.
6. Google Keep
Did you know that Google Keep has OCR technology built in? That’s right, with this app you can extract the text from an image to help you quickly find that note again using search.
Since Google Keep is one of the most widely used, cloud-based note-taking apps on the planet, this feature is handy for extracting information from images on the go.
7. Smart Lens
Smart Lens can be used to scan text in 56 languages and translate it to over 100 languages. It features auto language detection and can also pronounce the translations. This makes it a handy app to have if you’re traveling or deal with documents in multiple languages.
8. Pen to Print
For those companies who still work with handwritten documents, this OCR app is a popular choice.
Deemed to be “the first handwriting to text OCR app,” its OCR technology is specialized to scan, analyze and convert handwritten documents into digital text, which can then be edited, searched and saved on a cloud service or your local device.
9. Text Fairy
Available for Android.
Text Fairy recognizes printed text from over 110 languages and it offers text to speech (TTS) to read the words out loud. In addition to working offline to protect your privacy, it can also read complex documents such as those with multiple text columns.
OCR technology has come a long way since it was originally developed to digitize historical newspapers. It is now a tool companies use to transition to paperless, enhance scannability and sharing capabilities, and ultimately streamline business operations.