A digital transformation brings with it the challenge of electronically capturing paper documents and scans in a way that makes the data quickly and easily accessible. After all, a photo of an invoice or receipt is difficult to search. This is where an OCR scan comes into play. This digitizes information in such a way that it can not only be found with a click, but can also be edited, sorted, analyzed and evaluated. We explain how OCR technology works, how companies can benefit from it and what OCR scan software is available on the market.
This article was written in German, automatically translated into other languages and editorially reviewed. We welcome feedback at the end of the article.
How an OCR scan works
An OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scan converts visual information into machine-readable text. First, an OCR scanner captures the image and identifies the various characters within it. It then extracts the outlines and features of each character. Then, the OCR scanning software matches these features with known character sets to recognize the corresponding characters. To make the capture process as accurate as possible, an OCR scan uses algorithms of machine learning.
OCR scans are used in various areas. These include, for example, text recognition in a printed or scanned document, automatic license plate recognition in traffic systems, and the conversion of photographed invoices for the digitization of tax documents.
Phases of an OCR scan
An OCR scan usually runs in 5 phases:
- Image quality optimization
To achieve the best possible results with an OCR scan function, the first step is to improve the quality of the image. To do this, an OCR scanner normalizes the image to optimize contrast and brightness and to correct blurring.
- Character identification
The OCR scan identifies the individual letters, numbers and symbols in the image. It matches them against a database to identify them. To ensure that the results are accurate, an OCR scanner with artificial intelligence can also take context into account.
- Increase in detection accuracy
Complex images in particular require a thorough OCR scan. Powerful software therefore uses machine learning algorithms. These are trained with a wide range of text data so that they can identify countless patterns and features of characters. This helps especially when companies want to read images with difficult fonts or handwritten documents.
- Text recognition
The OCR Scan software now has all the relevant information. It can therefore now combine the recognized characters into words and sentences. Language models are used that can recognize context and correct errors.
Finally, the OCR scanner outputs the finished text in an editable format. This can be, for example, as Word or PDF.
OCR Scan Functions
Organizations can use an OCR scan for many different areas of their day-to-day operations. One of the main areas of focus is the use in Document management. There OCR takes over these functions:
Document text recognition
OCR is used to turn printed or handwritten text on paper documents into electronically searchable and editable text. This makes it possible to collect information efficiently.
Automated data acquisition
Using OCR, companies can extract data from various documents such as invoicesdelivery bills and forms. An OCR scanner can then automatically transfer the recognized information to databases or other systems. This reduces manual data entry and minimizes errors.
Document classification and sorting
OCR is used to recognize the contents of documents and classify them according to their type or content. This allows documents to be automatically sorted into the correct categories or workflows.
Digitization and archiving
Organizations can convert physical documents to digital formats and archive them using OCR. This enables secure, space-saving storage and easier access to important information.
Translation and multilingualism
OCR can be used to recognize text in a document and automatically translate it into other languages. This is especially useful for international companies that process multilingual documents.
OCR Scanning Benefits
OCR technology makes document management more efficient. What impact does this have on business processes?
OCR reduces the need for manual data entry, saving time and resources. Employees can focus on value-added tasks - instead of time-consuming, repetitive paperwork.
Availability and accessibility of information
OCR makes documents accessible and searchable from anywhere (when stored in a cloud). This means: Employees can quickly find information at any time and use it for their workflows.
Higher data quality
An OCR scan digitizes data (almost) error-free. Collected, processed and analyzed data is therefore of high quality.
By digitizing paper documents using OCR, companies reduce physical storage costs. Because: They need less space to archive their documents.
Higher data security
OCR enables improved security by making it easier to encrypt, secure, and back up digital documents.
Compliance and audit trail
With accurate data capture and the ability to track the history of documents, OCR helps organizations meet compliance regulations and create audit trails.
The use of OCR in document management promotes the reduction of paper consumption and thus contributes to environmental protection.
OCR Scanning: 7 Use Cases from different Industries
OCR scanners are now used in almost all industries. Among other things, they are used in this way:
In hospitals and medical facilities, OCR is used to digitize patient records, prescriptions, and medical reports. This makes the information easier to search and manage.
Financial institutions such as banks use OCR to scan and process bank statements, checks, and other financial documents. This enables faster and more accurate data capture.
Law firms and courts use OCR scanning to digitize and make searchable large volumes of legal documents such as contracts, judgments, and case law. This is particularly helpful for efficiently finding similar cases and the associated decisions.
Companies use OCR scans to automatically evaluate applications and prepare the data of eligible applicants in a structured manner. This enables HR staff to find suitable candidates more quickly and fill a position without delay.
Insurance companies use OCR scanning to digitize insurance applications, claims, and policies. This reduces the processing time of individual cases.
Logistics and transport
In the logistics industry, OCR is used to capture waybills, delivery bills, and other transportation documents to streamline the shipment tracking process.
Retail and e-commerce
In retail, companies use OCR scanning to digitize invoices, receipts, and product information to facilitate the ordering and payment process.
OCR Scanner: Available Software
To make document management more efficient with an OCR scanner for Mac or Windows, companies can choose from a wide range of software. Among them are the following programs and engines, for example:
ABBYY FineReader is an OCR scanner for Mac and Windows that provides solid accuracy for automatic text recognition. It can convert scanned documents into various formats such as searchable PDFs, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. The software supports over 190 languages and allows editing and formatting the recognized texts.
Adobe Acrobat includes built-in OCR capabilities to convert scanned PDF documents into searchable and editable text. The OCR Document Scanner also provides PDF editing, merging, and organizing capabilities.
Tesseract is an OCR scanner that is open source. The engine is known for its accuracy in text recognition and supports various languages. Tesseract can be integrated with other programs and is often used as the basis for OCR functions in various applications.
Readiris is an OCR scanner for Windows and Mac that can convert scanned documents and scanned images into editable and searchable files. The software has several speech recognition features and can export texts directly to Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
OmniPage is a scanner with OCR recognition that recognizes texts without long processing time. Export formats include Word, Excel, PDF and ePub. The OCR scanner also supports automatic batch processing of documents.
Microsoft OneNote is a note-taking application that also offers OCR capabilities. When companies upload images with text to OneNote, the software automatically recognizes the text they contain and makes it searchable. OneNote is integrated with Microsoft Office.
Konfuzio is a German AI company that provides OCR and NLP technologies (natural language processing).
OCR software enables efficient extraction of structured data from unstructured documents such as invoices, contracts, and forms.
It specializes in processing complex and specific documents from various industries, offering high accuracy and flexibility. For example, it can recognize rare fonts and handwritten documents without any problems.
How Companies choose the right OCR Scanning Software
Which OCR scanning software is the right one for companies depends on their own specific requirements. ABBYY FineReader and Adobe Acrobat are particularly widespread on the market. They are suitable for simple text extraction tasks.
The highest accuracy even with large amounts of data in unstructured documents is provided by the Tesseract OCR engine and Konfuzio AI software.
Especially Konfuzio with its clear interface makes it easy to define specifications for text extraction, analysis and evaluation and then execute them with just a few clicks. This makes the German software particularly suitable for large companies and system houses that have to collect, sort and process floods of data on a daily basis.
This is how an OCR Scan works with Konfuzio
To perform an OCR scan with Konfuzio, first create a new project in your account and select the desired function. For example, you can make a photo of a handwritten document searchable. To do this, upload the corresponding file. Konfuzio will then automatically recognize all characters in the document. Finally, they can export the document in the desired format, such as PDF. The font size remains exactly the same as in the original document. The exported document is now searchable. How the OCR scan in Konfuzio runs, shows our video on text recognition with OCR.
The Future of Document Processing
Today, OCR is the basic technology for efficiently reading and processing documents. However, the latest research shows that the technology could be replaced in the future.
In this context, the "donut model" in particular has been able to generate a lot of attention.
This is an approach to processing document images that does not require OCR. This is designed to efficiently handle different languages and is computationally cheaper than the OCR methods currently in use. We explain exactly how the donut model works in our detailed Donut Deep Dive.
OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. This is a technology that is used when scanning documents. It recognizes text in any file format (such as JPG, PNG, PDF, etc.) and digitizes it. As a result, the content of the scanned document is searchable, copyable and editable. The technology thus plays an important role in the digital transformation of companies.
An OCR scanner is software that can capture and digitize text in various file formats. It enables, for example, the conversion of paper documents into editable electronic text. As a result, OCR scanning makes it easier for companies to search, edit, archive and analyze text.
Common OCR scanners include Adobe Acrobat, ABBYY FineReader, Microsoft OneNote, Tesseract OCR, Google Drive, Evernote, Abbyy TextGrabber and Prizmo OCR. The Konfuzio AI software is particularly noteworthy. It has the highest accuracy in recognizing even rare fonts and handwritten documents.