Optical character recognition (OCR) technology has become an indispensable tool for converting text in images into editable and searchable text. With OCR, you can take a photo of a document or screenshot and extract the text so you can edit or share it digitally.
OCR software works by analyzing an image and identifying patterns in the text to determine the letters and words present. This text can then be exported into a variety of digital formats like .docx, .txt, and .pdf.
The demand for OCR continues to grow as more paper documents get digitized and digital images need to be made searchable. Thankfully, OCR tools are now available as apps for mobile devices, programs for computers, and handy online converters.
In this guide, we will explore 7 effective ways you can use OCR to extract text from images, on any device:
1. Use an Online OCR Converter
One of the easiest ways to convert an image to text is through an online OCR converter. These tools allow you to upload an image or take a screenshot directly and will process the image file on their servers using OCR.
Some of the top online OCR converters include:
NewOCR – Recognizes over 60 languages and offers advanced editing of extracted text.
OnlineOCR – Supports multiple languages and can handle low resolution images.
FreeOCR – Easy to use with no signup required and unlimited extractions.
The benefit of online OCR converters is you don’t need to download any software. They also tend to offer quick processing speeds since the image gets processed on remote servers.
To use an online OCR tool:
- Go to the website for the OCR converter.
- Upload your image file from your computer or take a screenshot.
- The OCR tool will process the image and extract the text.
- You can then copy or download the extracted text.
One limitation with online OCR converters is they may not perfectly replicate complex formatting like columns, tables, or font styles. But they work great for basic documents.
2. Use Google Drive OCR
If you already use Google Drive for file storage, you can convert images to text right within Google Docs.
Google provides built-in OCR technology that automatically extracts text when you upload an image. Here‘s how to use it:
- Upload your image file to Google Drive.
- Right click on the image and select
Open With > Google Docs.
- The image will open in Google Docs with the extracted text laid over the image.
- You can now copy the text or save the document.
Google Drive OCR does an impressive job at recognizing fonts, sizes, colors, and paragraphs from complex documents. The extracted text closely replicates the original formatting.
This makes Google Drive a great option for OCR needs if you already have the app installed. The only limitation is it requires an internet connection to process images.
3. Use OCR Software on Windows
There are many desktop programs that provide OCR capabilities on Windows computers. Some popular options include:
ABBYY FineReader – Industry-leading OCR software with high accuracy.
Tesseract – Open source OCR engine with active development.
OmniPage – Made by Nuance with built-in editing tools.
Readiris Pro – Optimized for business documents.
These programs provide an interface to open image files from your computer, run OCR analysis, and export the text. Most also allow you to scan paper documents directly into the application.
The advantage of desktop OCR software is you get more control over the recognition process. They provide tools to check accuracy and correct any errors. This results in higher OCR quality, especially for complex documents.
To use OCR software on Windows:
- Install and open the OCR desktop application.
- Load your image file or scan a document.
- Click the OCR processing button and wait for analysis.
- The program will display and export the extracted text.
Make sure to check the accuracy and correct any errors. For best results, scan documents at high resolutions like 300+ DPI.
4. Use Android OCR Apps
There are many great OCR apps available on Android to extract text from images and documents. Some top options include:
Microsoft Office Lens – Made by Microsoft for Word integration.
CamScanner – Popular app with built-in scanner.
Text Fairy – Good for basic OCR needs.
Adobe Scan – Creates editable PDFs from images.
These mobile OCR apps leverage your phone‘s camera to take pictures of documents which get processed for text extraction. Some also allow you to import image files saved on your device.
Benefits of Android OCR apps include the convenience of mobile scanning and integration with cloud storage services. Many also enhance images to improve OCR accuracy.
To extract text from images using Android OCR apps:
- Download and open the OCR app on your Android device.
- Select the camera icon to take a picture of your document.
- The app will automatically run OCR analysis after capturing the image.
- You can then copy, share or save the extracted text.
One limitation is that mobile device processors can be slower than desktops for OCR processing. But apps employ optimization to still offer good performance.
5. Use OCR Extensions for Chrome
If you want to easily extract text from images you find on the web, OCR extensions for Chrome provide a handy option.
These extensions can analyze images you‘re viewing in the browser and overlay the extracted text for easy selection and copying. Some useful Chrome OCR extensions include:
Image Text Extractor – Extracts text by right clicking on an image.
CopyFish – Takes screenshots of parts of web pages for OCR.
Screen Reader – Reads text from images aloud.
To use Chrome OCR extensions:
- Install the extension from the Chrome Web Store.
- When viewing an image on a webpage, use the extension‘s icon or right-click menu.
- The extension will process the image and provide the extracted text.
- You can typically copy and paste this text as needed.
The convenience of performing OCR directly on website images makes these extensions very handy. They serve well for quick text extraction needs on the web.
6. Use OCR Apps on iPhone
The app store for iPhones contains great OCR apps to convert images and photos to text using the built-in camera. Some top options are:
Prizmo – Accurate OCR with iCloud sync.
Scanner Pro – Scans and OCRs documents.
TextGrabber – Good for translating text.
Note Taker HD – Captures handwriting accurately.
The key steps for using these iPhone OCR apps are:
- Download and install the OCR app from the App Store.
- Open the app and use the camera to capture an image of text.
- It will automatically process the image with OCR to extract text.
- You can edit, share, or export the converted text.
Benefits of OCR apps on iPhone include portability, cloud connectivity, and the convenience of taking pictures to scan documents instantly. They provide accurate text extraction with quick processing.
7. Use OCR on Mac
There are also many great options for extracting text from images on Mac computers. The top choices include:
ABBYY FineReader – Accurate OCR with productivity features.
Readiris – Optimized OCR and document conversion.
OCRKit – Combines OCR engine with an interface for Mac.
FreeOCR – Lightweight open-source program.
These provide a native Mac app to import images/PDFs and export extracted text. Some integrate OCR functionality into image and PDF editors.
The process for OCR on Mac is:
- Download and install the OCR software.
- Open the application and load your image file.
- Click the OCR processing button to analyze the image.
- It will display and export the extracted text for you to copy or save.
For best accuracy, scan paper documents into your Mac rather than photos. Some apps also allow taking pictures directly with a Mac webcam.
OCR software integrates nicely into Mac workflows to effortlessly extract text from images and PDFs stored on your system.
OCR is an immensely useful technology that can save you tons of time digitizing and converting text in images and documents.
As you‘ve seen, there are now many options for harnessing OCR both online and through apps for all platforms. With these tools, you can take screenshots, photos, scans, and more and rapidly convert them into editable, searchable text.
Some key pointers for best results with OCR:
Use images and scans with the highest resolution possible (like 300 DPI).
Make sure text is crisp and in focus in the image.
Proper lighting when taking photos avoids shadows or glares on documents.
Flattening curved documents helps recognition.
Desktop OCR software often provides better accuracy than mobile apps.
Review any errors in the extracted text and manually correct if needed.
OCR enables you to digitize printed documents, archive text-heavy images, and automate many manual transcription tasks. With the options available today, you can integrate OCR conversion easily into your regular workflows.