What is OCR?

OCR stands for optical character recognition.  It is the process of converting hard copy documents into electronic files that can be easily accessed, modified and saved.  OCR is a document management tool that simplifies the conversion from paper, and other hard copy materials, to electronic files.  This system is one of the only ways to turn pages of typed text into a concise word processing file without having to re-type each and every character line for line.

OCR involves a variety of hardware and software.  An optical scanner, the recognition component, is the main piece of hardware necessary for OCR.  This is the equipment that scans the text and breaks down contents as it translates them to an electronic bitmap image.  It can read most traditional fonts and determine when lines start and stop.  OCR software works with the other components of the system to store the scanned text in the computer.  During the final stage of OCR, the initial bitmap image is transferred into readable, editable computer text.

Businesses, organizations and other agencies are taking advantage of the many advantages to using OCR systems.  Streamlining the tedious and time-consuming task of data entry is only one of the benefits of OCR.  Using such a program reduces the common errors, omissions and duplications that often occur when data is input.  New technologies are also improving the recognition process.  At one time, the program needed continuous monitoring so that when the software stumbled on an unrecognizable character someone could identify it for the system.  Now the software is such that it can distinguish many handwritten materials.

Like many other hard copy to electronic conversion tools, the real power isn’t in the system itself, it’s in the end result. OCR is one of these powerful systems that enables businesses to operate more efficiently and at decreased costs.  When information is in a uniform format businesses are better positioned to search, retrieve, edit and share information to make important decisions.  The power of searchable text is just one of many reasons why businesses and other organizations are deciding to OCR their current and legacy data.

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