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Pros and Cons of OCR Scanner Apps and Devices

Ocr scanner

Should you invest in an online or an offline OCR scanner?

In this post, we’ll compare the difference between online and offline OCR scanners and look at some of the best of each.

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Online versus offline OCR scanner – what’s the difference?

OCR stands for optical character recognition – it is an AI technique designed to recognize written or typed characters. 

Once those characters have been identified, OCR software then generates text, usually inputting them into documents on the computer, such as Word documents. 

OCR is often used in the corporate world to digitize business records. Individuals will also use OCR scanners at home to extract text from an image.

OCR can be used for:

  • Digitizing books
  • Extracting information from IDs at the workplace, at government facilities, or at transportation facilities
  • Digitizing personal records or business records
  • Digitizing notes

In short, OCR software is one of the most fundamental means of business digitization and can streamline digital workflows, simplify business processes, save money, and more.

As we’ll see later, though, not all software is created alike, and it is important to assess the features of each program before choosing one for business use – or your personal use.

Another question to consider is the actual device used to input images.

When it comes to physical OCR scanners, there are several options, including:

  • A smartphone
  • A general purpose scanner designed for home or business use
  • Scanners designed for business use
  • A specialty scanner designed for books and documents

When searching for OCR scanners, one thing you’ll notice is that the term “OCR scanner” is often used to refer to both OCR software and physical scanners.

Specialty scanners, such as portable book scanners or specialized document scanners, often include their own OCR software. 

Even without these specialized scanners, anyone can use OCR software to scan a document, though, as long as they have access to a camera or an image file. Many OCR software programs are free, after all, and they can even be downloaded onto a smartphone.

How to Choose the Right Type of OCR Scanner

When evaluating physical OCR scanners, here are a few questions to ask:

  • Do I need this for personal or office use?
  • What types of documents am I using it for?
  • How often will I use it?
  • How concerned am I about the quality of the image?
  • What is my budget?

The more often you use the scanner, the more you may want to consider investing in a high-quality scanner. 

On the other hand, if budget is an issue, or if you will only scan documents occasionally, it may be best to use free OCR apps on the web or on your phone.

A List of Online OCR Scanner Apps

Here are just a few of the many examples of online OCR scanner apps:

  • OCR Scan-Image to text is an app on the Microsoft Store that turns PDFs and images into text
  • is a website that can extract text from images, purportedly with 95%-100% accuracy
  • is a free tool designed to transform PDFs and images into Word, Excel, and text documents
  • The aptly names Free OCR Software is another free OCR app on the Microsoft Store
  • Omnipage Ultimate is designed for businesses and includes features such as batch processing and integration with physical OCR scanners

Each of these OCR applications clearly has its own target audience and use cases. 

Therefore, when evaluating OCR software, it is important to assess one’s own needs before choosing an app. Naturally, with free OCR software, there is little to lose by using these apps – but with business software, it is more important to evaluate the options carefully. 

Business users or “power users” will not only want to invest in a powerful OCR scanner application, they’ll want to consider OCR hardware as well – which, as noted, also goes by the name of “OCR scanner.”

Examples of Physical OCR Scanners

Here are a few examples of physical scanners that can be used for OCR:

Clearly there are a number of options when it comes to OCR scanning devices. Those listed here are designed for frequent use and come with a number of features that wouldn’t necessarily be relevant to the everyday user.

Final Thoughts

In the business world, OCR technology is a type of automation that can add significant value to an organization’s bottom line – and it can save a great deal of time for the everyday user. 

Since there are plenty of free OCR options, the casual user may find free apps and websites to be sufficient. However, as we have seen, there are quite a few OCR tools that can be useful for businesses that need to digitize business records, improve business performance, and digitize the workplace.Those interested in learning more about OCR can read our articles that cover topics such as OCR and NLP.

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