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.
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
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
- OnlineOCRNow.com is a website that can extract text from images, purportedly with 95%-100% accuracy
- OnlineOCR.net 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:
- Brother’s ImageCenter ADS-2800 Wireless Document Scanner is designed for businesses that need a reliable scanner with high resolution, high speed, and advanced scanning features – plus integrated OCR options
- Epson’s ES-50 Mobile Color Sheetfed Document Scanner is a portable scanner and a good option for businesses that want high quality, but who may not need to scan so frequently
- Epson’s WorkForce ES-400, however, is a desktop scanner designed to handle heavier workloads and it comes with advanced features such as auto crop, dirt detection, and other features that can improve image quality
- Rather than feeding pages through a scanner, CZUR Shine Ultra Smart Document Scanner consists of a scanning “arm” that is positioned above the table’s surface, making it ideal for scanning books or documents of varying sizes
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.
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.