Five Free OCR Products to Try in 2021

June 1st, 2021 15 min read

OCR software is not limited to a specific industry. Finding the best free OCR software requires assessing the amount and complexity of documents that need to be processed. Although the products mentioned in this piece share the same functionality, they work best in different circumstances. This piece will help you determine which free OCR software will best suit your unique use case. 

OCR SoftwareOpen Source?PlatformsSuitable for Beginners?Biggest ProBiggest Con
Amazon TextractNoBrowserYes  (Single-Page Extractions)Advanced OCR featuresMulti-Page Extraction Can Be Difficult 
Tesseract OCRYesWindows, Linux, MacNoTraining MaterialsCommand Line Interface
SimpleOCRNoWindows, MacYesHigh AccuracySupports Two Languages
Microsoft OneNoteNoWindows, Mac, Android, iOSYesUser-Friendly InterfaceSubscription Required for Handwriting Recognition
Easy Screen OCRNoWindows,  Mac, Android, iOSYesMobile AppsNo Batch OCR Capabilities 

Benefits of OCR Software

OCR, or optical character recognition, is the process of detecting and extracting text from images. OCR software is especially useful for businesses that regularly scan documents. Users can use this software to convert PDF files into searchable documents, collect text from batches of digital images, or save extracted text in a different file format. 

OCR software reduces the need for manual data entry and the possibility of human error. This means your business will have quicker access to valuable data. Information can be stored for further analysis or integrated into your existing workflow. OCR software makes data extraction simple for a variety of industries. 

Which OCR Software Best Fits My Use Case?

Each of the software below are extremely capable OCR tools. With that said, they are best suited to different individuals and use cases. Use the information below to determine which is right for you.

Amazon Textract – Beyond Traditional OCR

Those who are familiar with Amazon Web Services should consider using their text extraction service, Amazon Textract. Textract can even detect handwriting, text, and data in scanned documents. This platform is unique because it takes OCR capabilities to the next level.

 While typical OCR software is limited to structured documents, Textract is equipped with machine learning tools that can convert unstructured data. If you need these more complex features, this software will likely be a strong candidate for you

Even though Textract can perform advanced data extraction, its simple OCR functions can fit the needs of your business. This platform can extract text from structured documents, such as forms and tables. Textract allows you to customize your confidence threshold to ensure that you are getting the most accurate results. 

Textract is very simple to use if you are uploading single-page documents. Amazon offers a full Developer Guide for those who need help getting started with Textract. Extracting text from batches of documents will require writing code and following the Developer guide closely. 

Beginners should familiarize themselves with the basics of single-page text detection before attempting to use Textract’s more advanced features. The user interface will be largely familiar to those who have used other text-extracting tools in the past. 

The main benefit of using Amazon Textract is the pay-per-use pricing model. The platform offers a free tier with up to 1,000 pages per month. If you exceed that limit, you will have to pay a small fee per extra page. 

Textract’s free tier is ideal for businesses that want to use OCR software for specific projects. Personal projects and limited scope record-keeping would also benefit from this tool. Those who plan to use OCR software regularly, or process more than 1,000 pages per month, should consider using a different free software. 

Tesseract OCR – Open Source OCR Software 

The Tesseract OR engine is open source and developed by Google. It works with Windows, Linux, and macOS. Tesseract converts documents into searchable text files. This software is not ideal for beginners because it requires more technical skills. 

Tesseract OCR engine does not have a traditional user interface. Everything is run from the command line, and programmers can write their own code to use the API. Tesseract is compatible with multiple programming languages. There are tutorials available on GitHub to help new users navigate Tesseract.

This software is not designed for handwriting recognition. Despite this, you can configure the software to convert batches of multiple documents. The average user with no coding experience can search for the proper syntax to input into the command line. Although coding is not required for Tesseract, programmers will probably feel more comfortable using it. 

Even if coding is not strictly required, the mindset and ability to do so will make users feel more at home using this tool. Those who do not have this may feel slightly overwhelmed, even when doing things correctly, due to the unfamiliarity.  

Tesseract is considered to be the best open-source OCR software. Its learning curve is steep, but you can expect accurate results. This software will be helpful for users who have experience with the command line. Those who want a simpler option, with a more user-friendly interface, should consider one of the other products mentioned in this piece. 

SimpleOCR – Reduce Extraction Errors

SimpleOCR is a popular freeware OCR that is known for plain text extraction. This software is ideal for converting scanned documents into searchable PDF files or other formats. These formats include Word, Excel, and text files. Businesses that have a limited budget and want to digitize their paper files would benefit from using SimpleOCR. The searchability is a key benefit here, and is well-suited to those with extensive records they would like organized.

This software is designed to improve the accuracy of your extracted text. SimpleOCR guarantees up to 99% accuracy in your text, greatly reducing the need for manual corrections. SimpleOCR’s dictionary includes 120,000 words, which improves its reliability. You can add more words to the dictionary with the text editor. This is ideal for those in industries with outside-the-box terminology. The text editor feature is also responsible for detecting possible errors in the document. 

SimpleOCR does not recognize handwritten text. It does offer batch OCR capabilities. This is useful for businesses that need to convert multiple scanned documents. If there is an issue with the quality of your scanned documents, the Despeckle feature can make the text easier to detect. SimpleOCR will also retain styles such as bolding, underlining, and italicizing.

Beginners should have no problem learning how to use SimpleOCR. The user interface is a little outdated but still easy to navigate. SimpleOCR currently only supports two languages, English and French. Unless you require OCR software that detects multiple languages, SimpleOCR is a great choice. 

Microsoft OneNote – Handwriting and Image Recognition

Anyone who uses Windows as their operating system is probably already familiar with Microsoft OneNote. This software is pre-installed on Windows 10 devices and available with a Microsoft 365 subscription. If you do not want to pay for Microsoft 365, you have the option to download OneNote from the Microsoft store. OneNote also works with Mac, Android, and iOS devices. 

OneNote’s OCR feature allows users to extract text from an image or file printout. This software makes the conversion process really simple. You just have to click the option that says “copy text from picture” and wait for OneNote to scan your image. Once the conversion is completed, you can paste the text into another document. 

This software is also great for converting hand-written notes. OneNote includes a handwriting recognition feature that transforms handwriting into plain text.The handwriting recognition feature is useful for those who often write their own notes in the software. 

The main limitation of the software’s handwriting recognition is its availability. Currently, only those who have a Microsoft 365 subscription can use this advanced OCR feature.

If you are interested in learning more about OneNote, be sure to read customer reviews on TrustRadius. This software is well suited for users who need an easy-to-use OCR software with no learning curve. 

OneNote is great for individual projects with a reasonable amount of image files. It only allows you to upload one image at a time. Those who are working with time constraints should consider a batch OCR software. 

Easy Screen OCR – Mobile Text Scanner

Easy Screen OCR is a user-friendly software that extracts text from images and screenshots. The user interface is very simple, which makes Easy Screen OCR ideal for beginners. You simply upload an image, drag it into the converter, and wait for your text to appear. Easy Screen OCR is a great option for businesses that need to scan small batches of images. 

The main advantage of using Easy Screen OCR is the ability to capture screenshots directly from the mobile app. With Easy Screen OCR, Android and iOS users can convert images to text from any location. You also have the option to use the screenshot translator, which supports 20 different languages. 

If you prefer to run Easy Screen OCR from a desktop, it works with Windows and macOS. The software is designed to improve the speed of text extraction. One notable feature is the hotkey settings, which make the conversion process even simpler. These keyboard shortcuts are easy to customize and help improve your efficiency. Users who are used to flying around their keyboard will appreciate a software that indulges their need for speed. 

Users can have two different OCR modes available to run their conversions. The first is Google OCR mode, which supports up to 100 languages. This option integrates the software with Google OCR Engine to deliver a high degree of accuracy. Easy Screen OCR also offers their own OCR mode that supports 10 languages.

Easy Screen OCR is the best choice for beginners and businesses that handle a small volume of image files. The software does not allow you to upload batches of images, so you will have to run each conversion individually. Those who need OCR software for a limited scope project will be pleased with its speed and overall ease of use. 

More Data Extraction Tools

If you are interested in learning more about OCR software, be sure to visit the category page on TrustRadius. You can search through different options and read reviews from other users. Those who need software for unstructured documents should consider reading about Intelligent Document Processing. TrustRadius also has a Web Scraping category dedicated to products that collect unstructured data from web pages. 

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