By Nerino Petro at 15 July, 2009, 10:30 am
Converting images into files that can be used by your word processor is a technology that has been maturing since the early 1990’s. Cost of the software and equipment to perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on scanned images has steadily dropped. However, there are still a large number of lawyers who don’t have OCR software in their offices. Rick Broida PCWorld blogger recently posted about free online OCR from Free OCR in his Problem Solvers: Banish Errors, Save Form Data, and More post.
Even though many lawyers don’t have OCR software, they may have the ability to create images of scanned documents using their office digital copy centers. What’s lacking is the capability to take advantage of OCR for converting these images into usable text that can be brought into their word processor. For these lawyers and their staff, Free OCR Free OCR can provide basic OCR functionality at no cost.
The service is web based and easy to use. You browse your hard drive from the Free OCR site to select a PDF, JPG, TIFF, GIF or BMP image. Select the language and click the Send file button. Processing was relatively fast with the recognized text displayed in a scrollable box at the bottom of the page. Copy this text and past it into your word processor. Unlike stand alone OCR programs such as OmniPage Pro or Abbyy FineReader, Free OCR doesn’t keep formatting attributes such as italics and bold or formatting such as columns, tables and quotes. I also verified the quirk that Rick encountered in that Free OCR only converts the first page of a PDF (although according to his column this is to be remedied shortly).
Other restrictions according to the Free OCR site:
The only restriction is that the images must not be larger than 2MB, no wider or higher than 5000 pixels and there is a limit of 10 image uploads per hour.
For those of us using robust OCR software, Free OCR will be of little use in most instances. However, for lawyers that don’t have OCR capabilities in their office or for lawyers on the road who need OCR capability and don’t have it on their laptop, Free OCR is worth bookmarking as a handy tool.