Optical character recognition (OCR) software help convert non-editable document formats such as PDFs, images or paper documents into machine-readable formats that are editable & searchable.
OCR applications are commonly used to capture text from PDFs & images and convert the text into editable formats such as Word, Excel or a plain text file. OCR is also used to digitise files and documents to make them searchable.
OCR software that leverage AI/ML capabilities can also help automate data capture from scanned documents/images. AI-based OCR can digitize the data in convenient, editable formats that fit into organizational workflows.
Scanning & processing documents such as invoices, receipts, and images for valuable data has traditionally been a manual process fraught with errors and delays. OCR software solutions help businesses save time and resources that would otherwise be spent on data entry & manual validation/verification.
More and more organizations are automating document processing workflows to go paperless and leverage cloud-based digital solutions that improve bottom lines.
Let’s take a look at some of the best OCR software & also check out some free OCR software.
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What is OCR & what does OCR software do?
OCR or Optical Character Recognition is a technology that identifies & recognizes text within scanned documents, photos or images. OCR software leverages this technology to extract data from PDFs or scanned documents by converting it into machine-readable text data that can be edited & stored more conveniently for further processing. For a detailed explainer on OCR and its use cases refer to this guide.
Today, OCR software is used for automated data entry, pattern recognition, text-to-speech services, indexing documents for search engines, cognitive computing, text mining, key data and machine translation among various other applications. These tools can convert any scanned documents, PDFs or image types into xml, xlsx or csv files.
The best OCR Software for your business
Let’s look at some of the best OCR software available on the market.
Nanonets is an AI-based OCR software that automates data capture for intelligent document processing of invoices, receipts, ID cards and more. Nanonets uses advanced OCR, machine learning image processing, and Deep Learning to extract relevant information from unstructured data. It is fast, accurate, easy to use, allows users to build custom OCR models from scratch and has some neat Zapier integrations. Digitize documents, extract data-fields, and integrate with your everyday apps via APIs in a simple, intuitive interface.
- Modern UI
- Handles large volumes of documents
- Reasonably priced
- Ease of use
- Zero-shot or zero-training data extraction
- Cognitive capture of data – resulting in minimal intervention
- Requires no in-house team of developers
- Algorithm/models can be trained/retrained
- Great documentation & support
- Lots of customization options
- Wide choice of integration options
- Works with non-English or multiple languages
- Seamless 2-way integration with multiple accounting software
- Great OCR API for developers
- Table capture UI can be better
Get started with Nanonets’ pre-trained OCR extractors or build your own custom OCR models. You can also schedule a demo to learn more about our OCR use cases!
FlexiCapture is a stable, scalable document imaging and data extraction software that automatically transforms documents of any structure, language or content into usable and accessible business-ready data.
- Recognizes images very well
- Easy to store hard copy result in system
- Integrates well with ERP systems
- Automates data extraction from documents (to an extent)
- Initial setup can be difficult and complex
- Automatic processing of invoices not set up
- No ready-made templates
- Difficult to customize
- No resources available
- Could have better integration with RPA solutions
- Low accuracy with low resolution images/documents
- Batch verifications are held up even if there’s an error just in a particular section
- Line item error messages pop up even for items that should be skipped
- RESTful API is not available in the on-prem version
- Not a Mac OCR Software
ABBYY FineReader PDF is an OCR software with support for PDF file editing. The program allows the conversion of image documents into editable electronic formats.
- Keyboard-friendly OCR editor for manual corrections
- Exceptionally clear interface
- Exports to multiple formats
- Unique document-compare feature
- Lacks full-text indexing for fast searches
- Requires a learning curve
- Pricing can be prohibitive
- Inability to view the history of document changes
- Can’t merge several files into one
- Might require some post-processing
- The UI could be overwhelming at first
- Slow to process big files
4. Kofax Omnipage
Omnipage is a powerful PDF OCR software that can handle automation for high-volume corporate OCR tasks. This tool specialises in table extraction, line item matching, and smart extraction.
- Has a robust set of tools for enhancing images
- Highly accurate
- UI not intuitive
- Configuration for AP Automation is not straightforward
- API integration can be improved
- alternatives for Kofax
5. IBM Datacap
Datacap streamlines the capture, recognition and classification of business documents to extract important information from them. Datacap has a strong OCR engine, multiple functions as well as customisable rules. It works across multiple channels, including scanners, mobile devices, multifunction peripherals and fax.
- Configures complex applications in data capture
- Scanning mechanism
- Ease of use
- Very little online support
- UI could be more intuitive
- Setup can be cumbersome
- Creating a customized flow isn’t straightforward
- Batch commits take time
One of the solutions in the Google Cloud AI suite, the Document AI (DocAI) is a document processing console that uses machine learning to automatically classify, extract, enrich data and unlock insights within documents.
- Easy to set up
- Integrates very well with other Google services
- Storage of information
- AI modules lack proper documentation
- Customization of existing modules and libraries is hard
- Not suited for Python or other coding languages
- Outdated API documentation
- Not suited for hybrid cloud deployments
- Not suited for use cases that require custom AI algorithms
AWS Textract automatically extracts text and other data from scanned documents using machine learning and OCR. It is also used to identify, understand, and extract data from forms and tables. For more information check out this detailed breakdown of AWS Textract.
- Pay-per-use billing model
- Ease of use
- Can’t be trained
- Varying accuracy
- Not meant for handwritten documents
Docparser is a cloud-based document processing and OCR software that can automate low-value tasks and workflows for businesses.
- Easy setup
- Zapier integration
- The webhooks occasionally fail
- Requires some deal of training to pick up the parsing rules
- Not enough templates
- Zonal OCR approach – can’t handle unknown templates
- UI could be better
- Slow to load pages
- Documentation could be better
9. Adobe Acrobat DC
Adobe provides a comprehensive PDF editor with an in-built OCR functionality.
- Ease of use
- Not an exclusive OCR software
- Heavy on the system
- Takes up a lot of space on the hard disk
- Difficult to integrate with services like Sharepoint or Dropbox
- Requires an Adobe Creative Cloud license.
Klippa provides automated document management, processing, classification and data extraction solutions to digitize paper documents in your organization.
- Fast setup
- Great support
- Great API for developers
- Clear and concise API documentation
- Links well with accounting programs
- Competitively priced
- OCR recognition can be better
- Limited template customizations
- Limited white-label customizations
- Bulk adjustments not supported
- The VAT is often not displayed correctly
- The app crashes often
- Can’t train the OCR model
- The selection process isn’t straightforward as there are a lot of options
Other notable mentions include Veryfi, Readiris, Infrrd, Rossum & Hypatos. Also check out the leading alternatives to Nanonets.
Here’s a quick comparison of all the OCR software listed above across some crucial OCR software features & parameters:
How does Nanonets stand apart as an OCR software?
Nanonets OCR software is easy and flexible to set up, requiring just about 1 day. The intelligent automation platform handles unstructured data without much difficulty and the AI also handles common data constraints with ease. Information from documents with imperfections & blemishes is extracted quite easily. It handles multi-page invoices and identifies multi-line items with ease; something that most legacy and modern OCR tools fail at. Nanonets customizes column headers allowing it to process complex invoices more efficiently. Nanonets’ AI also ensures a high accuracy while processing documents requiring minimal rework or revision.
The benefits of using Nanonets go just beyond better accuracy, experience and scalability. Here are 8 reasons that highlight the unique Nanonets advantage:
- Training & working with custom data – Most OCR software out there are quite rigid on the type of data they can work with. Nanonets isn’t bound by such limitations. Nanonets uses your own data to train models that are best suited to meet the particular needs of your business.
- Easy to use & flexible – Adapting Nanonets for your specific business needs is easy and straightforward. From creating custom OCR models & retraining them to adding new fields & handling integrations, Nanonets can handle it all.
- Learns & retrains continuously – Businesses often face dynamically changing requirements and needs. To overcome potential roadblocks, Nanonets OCR software allows you to easily re-train your models with new data. This allows your OCR model to adapt to unforeseen changes.
- Customize, customize, customize – Nanonets can capture as many fields of text/data that you like and present it in any desired fashion. Captured data can be presented in tables or line items or any other format of your choice with custom validation rules. Always remember that Nanonets is not bound by the template of your document!
- Requires almost no post-processing – While most OCR software simply grab and dump data, Nanonets extracts only the relevant data and automatically sorts them into intelligently structured fields making it easier to view and understand. This does away with a lot of time spent in revision and verification.
- Handles common data constraints with ease – Nanonets leverages deep learning & object detection techniques to overcome common data constraints that greatly affect text recognition and extraction among other OCR software. Nanonets AI can recognize and handle handwritten text, images with low resolution, images with new or cursive fonts and varying sizes, images with shadowy text, tilted text, random unstructured text, image noise, blurred images and more. Traditional OCR software are just not equipped to perform under such constraints; they require data at a very high level of fidelity which isn’t the norm in real life scenarios.
- Works with non-English or multiple languages – Since Nanonets focuses on training with custom data, it is uniquely placed to build a single model that could extract text from documents in any language or multiple languages at the same time.
- Requires no in-house team of developers – No need to worry about hiring developers and acquiring talent to personalize Nanonets API for your business requirements. Nanonets was built for hassle-free integration. You can readily integrate Nanonets with most CRM, ERP, content services or RPA software.
Is there any free OCR software?
Apart from the professional cutting-edge OCR solutions mentioned above, there are free OCR software that do the job to an extent. Running on open-source OCR engines (like Tesseract), these free solutions help convert photos, PDFs, TIFFs or scanned documents into editable digital text formats. While they might not be able to process elaborate business documents at scale, they are adequate for extracting text from simple documents with straightforward formatting.
These free OCR solutions either come as web-based applications, standalone software that need to be installed on various platforms, or as a side feature in a full-fledged document editing service. Please note that free OCR software regularly fail to process handwritten documents, multi-column tables, long line items, or low quality images/scans.
Here are some free optical character recognition tools for your consideration:
Update June 2023: this post was originally published in January 2021 and has since been updated with the latest findings & resources.