Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – How It Works

Optical Character Recognition, or OCR, is a technology that has become increasingly popular in recent years. The technology enables the conversion of scanned paper documents or digital images into editable and searchable formats. OCR has revolutionized the way we handle data by saving time and improving efficiency.

It is widely used in various industries such as healthcare, legal, finance, and education. OCR technology can recognize and process a wide range of documents, including printed text, handwritten text, typed documents, PDFs, and images.

In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of OCR technology, its applications, advantages, and limitations, and discuss some of the popular OCR tools in the market and their future prospects.

1. Introduction to OCR

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a technology that has enabled the automation of several document processing tasks. From digitizing text on a scanned document to extracting text from an image, OCR technology has found its way into our everyday lives. In this article, we will explore what OCR is, how it functions, its history, and its applications.


Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a technology that involves converting scanned documents or digital images that contain text into editable electronic documents. OCR software uses algorithms to recognize printed or handwritten text characters and then converts them into machine-readable text.


The first optical character recognition system was patented in 1914 by Emanuel Goldberg, a Russian scientist. However, OCR technology did not become widely available or used until the 1980s. The first OCR systems were designed to recognize and digitize printed, machine-readable text. The advancements in technology have enabled OCR to recognize handwriting and improve accuracy significantly.

2. The Functioning of OCR Technology

OCR technology involves a series of steps, including scanning the document, preprocessing the image, and applying OCR algorithms to convert the image into machine-readable text.

Scanning and Processing

The first step in OCR technology is scanning the document using a scanner, smartphone camera, or digital camera. The scanned copy then becomes a digital image of a scanned document or image. The second step involves preprocessing the digital image by removing any noise, skew, or distortion, and enhancing the contrast between the text and the background. This helps to ensure that the OCR algorithm can accurately recognize the text on the image.

OCR Algorithm

The final step in OCR technology is applying the OCR algorithm, which recognizes individual characters and words with high accuracy. The algorithm uses pattern recognition and machine learning to recognize characters and convert them into machine-readable text.

3. OCR Applications

OCR technology has a popular use in several applications, including document digitization, data entry and extraction, and text translation. The technology is a source to digitize paper documents, making it easier to store, search, and share documents electronically. This technology has also enabled the automation of invoice and form processing, reducing the need for manual data entry.

Data Entry and Extraction

OCR technology is used for data entry tasks that involve capturing data from forms, invoices, and receipts. This technology can extract data automatically, reducing the need for manual data entry.

Text Translation

OCR technology is used to recognize and translate text from one language to another. This has made it easier to translate documents, books, and web pages and has opened up new opportunities for businesses to expand their reach to international audiences.

4. Advantages

OCR technology offers several advantages, including accuracy, efficiency, and cost savings.


OCR technology provides high accuracy in recognizing printed or handwritten text, converting it into machine-readable text, and reducing errors that may occur during manual data entry.


OCR technology enables the automation of document processing tasks, saving time and increasing efficiency. This technology can process more documents in less time, reducing the need for manual labor.

Cost Savings

OCR technology reduces the need for manual data entry services, which can be costly. With OCR, businesses can save on labor costs and reduce processing times, leading to significant cost savings.

5. Limitations of OCR

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a technology that converts printed or handwritten text into a digital format. This converted format is editable, searchable, and analyzed. However, there are certain limitations to OCR. Some of these limitations are:

Handwriting Recognition

OCR technology is more adept at recognizing printed text as compared to handwriting. Handwritten text can often be difficult for OCR software to recognize accurately, especially if the writing is messy or stylized.

Quality of the Document

The quality of the input document can also influence the accuracy of OCR recognition. Poor quality documents, such as pixelated, blurry, faded, or skewed, can result in errors in OCR recognition.

Language Support

OCR technology supports multiple languages, but not all languages are recognized with equal accuracy. OCR software designed for the English language may not perform as well when recognizing text in non-English languages.

Popular OCR Tools in the Market

There are many OCR tools available in the market, but some of the most popular ones include ABBYY FineReader, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, and Tesseract OCR. Each tool has its own unique set of features. Here are some of the most popular OCR tools in the market:

ABBYY FineReader

ABBYY FineReader is a popular OCR software that is known for its accuracy and speed. It can recognize text in more than 190 languages and can convert scanned documents and images into editable formats.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is a comprehensive PDF solution that includes OCR functionality. It can recognize text in multiple languages and can convert scanned documents into searchable PDFs.

Tesseract OCR

Tesseract OCR is an open-source OCR engine that is designed for accuracy and speed. It can recognize text in more than 100 languages and is widely used by developers for OCR integration in their applications.

Future of OCR

OCR technology is constantly evolving and improving. Here are some future developments in OCR technology that we can expect:

Artificial Intelligence Integration

OCR technology can benefit greatly from artificial intelligence (AI) integration. AI can help improve OCR recognition accuracy and speed, especially when it comes to recognizing handwriting.

Improved Language Support

OCR technology is becoming more and more versatile in terms of language recognition. We can expect OCR software to support even more languages and to become more accurate when recognizing non-English languages.

Increased Automation

OCR technology is already automating many document processing tasks, such as data extraction and form recognition. In the future, we can expect OCR software to become even more automated and to require less human intervention in document processing tasks.


OCR technology has come a long way and has become an essential tool for document processing tasks across various industries. While OCR technology has limitations, it is constantly evolving and improving. With the future developments in OCR technology, we can expect even more accurate, versatile, and automated OCR solutions to emerge in the market.

In conclusion, Optical Character Recognition technology has become an essential tool in document management, data entry, and digital transformation. With its ability to convert data from physical documents to digital formats, OCR has transformed the way we work, saving time and resources.

As the technology continues to evolve, we can expect further advancements and integration with other technologies, enabling us to process information more efficiently. With the various benefits of OCR, it is no surprise that many organizations are embracing it to enhance their operations.

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Urza Omar
  • Urza Omar
  • The writer has a proven track as a mentor, motivational trainer, blogger, and social activist. She is the founder of mindclassic.com a blog intended for avid readers.