Optical character recognition — also known as OCR — is a type of technology that enables computers to scan information printed on non-editable documents like PDFs or images and “read” the documents by identifying the characters and words.
Once the OCR system has scanned the document, it can recreate the information in a format that is machine-readable. This makes it possible to edit the document or automatically import the data into an accounts payable system or another business system.
OCR software works by identifying the locations of individual symbols on the document. It detects the differences between light areas and dark areas on the page or image and assigns background areas 0s and foreground areas 1s. Then, by analyzing the shapes of the contrasting areas revealed by the locations of the 1s and 0s, the software can recognize individual characters and recreate them accurately.
While OCR software is responsible for analyzing the characters on “flat” documents and converting them into machine-readable text, there may also be hardware involved. OCR hardware typically takes the form of a specialized scanner used to convert and upload physical documents.
There are two main kinds of OCR that are frequently used and compared in business settings. Template-based OCR (sometimes called traditional OCR) utilizes a pre-programmed set of parameters to process documents with OCR, meaning companies need to program a unique template for each separate type of document.
This type of OCR solution can be an effective solution in situations where there is not a lot of variance in the types of documents a company is processing with OCR. PDFs that are all set up with the same format can be processed using the same OCR template every time.
However, if a company wants to use OCR to process a large number of documents that utilize a wide variety of formats, template-based OCR becomes a less effective solution. Traditional OCR is difficult to scale because it can be very time-consuming to create new templates for every different type of document that needs to be processed.
The second kind of optical character recognition, called cognitive OCR, makes significant strides to address the limitations of template-based OCR. Cognitive OCR relies on artificial intelligence to automatically learn the appropriate parameters for new document types, eliminating the need for employees to spend time manually creating OCR templates.
Even if a company needs to process more than one kind of PDF, OCR systems with advanced cognitive capabilities can read and convert the data without templates to guide them.
What does OCR PDF mean?
PDF, or portable document format, is one of the most common document types used to submit digital invoices. Every year, hundreds of billions of invoices are submitted digitally, most of which are PDFs. PDF has long been one of the most commonly preferred digital document formats for business purposes because it’s typically considered a very versatile type of document.
However, PDFs do present some challenges. One frequent frustration is that it is not always easy to transfer PDF information into other formats or systems. One example of this problem can be seen when businesses need to transfer data from PDF invoices into accounts payable software.
There are a few ways to accomplish this, most of which are time-consuming, expensive, or both. The simplest solution is to manually copy the information from the PDF into an excel spreadsheet that can be uploaded into whatever other business system needs access to the data. However, this method requires a significant amount of manual time and effort and is not scalable.
Getting text from PDFs can be a challenge without advanced technology to assist with this effort. OCR technology is a much more efficient means of converting PDF files into machine-readable formats. OCR systems can recognize text in PDF formats and recreate it in excel files automatically, potentially saving businesses a substantial amount of time on manual data entry.
However, template-based OCR still requires the manual creation of separate templates for each PDF that is formatted differently. Using cognitive OCR, the PDF’s meaning can be preserved even without a manually-programmed set of rules.
Where can you find OCR PDF online?
Business documents like invoices that are received in PDF format are not always easy to process. Often, accounts payable systems or other business systems cannot recognize data stored in PDF or similar “flat” documents.
What’s the best PDF OCR system? Businesses can use several kinds of tools to solve this problem, including manual data entry, template-based OCR, and cognitive OCR. The following is a more detailed comparison of each different method of converting PDFs.
Manual data entry
The simplest way to transfer data from a PDF to a specific business system is to manually copy the information from the PDF into a format like an Excel spreadsheet. A manual process may suffice for a small business with minimal data-capture needs.
However, manual data entry is not scalable, as the time required will increase significantly as the number of documents that need to be processed increases. Manual data entry may also result in lower accuracy rates due to human error.
Traditional (template-based) PDF to OCR
When a business finds manual data entry no longer efficient enough, template-based OCR may be a suitable replacement. Businesses can find tools for template-based OCR online that they can use to automatically scan and convert data from PDFs to structured formats like Excel spreadsheets.
Template-based OCR, however, still requires a considerable amount of manual time and labor because employees must create a new template for each separate format of PDF the business needs to process.
Cognitive OCR converter
How can you extract a page in PDFs? It can be a challenge if using traditional solutions. Cognitive OCR shares the benefits of traditional OCR but takes the automation features a step further can can make PDF data extraction easy.
Instead of relying on pre-built templates to read and convert documents, cognitive optical character recognition can convert a PDF to Excel or a PDF to a searchable PDF online without any template for guidance. PDF conversion software can help you make these tasks simple.
Cognitive OCR uses machine learning to learn each new format and over time can become even faster by continuously learning, which means employees can spend less time manually programming OCR templates.
What is an OCR PDF to Word converter?
Businesses frequently use OCR converters to transfer information from PDFs to Excel spreadsheets. However, OCR technology is not limited to these formats. For example, a business could also use OCR to Word tools to convert a PDF to Word.
Editable documents like Microsoft Word documents are preferable to non-editable PDFs in many scenarios. Using software for converting an OCR PDF to Word can help businesses address pressing data-capture concerns such as how to convert PDFs to Word without losing formatting.
While there may sometimes be a need to convert PDFs to Word documents using optical character recognition software, it’s far more common to use OCR technology to convert unstructured document formats to structured document formats.
Structured formats (like spreadsheets) present information using the exact same format every time, which means the information can easily be understood by a computer. Unstructured formats (like PDFs and Word documents) are easy for humans to read, but the formatting may vary considerably from one document to the next.
What is an OCR PDF to Excel converter?
One of the most typical optical character recognition technology uses is converting a PDF to Excel. Editable formats like Excel spreadsheets are required for transferring data from “flat” documents like PDFs.
Transferring PDF data to an Excel spreadsheet can be done in a few different ways. One of the best methods is to find a tool for OCR to Excel online that can use optical character recognition to transfer information from an unstructured format to a structured format.
Finding the best PDF-to-Excel converter online can be difficult, however, which can cause some businesses to wonder how to convert PDFs to Excel without software. Unfortunately, manually copying information from a PDF to a spreadsheet is not usually the best option because it is extremely time-intensive for all but the smallest businesses.
How can you use an OCR PDF editor?
Documents like PDFs are typically non-editable. However, OCR PDF editor software makes it possible to translate a regular PDF that can’t be edited into an editable, machine-readable format. Businesses can find tools to help with OCR online.
The ability to convert scanned PDFs to editable PDFs is valuable in many situations, such as processing invoices. Finding an OCR PDF editor online can make it possible to scan and convert “flat” documents so they can be efficiently edited and uploaded to whichever business system needs the information.
Traditional OCR is useful, but it does have limitations. Most notably, it requires users to create templates that instruct the OCR software how to recognize each differently-formatted PDF. OCR online tools with advanced cognitive features can detect different formats automatically.
What’s the best OCR scanner app?
OCR technology can enable businesses to convert a scanned PDF to Word format or transfer data from a PDF to an Excel document. In general, OCR technology is useful for converting unstructured documents into structured formats.
However, there are many different options when it comes to OCR converters. Finding the best OCR scanner app may take some careful searching and compare.
Some of the best OCR online tools use cognitive OCR to achieve OCR to Word conversions or other kinds of unstructured to structured conversions without the use of templates.
Rossum is one example of a cognitive data capture solution that leverages AI to enable efficient optical character recognition that does not rely on pre-programmed templates. Cognitive OCR is one of the best OCR PDF conversion solutions since it can significantly reduce businesses’ time on manual data transfer.