OCR, or optical character recognition software, is software that can convert any digital document, such as a PDF, to text. This text can then be edited or used by an organization to suit its purposes.
Everyday use of OCR software is to read contracts and invoices and then convert those documents into a different format that is usable by the organization. This helps businesses preserve time and valuable resources by automating a task that would have otherwise required a human employee to perform.
Manual data entry can take dozens of hours and is the most inaccurate type of all data entry processes. Even though manual data entry takes a long time and is rife with errors, 90% of organizations still use that method to process data such as invoices.
Even the fastest data entry specialist is no match for an AI partner like Rossum. Rossum specializes in invoices. However, the unique software can be utilized across many different industries to replace any kind of manual data entry.
The earliest OCR software was actually trained to convert printed documents to digital documents, such as books and newspaper archives. Because of this, most OCR software on the market actually struggles to keep up when reading business documents that contain a lot of numerical information, such as invoices.
Rossum was created to provide an alternative solution to manual data entry. When organizations eliminate manual data entry and instead choose automated OCR software, they can allow their employees to focus on higher-value tasks.
The goal of the Rossum OCR PDF converter solution is to enhance, rather than replace, the role of a data entry specialist. Our technology can supplement them in their work and free them of grinding and repeatable tasks.
How to use OCR software
OCR software can be necessary to get a computer to recognize text in image-like documents. Most people have probably experienced the frustration of needing to edit a PDF that a PDF reader does not recognize as text. This can cause all sorts of formatting issues with the document and takes a lot of time to resolve.
As a result, people may search for free OCR online to quickly convert an image-like PDF to an editable document. However, not all OCR software is created equally.
Each OCR software is created using a different algorithm. There are many different algorithms that an OCR software can use to interpret the data it is “reading” in a document. How does an OCR read data, you ask?
Typically, OCR software uses a character-by-character or pixel-by-pixel approach to interpreting data. The algorithm identifies what it determines to be a document’s background color and gives areas where that color is present a value of zero. Every area where it does not detect that background color instead receives a value of 1.
Using this combination of zeroes and ones, the algorithm can navigate through the blank spaces to determine what has been written there and then translate those values into typed text. It doesn’t always get it right, especially if the algorithm was taught with materials that are different from what it is currently being used for. However, the likelihood of an OCR getting it right every time increases dramatically when the OCR algorithm is AI-enabled.
How to find OCR online
Finding a PDF OCR online software may seem as easy as typing it into a search engine. However, many OCR online software platforms are not scalable or widely applicable to many organizations. Additionally, there may also be an issue of security. Many web-based OCR software solutions don’t specifically state how long data uploaded to be converted remains in their systems.
For many industries using confidential data or uploading sensitive documents such as invoices that contain payment information, using free online software may not be the safest choice. Rossum also has the ability to function in a private or a public cloud, so at the very least, the security of your data is well within your control.
Not only do free online tools often not guarantee encrypted safety, but they also rarely integrate with existing systems. Rossum has many ready-to-go software integrations that can pair seamlessly with the software already used every day in the office. This is especially important for organizations that handle a large volume of paperwork every day.
Online solutions are usually incapable of uploading multiple documents at once. Additionally, free online solutions normally only convert document types from one type to another. For a multi-use solution that is safe, ready to use, and flexible, it’s better to search for a SaaS company with proven results.
What’s the best online OCR?
There are several factors that can impact a search for the best online OCR. When investigating potential OCR solutions, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Noise in an input image (otherwise known as the random variation of brightness and color) can significantly affect the accuracy of an OCR scan
- Non-standard fonts that the solution was not trained on can also result in inaccurate results
- Less than ideal image quality can make an OCR scan ineffective, as it will fail to pick up vital data points
- What type of document do you need OCR for? Invoices, Contracts, etc.?
A great OCR solution should do more than making a PDF searchable. The best OCR solution should eliminate manual data entry with a 95% accuracy rate or higher. It should be automatable, free up company resources, protect data at the most secure level, and learn from every document that it scans.
Rossum is able to fulfill all of the requirements above because it is built on three major premises that comprise its neural network:
Rossum doesn’t attempt to read a document character by character the first time it has an interaction. Instead, it takes a glimpse at the document and focuses on identifying structure and patterns within the document. After it has recognized the overall layout of the document, it can begin to attempt to assign meaning to sections of the data. During this portion of the process, Rossum has not yet fully “read” the document. Instead, it is building an idea of what the document is supposed to be.
- Data localization
In an OCR context, data localization refers to how the software locates the data. Rossum was created with the human neural network in mind, and much like human beings, Rossum hones in on essential keywords or fields located in documents. Because Rossum is AI-enabled, not only does it recognize documents that it has seen before, it also gains a general understanding of the type of document in the first place. This understanding allows Rossum to suggest information to fill in that field and alerts a human being to double-check its understanding.
- Precise reading
After Rossum has an educated guess on what type of document it is interacting with and where the information is located on the page, it can then read the information thoroughly, decipher the actual text, and assign it a confidence score. The confidence score allows a human employee to review the information and prioritize low confidence scores instead of spending equal time pouring over the whole document. Rossum will then learn from the human’s feedback, increasing the quality of its confidence for next time.
How to use OCR on a PDF
If you’re in a situation where you’re wondering how to OCR a PDF, there are a few different solutions. First, identify what type of OCR you are searching for. There are two types of OCR: template-based OCR and cognitive OCR.
Template-based OCR still extracts data from documents that are in PDF format. However, template-based OCR accomplishes this by following rules that are created by human users. This still allows for quite a bit of human error, because each type of document needs a human-created template for the data to be interpreted currently. For organizations with a lot of clients or those that receive a multitude of different types of invoices, using template-based OCR software is actually very time-consuming.
Cognitive OCR instead uses artificial intelligence to learn the rules of data processing as it “reads” the documents. Rossum uses a spatial OCR to understand the way a document is organized and why it might be organized that way. The AI is then free to make an intelligent choice about what sort of information is most appropriate for any fillable field. This type of OCR does not rely on a human to teach it any rules about documents, which is why it is faster and more accurate.
While it can be tempting to take advantage of a free online OCR, this software is typically not ready to serve an enterprise organization. Free software may work in a pinch but would require a lot of development to utilize at a broader scale. The user interface of free software can leave much to be desired, making it difficult to use. It is not likely that using free software will save a significant amount of time or be a useful program in creating new company processes.
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