OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. OCR has been around for many years, but I get the impression that not too many people know about this incredibly valuable capability, so don’t feel alone if you have not heard of it.
So, what is OCR? When you scan a document into your computer, you are basically saving an image. Essentially, you are taking a photograph of your document. Unfortunately, an image does not have content that can be edited. OCR software converts that scanned document into an editable document.
Why is this an important capability?
So let’s say that you have an important fifteen page printed document that you do not have as a file on your computer. Perhaps you lost the file when your old computer died, or when it got infected by some nasty virus. Or maybe you accidentally deleted the file, and unfortunately do not have a backup. And now you realize that you need to be able to update or edit this document. Well, you could spend a few hours typing the document in. But the better approach is to scan the document, use OCR software to convert it into a Word or Excel (or other format) document, and save yourself a whole bunch of hours of typing.
Many printer/scanners come with built-in OCR capability, or you can purchase OCR software quite inexpensively. I have been using OmniPage recently, and have had quite good results with it.
OCR is certainly not perfect. You will probably find some formatting and content errors in your results, but this should still certainly beat typing in your document from scratch.
So, if you have any essential printed documents laying around, think about giving Optical Character Recognition a try!