Methods for converting a scanned image of text into textFebruary 7, 2017
A few years ago, I documented how to use Adobe Acrobat’s optical character recognition (OCR) function to convert an image of text into actual text you can edit. I’ve since found other (free) methods to do this; hopefully one of these may work for you. My preferred method is OneNote, because it’s quick and easy and secure (if you’re using Microsoft Office installed on your computer).
- None of the methods I tried gave 100% perfect results (but then, paid-for OCR software isn’t 100% either), but all were much quicker and easier than retyping the text. You’ll need to compare the results against the original PDF/image and fix the (hopefully few) errors that didn’t convert.
- Online services have the added risk that you don’t know what happens to the files you upload, so be aware that there may be a ‘cost’ for ‘free’.
Use online conversion software
A quick and free option is available from http://www.onlineocr.net. You can upload and convert up to 15 PDFs/images (up to 5 MB per file) per hour without registering; you have to register if you want to do more than that. Outputs include Microsoft Word, Excel, and plain text.
I found it quick and easy to use, and the results were acceptable.
Use Google Docs
If you have a Google account, use your Google Drive. Then follow these instructions: https://support.google.com/drive/answer/176692?hl=en. (If this link no longer works, do this: Upload your image file to your Google Drive, then right-click on the image and select Open with > Google Docs.)
Once you’ve converted the image to a document, you’ll see the original image at the top of the document and might assume nothing has happened. Scroll down — you’ll find the converted text below the original image.
Use Microsoft Office OneNote
Add the image into OneNote. Right-click on it and select Copy text from Picture. Then paste it into Microsoft Word, Notepad, or whatever text editing or word processing software you use (you can also post it into OneNote).
OneNote comes with Microsoft Office, so if you have Office, this is a really easy method — you don’t need a Google account, and you don’t need to use an online service where you have no idea what happens to the files you submit.