Home : Software Terms : OCR Definition


Stands for "Optical Character Recognition." OCR is a technology that recognizes text within a digital image. It is commonly used to recognize text in scanned documents, but it serves many other purposes as well.

OCR software processes a digital image by locating and recognizing characters, such as letters, numbers, and symbols. Some OCR software will simply export the text, while other programs can convert the characters to editable text directly in the image. Advanced OCR software can export the size and formatting of the text as well as the layout of the text found on a page.

OCR technology can be used to convert a hard copy of a document into an electronic version (or soft copy). For example, if you scan a multipage document into a digital image, such as a TIFF file, you can load the document into an OCR program, which will recognize the text and convert the document to an editable text file. Some OCR programs allow you to scan a document and convert it to a word processing document in a single step.

While OCR technology was originally designed to recognize printed text, it can be used to recognize and verify handwritten text as well. For example, postal services such as USPS use OCR software to automatically process letters and packages based on the address. The algorithm checks the scanned information against database of existing addresses to confirm the mailing address. The Google Translate app includes OCR technology that works with your device's camera. It allows you to capture the text from documents, magazines, signs, and other objects and translate it to another language in real-time.

Updated: April 16, 2018

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