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Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

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Definition:

A digital scanner can make an image of a document, but this image is initially no more than an image, it's merely a picture. However, when you need the text on a written page to be editable you can use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to convert the image of text into "real" text. An image of text, if the quality is high enough, may look like editable text in printed form. But an image of text cannot be edited. To be editable, the image needs to be converted into text.

You can manually "convert" the image by having a human being read the original document and then type it into a word processing program. However, that can be quite expensive and slow. OCR software looks the image and recognizes the shapes of letters and words, and then converts this into editable text which can be saved as an Acrobat PDF, MS Word DOC or other editable format. More sophisticated OCR software will use additional methods to ensure that the conversion is accurate, such as using spell checking and other ways to "read" the words, and identify (and correct) words that were incorrectly translated. Converted text can then be directly input into databases, word processing documents are other applications.

In Legal Process Outsourcing, OCR programs add additional features to address concerns about confidential data in documents. In legal work there are times when a lawyer may need to release a document, but the document contains severe or confidential information that cannot be released. In order to safely release this document it must first be "redacted", blacking out the sections that are confidential. This too used to be done manually, but with an OCR'ed document the confidential text can be searched and then automatically blacked out.

On smartphones and other mobile devices, OCR apps are readily available and use the high resolution camera on your phone to capture images with text. These programs not only convert images to text, but transmit them to other services: images of checks are transmitted to your bank and deposited; data on packages are scanned and the data used to provide information on cost and quality ratings, etc. These "mashups" of scanning,m OCR and other functions will results in many new services that eliminate the need for forms or mailing of paperwork."

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