Text recognition OCR in photos

January 9, 2010

I have blogged about Evernote in the past. Is one of my top ten apps for the web, mac, windows and iPhone. I use it extensively everyday. I take photos with my iPhone 3GS which has autofocus and in the past with my iPhone 3G with a berklin case with a magnifying glass.

The fact is that I aim to have a digital indexed life. I take photos of all visiting cards, job and private, wines, books I have, and lately all the mail (bank, cell, etc..). What I like about Evernote is that you take a photo, it is uploaded to their servers and they extract the text, even if handwritten so the images are indexed and if you search for a work appearing in a bottle of wine, author of a book you have taken a photo, there you have it, in your phone, in the web or in the desktop app.

What I like the most is that you take the photo and you forget about it. You can later add it to a specific notebook and tag it for easier access and organization.

What I also liked is that in the windows app, the OCR was done locally so you could have local notebook not synchronized, which for mail was fine. In the mac it has to be sent to their servers for OCR recognition. I hate it because I soon finish my free quota which is 40Mb per month. You can go pro for $45 a year increasing it to 500Mb per month.

I have always been interested in OCR. Ideally I would love to have it in the mac by default so I could use spotlight and it would search in the photos, pdf, and why not, mp3s. I hope that is what will happen next, but for the time being the indexing does not go that far.

Windows is more advance. Onenote does precisely all this.

With this I would like to point out that in my view scanners are dead. We all have mobile phones and we take photos of documents, visiting cards or whatever, and ideally OCR should be part of the jpg so everything could be indexed. We are not there yet.

I found a program for mac: Prizmo

Prizmo will allow you to take a photo which has text and put it into the right perspective and then do OCR. Then you can save the new modified image or a PDF with the embedded text. It is a cools software, but at the end of the day, what you want is more intelligence, like Evernote. You want to take a photo and forget about it. Here you have to make a rectangle, select the text, apply OCR save file…. don’t get me wrong, it is a great software.

If you use windows you can use Onenote, SimpleOCR, topOCR (which is equivalent to Prizmo for windows) or freeOCR.

Google has also an open source OCR treatment, but I don’t know a lot about it.

There are also other ways to organize your bills and mail: snapscan scanners and neatreceipts which are expensive and for neatreceipts I’ve read mixed reviews.

Conclusion: I like simplicity. Take a photo and ideally when in iPhoto be able to index it and be able to find it using spotlight. Not possible yet.

The solution that is the easiest, more effective and efficient is still Evernote. Pity that OCR is not done in my mac.

1 comment

  1. Comment by Linderman

    Linderman Reply August 22, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Recently I came across another online OCR service: free OCR. Though only English is supported currently, the result is not bad.

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