Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been since revamped and updated in Oct 2022 for freshness and accuracy.
Moving from physical documents to digitized documents is a great way to save time and resources and easily manage all your files. You can do this by using the OCR technology available on many PDF readers.
OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. It helps distinguish handwritten or printed text characters inside documents and images so they can be editable as digital copies.
You could use OCR on multiple instances, such as scanning your notes and clubbing them in a single text file. So, if your work involves dealing with many physical documents, using a good OCR app to convert them to editable PDF documents is excellent for productivity.
Interesting, right? Here are the best OCR apps you can install on your Windows PC or Mac.
We tested various OCR apps for Windows, from free to paid software. However, the top ones we found are ABBYY FineReader PDF and Readiris.
Windows users are likely to find great value in ABBYY FineReader software. The latest FineReader 16 offers an intuitive interface, with a familiar “ribbon” style toolbar. You can easily convert scanned or printed documents into searchable and editable text.
Where FineReader shines is in its OCR editing ability. When you open a scanned PDF or an image file in the OCR editor, it automatically starts performing OCR while displaying the image or the PDF in a multi-paned interface. This is really helpful as you get a better idea of what you are working on, and if the output is the same as the primary text.
From our tests, the app offers highly accurate text conversions (up to 99.8%) in more than 200+ languages. You can adjust the OCR selection manually by unselecting areas of text, images, and markings. The app also allows you to correct the app’s default selections. For example, if the app identifies a group of text as a table by mistake, you get the option of fixing it with just a couple of clicks.
Using the OCR feature, you can use the app’s built-in pdf editor to enhance old scans and documents. You can straighten text lines, split an image into different pages, change contrast and brightness levels, remove markings, and more.
FineReader offers yearly plans at $99 and $165. The expensive version comes with all the essential features, can automate digitization (5,000 pages/month), and allows you to compare documents in different formats. Read our full review of FineReader here.
Readiris has all the tools to edit, annotate, separate, and sign PDFs. It can also edit, alter, and convert your paper files into a usable digital format. Readiris even offers an OCR tutorial, which is fantastic for first-time users.
Readiris has several output options, making digitization easy with a few simple clicks. You can also generate accurate texts from numerous file formats and curate them in a single document for easy management.
The program lets you decode text from documents into audio file (.mp3 or .wav) formats for accurate readings. So, you can take a document, create an audio file easily, and integrate verbal annotations into your PDF files.
Notably, it doesn’t allow you to save to a clipboard instead of a file. This is a pretty standard feature in most OCR software, which means you won’t be able to scan and copy texts immediately. You would need to save the document and then copy the text from it.
Readiris offers multiple plans — Pro and Corporate for $89, and $129, respectively. The versions support 138 languages. The corporate version lets you batch process multiple files and long-term archive them for PDF/A solutions.
The best apps we found worked best for Macs are OCRKit and PDF Expert. Both apps offer speedy document editing and support multiple file formats.
Mac users looking for a seamless PDF editing experience across both MacOS and iOS should give PDF Expert a try. In this Apple Editor’s Choice app, you have the ability to edit, annotate, highlight and merge PDF documents. You can even convert PDFs to other formats like Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
The upgraded PDF Expert for Mac version offers OCR feature. You can use the integrated way to scan OCR documents, recognize handwriting and convert them into easy-to-copy text. PDF Expert offers the OCR scanning support for different languages, including Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, and Spanish. You can also adjust the color of the text and the document with an array of helpful tools.
You can get a lifetime license by paying just $139.99. Another monthly option allows you to use the app on iPhones, iPad, and Macs.
Notably, PDF Expert does not offer OCR functionality to its iOS app, and a lifetime plan only enables the use of the editor on your Mac and not on your Apple mobile devices, so you will have to determine if those features are a priority for your business.
OCRKit is a simple and streamlined app for your Mac. Its OCR engine comes with several features and is known for its text recognition accuracy, ability to quickly search bodies of text, high-speed conversion, and high performance. The app can be a great help for transfering your paper scans, contracts, invoices, and receipts in your archive into the digital world.
There is no limit to the number of pages you can work on using this app. Simply drag and drop any PDF document or image graphic file to the app’s dock icon, and you are ready. The support for AppleScript that lets professionals use the app for programmed batch conversion, all saving much time at an industrial level.
There are also plenty of import and export options, meaning you can play around with various formats, including reading PDF, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF as well as OpenEXR, convert and export to searchable PDF, RTF, HTML and TXT.
OCRKit is priced at $49.99. The Pro version comes at $89.99, whereas the enterprise version is priced at $249.99. You can download the software and test it 14-days free of charge.
The cross-platform/premium option: Adobe Acrobat
If you constantly shift between Mac and Windows devices and need an OCR app that works and syncs across multiple operating systems, then Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is the way to go.
Adobe Acrobat DC makes it easier to organize your PDF files and physical documents in one place. You can also rearrange your files by dragging and dropping the thumbnails in the order you want.
The OCR works as a text converter by automatically extracting text from scanned paper documents and changing them to editable text.
The app is excellent for archiving as it reserves your original documents’ exact look and feels. You can also edit the documents and help you make your files easier to use and manage.
Adobe offers multiple license types — annual, annual prepaid, monthly, annual (multi-license), and annual prepaid (multi-license). The pricing starts at $12.99 per month. The app is available for both Windows and Mac.
Please note that Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is slightly expensive. However, it’s worth every penny. Moreover, the expansive UI and feature set can require a steep learning curve. So, ensure you’re comfortable with the app before getting the premium subscription.
We mentioned some of the best apps for Windows and Mac to perform OCR operations. Now, we will look at some of the competitions that are out there.
We have reviewed Prizmo recently. Prizmo is a scanning application that comes with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in 28 languages. It also has powerful editing capabilities and comes with support for translation in 59 languages, text to speech, iCloud support, and more. It works with pictures that you take from iPhone or iPad, and even digital cameras. It can even help you scan any document, be it an invoice, receipt, or advertisement.
The app is available for Mac and starts at $49.99. However, you have to shell out $74.99 for its pro pack, which includes features such as batch processing and custom scripts.
Easy Screen OCR
Easy Screen OCR is a great tool for digitizing text from old documents on your PC. The app is built on Google OCR and helps you turn images into editable text with great accuracy.
The OCR app also supports 100+ languages and allows you to digitize your notes or documents in any language. You can also edit and save documents in a single place, making management more effortless. The app offers many plans, and you can get them for as low as $15.
Kofax OmniPage Ultimate
Kofax OmniPage Ultimate is the business-oriented OCR software for Windows that lets you convert business-critical documents into editable formats that are simple and ready-to-use. You can also convert files automatically and attach them to a pre-programmed workflow — a handy feature aimed at boosting user productivity. It is loaded with features such as batch processing, scanner integration, mobile document capture, and language scanner (supporting over 120 languages), among others.
While OmniPage does provide a well-rounded experience for OCR recognition, it is a tad bit expensive. You have to shell out $499 to get hands-on your copy of OmniPage ultimate. A much simpler, standard version of the app comes at $149.
OCRvision for Windows is another OCR app on our list for Windows. It is an offline auto OCR software that can help with batch processing as well. It can schedule searchable PDFs conversion processes to run during specific time intervals. You can also set it to look at specific folders to watch for newly scored documents.
OCRvision is free for all non-commercial usage, and a license can be purchased at $298.50.
Nanonets is an AI-powered OCR tool that recognizes handwritten text and text images in different languages. It even works with low-resolution images, cursive fonts, varying font sizes, shadowy text, and many more.
The app can help categorize all your physical documents, images, and PDF files. You can get Nanonets for free and try them out. Nanonets also has a pro version that charges $0.1/per page.
Google Drive OCR
Coming to the last bit on our list, Google Drive has an inbuilt OCR feature to convert your documents to text. Just got to a file on Google Drive, select it, right-click on it and click on Open with, and then select Google docs. The image will be converted to Google Docs, but it might not necessarily retain all the formatting. It is just a free solution in your Google ecosystem to deal with basic files.
Google Drive OCR is free to use unless you are on a GSuite subscription.
What to look for while choosing the OCR software?
Here are some of the factors to look at while we were choosing the best OCR software.
Accuracy is always an integrated part of any OCR software. We looked at OCR apps that maintain the layout document’s original layout and consistently render text and form. For example, figures are inaccurately transferred from a PDF into a spreadsheet, with numbers mistaken for one another or placed into the wrong column, all the subsequent calculations carried out on the numbers will be flawed.
A lot of apps are good at tracing out high-resolution texts from documents and images. But when it comes to a low-resolution image, some apps don’t perform well. We have only included apps that can extract information from all kinds of documents.
This one is a priority for many.
The OCR software has to be fast and intuitive — it should be easy for you to know how it works, and what buttons perform which operations.
While the frontend matters a lot for efficiency, the backend should be fast as well. We have included software that has been upgraded to support faster OCR operations. A fast app saves a lot of time when you have to convert multiple files at once.
Often, files need to be converted to multiple formats. We included apps that support multiple formats as well as provide the output in a desired format. This way, you can use the file directly instead of having to convert them to multiple formats.
Recognizes text in multiple languages
It’s really beneficial when OCR apps can recognize texts in multiple languages. That way, your operations can expand beyond one language, which is really useful if you are researching information, or publishing something.
We have included OCR apps that support a wide variety of languages so that your experience and usage is diversified further.
Price is certainly a factor while purchasing apps, but it doesn’t mean that you have to compromise with the features. We have decided to include apps keeping different budget sets in our mind while providing all the features. We have even included free options.
Enterprise versions of apps are always more expensive than a version which is for personal use, so much of the pricing really depends on the app’s usage.
The right fit
OCRs save a lot of time, but they also need to be precise. We have taken care of that factor and have only included that are most effective when it comes to OCR. Choosing the right OCR software depends on your specific needs, as well as the platform and devices on which you plan to use it.
Let us recap our top favorites:
Of course, if you want to use OCR for scanning a simple image, there are plenty of free online tools that let you do that. However, their accuracy and speed is not that great. You can certainly invest in one of these apps if you want consistent quality with your OCR work — software that you can rely on for all your diligent OCR needs.
We’ve also got you covered when you want to read and edit PDFs. Check out our guides for free & premium PDF readers, PDF editors for Mac and Windows , PDF converters for Mac and PDF to Word.