The phrase “words leap off the page” has found new life with OCR.
OCR (optical character recognition) software is a fast-evolving tech space based on the transfer of words in images to words in text: from scanned images to text files, from screenshots to spreadsheets, and so on. These modern tools can read the words on a printed or digital “page,” and help them leap into an entirely new format for editing and sharing, free from artifacts and scratches.
What are the top 5 best free OCR tools in 2019?
The concept of optical character readers dates back to the early 1900s. But with the number of words zipping through our skulls in 2019, between screens and piles of paper, the demand grows larger each day.
Cloud technologies and artificial intelligence software have accelerated the spread of OCR — also referred to as document capture software — and it shows no signs of slowing. Companies like Dropbox and Amazon are updating their product lines with smart character recognition tools to help users organize, find and repurpose both data and content littered across their files.
Paired with file converter software, OCR in its many forms helps us bend documents to our will and always have the most valuable information at our disposal. All juice, no rinds.
What is OCR? Check out our handy guide on the G2 Learning Hub.
As with any software space, the offerings and capabilities are constantly changing. Developers are weaving OCR into different products and challenging the ideas of what is possible and practical with these tools.Within this far-reaching field are some solutions geared toward individuals and startups trying OCR for the first time or needing a simple task assistant for document handling. We’re excited to list a handful of those solutions here, and hopefully inspire some readers to expand their personal toolkits.
These products alone have more than 80 validated user reviews on G2 as of April 25, 2019, and represent only a small portion of the 80-plus OCR software offerings listed on our platform. Products with reviews are ordered by their user Satisfaction rating, which is determined from review data, while some products that currently hold no reviews complete the list.
For each product we provide:
Details on both free and paid options
The list we’ve outlined here includes any OCR software with an available free offering. Some products provide limited free options while others are completely free without restrictions.
It should be noted that this list includes products that are only free on a temporary basis, such as limited trial versions for new users. These solutions may only support one user or one project and scaling often requires full investment. We also highlight the products’ paid options so there are no surprises; if you test a free OCR application, like it and want to upgrade, you will understand the cost to do so.
Best free OCR software in 2019
Without further ado, let’s talk free OCR software for beginners and get you on your way.
For products with G2 verified user reviews, we have included:
G2 Star Rating
Reviews highlighting what users like and dislike
User recommendations for those considering the product
Product reviews and G2 Star Ratings updated as of April 25, 2019. Reviews were edited for spelling, grammar, punctuation and clarity.
Product name: CamScanner G2 Star Rating: 4.6 out of 5.0 stars
CC Intelligence, the California-based vendor behind CamScanner, has over a decade of experience in OCR and image processing. CamScanner is a smartphone application built for document capture, transfer and text extraction. The mobile scanner comes complete with edge cropping, device syncing and collaboration features. Character recognition with CamScanner supports a number of languages, allowing users to quickly convert images containing these languages into editable text files.
A Basic account is free of charge and includes auto OCR with easy search, 200 MB of cloud space, convenient integrations for uploading (e.g., Google Drive, Evernote) and customizable watermarks on finished documents.
A Premium account starts at $4.99/month and comes with 10 GB of cloud storage. This plan allows OCR scans to be edited and exported as .txt files. It also comes with features such as password-protected sharing and file collaboration with up to 40 other users.
A Business account starts at $7.99/month and expands upon all the features of the Premium plan with advanced group folders and group management capabilities.
Auto OCR for easy search
200 MB of cloud space
Sync docs across smartphones, tablets and computers
Customize watermarks on docs
Invite up to 10 collaborators to view and comment on your docs
“It has a nice batch mode to scan multiple images and store them in some kind of unified file. It has a very good automatic image correction system. It makes it very easy to digitize and share any document when you don't have a scanner nearby. In fact, it expands any software capability given that it’s portable (for example, you could scan a sign or poster that you couldn't scan otherwise).” — CamScanner review by Martin S.
What users dislike
“The PDFs created using the free version carry watermarks which make the documents inappropriate to use for professional purposes.” — CamScanner review by Yamini P.
Recommendations for others considering the product
“If you use it, you won't ever need an outside scanner anymore (yes, it's that great). The free version works perfectly, so if you don't mind the watermark at the end of each scan you can use it without any trouble. However, if you wish to avoid the watermark, the full version is quite affordable.” — CamScanner review by Elisa C.
Product name: FreeOCR G2 Crowd Star Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars
FreeOCR is a basic Windows application for extracting text from scans and files. It supports uploads from TWAIN scanners and is compatible with most PDFs and multi-page TIFF images. Users can scan these files and conveniently extract plain text, with direct exports into Microsoft Word format. FreeOCR utilizes the Tesseract OCR engine (v3.01), an open-source product released by Google and developed at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. This program is compatible with 11 major languages out of the box, with more available for download.
FreeOCR is completely free to download for both personal and commercial use.
There is no information about paid plans or upgrades on the FreeOCR website.
Available for Windows users
Supports TWAIN scanners, PDFs and TIFF images
Export to Microsoft Word documents
Compatible with 11 languages (more available to download)
Image courtesy of MakeUseOf
What users like
“Very easy to use and extract data from PDF in editable mode.” — FreeOCR review by an anonymous user
What users dislike
“Extraction of PDF is not in a structured manner, therefore cannot use the document for Machine Learning purposes and AI. But easy to use for documentation purposes.” — FreeOCR review by a user in information technology and services
CaptureFast is a cloud-based document and data capture solution, with advanced character recognition among its various features. The platform’s mobile extension, available for both iOS and Android, enables users to capture documents from the field for quick digitization. Users can then securely extract valuable text and save or store it as needed, without the need for additional hardware. With the desktop interface, users can create unique templates that help to capture and extract data from specific document types.
The Forever Free plan is available for individual users and allows for 100 captured pages per month.
Basic, $69/month: 1,000 captured pages per month, AI-supported extraction, 24-hour support
Professional, $299/month: 10,000 captured pages per month, designed for paper-intensive midsize businesses
Business, $799/month: 30,000 captured pages per month, API and SDK access
Custom and Enterprise, pricing on request: Unlimited page captures, handwriting and table recognition features, line item extraction
ChronoScan is a Windows-exclusive suite of document scanning and data capture tools. It allows users to read and index large sets of documents and simplify data entry using OCR text extraction. It is primarily compatible with PDF files. Once documents are scanned, the data can be easily stored on the cloud and exported into your company’s CRM software and ERP software solutions.
ChronoScan’s free version is available for home users, and includes a “nag screen.”
Professional, €245/month: User interface personalization, direct database lookup
Advanced, €595/month: Unlimited CPU core support, priority bug resolution
Enterprise, pricing on request: Unlimited masterkeys/suppliers, additional features
Rossum (formerly Elis) is an AI-assisted data extraction tool designed specifically for invoice capture. This platform can help accounting and bookkeeping professionals streamline their workflows. Users can import PDFs or scans of invoices, and Rossum will automatically extract the relevant data into a structured format without the need for templates. Data can then be conveniently validated within the interface, and exported for further processing using one of the tool’s software integrations like Netsuite and QuickBooks.
The Trial Edition of Rossum allows for 3,600 invoices per year, with 48 invoice data fields included in the programming. Though it is called the Trial Edition, there is no mention of a time limit on this free version of the software.
Standard Edition, pricing on request: 12,000 invoices per year, onboarding guidance, email support
Enterprise Edition, pricing on request: 350,000 invoices per year, dedicated AI engine for continuous data learning
OCR is one of the buzziest acronyms in the B2B space and among the most prominent applications of artificial intelligence to date. It is closely related to data extraction software, with more of a focus on text recognition than large number sets. While some of the more robust solutions may enable you to perform both tasks, you may decide that two separate tools work best for executing your full range of smart extractions.
Products in the OCR category often share features of document scanning software, and in many cases software platforms will fall into more than one category.
In addition to data and text extraction from important documents, you will likely encounter situations where documents need to be converted and shared. Our guide on how to transfer files from PC to PC explores this in greater detail, with a handful of software suggestions to help you on your way. You can also read about the best free screen recorder software tools, some of which offer OCR-related features to optimize your screen and video captures.
In addition to using OCR software for your digital imaging needs, consider outsourcing these tasks with help from a document scanning services provider.
Zangre is a Senior Research Specialist who helped with spearheading G2 Crowd’s expansion into B2B Services. He studied journalism at the University of North Florida — which is still undefeated in football — and joined G2 Crowd in 2016 when there was only one other “Andrew.” He has enjoyed contributing to newspapers and online publications while pursuing music and comedy projects in his free time.