16.1-Convert scanned text or text in pictures into editable Word text, in Android and Windows, using OCR–2014-10-27 – UPDATED-2016-06-21

How often would we like to convert a scanned text or the text on a picture into editable text that we could modify, reformat, save, print and/or publish? Maybe not that often for many people, but knowing how to do so whenever it’s needed is quite useful and can save you lots of time and efforts. Once we’ve learned how to do so, we would find tons of opportunities that would save us lots of time versus re-entering the text manually. The jargon appellation for this is: Optical Character Recognition or OCR. The following article will cover using OCR on a Windows 8.1 computer or an Android tablet or smartphone.

OCR on a Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 computer

Here is the simplest and most efficient approach, in my opinion, using Microsoft Office OneNote and a scanner.

To scan a text into a computer, you need a scanner that comes with the majority of printers these days. The steps are simple:

  1. Using your printer scanner, scan and save the scanned image of the text on your Windows computer.
  2. Using the Snipping Tool, copy the scanned image of the text into a OneNote document.
  3. Once copied into a OneNote document, right-click the scanned image of the text, and click Copy Text from Picture.
  4. Click where you’d like to paste the copied text, generally into a Word document, and then click Paste or press Ctrl+V.

NOTE: Follow exactly the same steps for text within a picture that you would like to convert.

To extract the text from the images of a multiple-page file printout added to OneNote:

  1. Right-click any of the images, and then do one of the following:
  • Click Copy Text from this Page of the Printout to copy text from only the currently selected image (page).
  • Click Copy Text from All the Pages of the Printout to copy text from all the images (pages).
  1. Click where you’d like to paste the copied text, generally into a Word document, and then click Paste or press Ctrl+V.

NOTE: The effectiveness of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) depends on the quality of the image and the type (shape) of characters you’re working with. After you paste text from a picture or a file printout, it’s a good idea to look it over and make sure the text was recognized properly. Otherwise, you have to redo the process properly. Certain types of characters are more difficult to convert than others. Other types of characters are almost impossible to convert. In general, when the process is executed properly, the results should be satisfactory most of the times.

OCR on an Android Smartphone or Tablet

A variety of Android Apps for converting scanned text or text in a picture into editable text are available in Google Play. In line with my general approach of researching, identifying and restricting myself to market leaders, I have selected the Android CamScanner Full Version app.

Camscanner is the world’s No. 1 mobile document scanning and sharing App with over 100 million installs, in more than 200 countries: Over 50,000 new registrations per day / CamScanner, amongst the 50 Best Apps, 2013 Edition – TIME / Top Developer – Google Play Store.

Therefore, since I am only familiar with the CamScanner App, the following text will present the step by step approach of converting scanned or picture text into editable text.

Installing the Full Version of CamScanner and the OCR Add-on

The first thing to do is to search for and install the free version of “CamScanner – Phone PDF Creator” from Google Play.

The next thing to do is to search for and install the paid version of “CamScanner (License)” from Google Play. At the time the full license was available for $1.99 on Google Play. NOTE: Once I paid my CamScanner license, I was able to download the paid version on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and my Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet, at no additional costs.

Once the above completed, you must download the OCR Add-on. To do this you will need to scan a text as follow:

  1. Open “CamScanner Full Version” by clicking on the app icon.
  2. Stand over a well-lighted text document with your smartphone or tablet, and Click on the camera icon. The camera will become ready.
  3. Take a still picture of the text document.
  4. Once taken, Click the checkmark to keep only the text image.
  5. Once the highlighted frame surrounds only the text document, otherwise adjust the borders; Click the checkmark again to confirm the selection.
  6. Click the checkmark once more to confirm that you accept the picture as a document that you can now save.
  7. Then, Touch (not touch & hold) the document and another screen should appear. In the upper right corner of that screen, you should see a magnifier with the letters “OCR”.
  8. Touch this magnifier and a screen should appear inviting you to download the OCR add-on.
  9. Click YES to accept.
  10. A popup may come back indicating that you have to temporally change your security settings to accept a download from a source other than Google Play. Do temporally change those settings to allow the download, then reset them back to disallow any download other than from Google Play.

At this stage, you have completed the full installation of the software and should be ready to scan and convert.

Scanning and converting into editable text with CamScanner Full Version

After completing the above software installation of CamScanner Full Version and the OCR add-on, you are ready to scan and convert image documents into editable text. To do this you will need to proceed as follow:

  1. Open “CamScanner Full Version” by clicking on the app icon.
  2. Stand over a well-lighted text document and Click on the camera icon in the upper right corner. The camera will become ready.
  3. Take a still picture of the text document.
  4. Once taken, Click the checkmark to keep only the text image.
  5. Once the highlighted frame surrounds only the text document, otherwise adjust the borders; Click the checkmark again to confirm the selection.
  6. Click the checkmark once more to confirm that you accept the picture as a document that you can now save.
  7. Then, Touch (not touch & hold) the document and another screen should appear. In the upper right corner of that screen, you should see a magnifier with the letters “OCR”.
  8. Touch this magnifier and a popup screen should appear with the converted editable text. NOTE: the first time you use this feature, you may be requested to choose the languages you expect to convert, for example: English and French. Then, go back and continue. If the picture was still and clear, the majority of the text should be converted. Otherwise, you will have to redo the above sequence.
  9. Once you have converted the desired text, it is time to Copy that text and paste it into a new Word document.
  10. Once pasted, Save that word document wherever you want for future editing.

Microsoft Office Lens Comes to iOS & Android

2015-04-15 – UPDATE

Are you looking for a FREE App, that uses OCR technology to convert text on a picture into editable text, instead of using the paid version of CamScanner? As of April 2015, Microsoft’s smartphone and tablet pocket scanner, Office Lens, is available in full version on iOS and preview version on Android.

Microsoft launched Office Lens for Windows Phone in March 2014. Since then, Office Lens has become one of the most popular FREE Windows Phone apps, with more than 18,500 reviews giving it an average of 4.6 stars. Office Lens can be used to capture images of documents, including menus, receipts, whiteboards, and notebooks, and save them to OneNote so they become accessible across all devices. Using OCR (Optical Character Recognition), Office Lens can also be used to convert photos of documents into editable text documents of various formats.

To download Office Lens

For Apple devices, the iOS Office Lens App is available for FREE on iTunes. On Android devices, to install the FREE Android Office Lens Preview version, users must proceed as follow:

  1. You should have the Google+ App on your smartphone or tablet. If not, download and install it from the Google Play Store.
  2. Open Google+. Click the down arrow right of Home to open the menu.
  3. Tap Communities and Find more communities, then start typing “Office Lens Android Preview” in the search box by Communities, on top. “Office Lens Android Preview” should appear. Select it.
  4. Tap “Join Community,” then select “Become a Tester”.
  5. Then, download “Office Lens Preview” from the Google Play Store. (It might take 10 minutes to 2 hours before you can access the page after becoming a tester.)

Using Office Lens on an Android tablet or smartphone for OCR

  1. Open the Office Lens App. The camera will be activated to take a photo, typically a document for OCR.
  2. Office Lens will sense where the document edges are, then automatically crop and enhance the photo. Stand still and Click to take the photo.
  3. You will then have several menu choices including: Delete the document or Re-crop the document.
  4. Then, you will have to define the type of document (scanner icon): Document (To scan), Whiteboard or photo. For OCR, select Document.
    1. Whiteboard mode: trims and cleans up glare and shadows.
    2. Document mode: trims and adjusts colors.
    3. Save-to locations: OneNote, OneDrive, or locally on the device.
    4. NOTE: OCR documents conversion: convert images to Word (.docx), PowerPoint (.pptx), or PDF (.pdf).
  5. Then, tap the bottom diskette icon to choose where to save the document.
  6. First edit the title to identify the document, then select where to save it: OneNote, OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint, PDF and/or Gallery. For an OCR document that I will edit with Word, I would choose Word and SAVE the document by taping the check mark, upper right.
  7. To access and edit a saved document, open Office Mobile, tap the folder icon upper center, select OneDrive, then Documents, then Office Lens, then select the wanted document.
  8. You can now use Word to edit the document, by tapping on the upper right edit pencil.

Using Word on a PC to edit the document

NOTES: The instructions below apply to a PC environment that meet the following: Microsoft Windows 8.1, Microsoft Office 365 and the OneDrive Microsoft Cloud. You will have to explore what to do if your environment is different.

  1. Once the document has been saved as described above, it is available on OneDrive.
  2. To edit this document with Word, you only have to open Word on the PC.
  3. Then, look-up the document in One Drive by clicking “Open other documents”.
  4. Click on OneDrive – Personal.
  5. Click on Office Lens.
  6. And select the document you want.
  7. Once edited, this document can be filed anywhere you want.

Additional notes about Office Lens

Images captured via Office Lens are inserted in OneDrive or OneNote in DOCX, PPTX, PDF, or JPG format. Users have the option to save, export, and share the photos they store. For paper documents and whiteboard content, Office Lens converts images into Word documents, PDF files, or PowerPoint presentations, so that they can be edited according to user preferences.

This completes what you need to know to be able to convert text from a scan or an image into editable text on either Windows or Android devices. This is very useful and save you time and efforts in producing documents that you want to use or save for future references.

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